1836 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

Hartley Coleridge, in "William Mason" Worthies of Yorkshire and Lancashire (1836) 413-14n.



We are told how many editions Cowley went through. No wonder. Cowley was the cavalier poet, just as much as Tom Moore is the Whig poet. Every loyal man, that bought books at all, bought Cowley. Then he was the best writer of his school, which was the fashionable school, and in spite of all his conceits, there is a vein of good-hearted common sense and shrewd observation, which must have endeared him to those (a very numerous class) who like to see their own thoughts cleverly expressed and curiously illustrated. In this respect he was the forerunner of Pope; but his morality was much better than Pope's, and there was not a spark of ill nature about him. He is among the most amiable of poets. We stare indeed to hear him called sublime; but it was by those who thought sublimity to consist in novel juxtaposition of thoughts, and feats of intellectual agility. Southey says, the metaphysical school spoiled a great poet in Cowley. This we doubt. We do not think he could have been greater than he is, and as he is we are very well content with him.