1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

William Howitt to Richard Howitt, 5 November 1837; in Mary Howitt, Autobiography (1889) 1: 276.



I must tell thee a good anecdote of literary fame. One day, as I had Alfred and Claude in the pony-chaise with me, at the entrance of Chertsey I asked two old women who were sitting under a hedge which was Cowley's house, for it has an inscription on it. "Cowley? Cowley?" they said. "What is he?" — "What is he?" I replied. "He was a poet; but he has been dead almost two hundred years." — "A poet? a poet?" they said. "What's a poet?" The children were fit to burst with amusement, and for days after they were chiming over and laughing again at it. "A poet? a poet? What's a poet?" Behold the extent of poetic fame, and of the wisdom of our Surrey Arcadia!