The Cowper and Newton Journal ran to 9 volumes, the last being published in 2019.  The articles, notes and reviews cover Cowper, Newton and their contemporaries,  but embrace the wider milieu – literary, artistic, religious, historical, horticultural – of their contemporaries (in effect the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries). In keeping with its museum origins, the Journal’s scope also covered material culture: the study of relevant objects from the period and their wider significance.

Editors:

Professor Vincent Newey (University of Leicester),  Tony Seward (Previous Chair Cowper & Newton Museum)  and Dr William Hutchings (University of Manchester).

Editorial Board:

Dr Ashley Chantler (University of Chester), Dr Michael Davies (University of Liverpool), Kate Bostock (Museum Trustee), Professor Martha J. Koehler (University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, PA), Professor Bob Owens (University of Bedfordshire).

The predecessor to The Cowper and Newton Journal was The Cowper and Newton Bulletin.  Published in 8 volumes from 2002-2009, it contained museum news in each issue as well as one or more full-length scholarly articles and shorter notes.

Cowper and Conversation

‘To my taste, the most fruitful and most natural exercise of our minds is conversation’, said Montaigne (‘Le plus fructueux et naturel exercice de notre esprit, c’est à mon gré la conference’).1 Many an eighteenth-century writer would have agreed, including, I would hazard, Cowper. Soon after he met Lady Austen in July 1781 when he was writing ‘Charity’, the sixth of his set of ‘moral satires’, he praised her as ‘a lively agreeable Woman’, who ‘has seen much of the World and accounts it a great Simpleton as it is, she laughs and makes laugh, and keeps up a conversation without seeming to labor at it’.2 This brand of effortless wit may not have been entirely to the taste of John Newton, here Cowper’s correspondent. However, Newton would have been content enough to recognise the value of good serious conversation. Cowper attested in Adelphi, his conversion narrative, to the value

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The Loop-holes of Retreat: Exploring Cowper’s Letters

‘’Tis pleasant through the loop-holes of retreat To peep at such a world … (The Task, IV. 88-89)1 By 1787 William Cowper had made his reputation as a poet, not least with John Gilpin (1782) and The Task (1785), both of which achieved swift popularity. One day in November he was sitting quietly at home in Weston Underwood, a village near the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire, when he received an unexpected visit from a certain Mr Cox, clerk of the parish of All Saints in Northampton. He records the incident in a letter to Lady Hesketh, his cousin: On Monday Morning last, Sam brought me word into the study that a man was in the kitchen who desired to speak with me. I order’d him in. A plain decent elderly figure made its appearance, and being desired to sit, spoke as follows. Sir, I am Clerk of the Parish

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The Contrite Heart: Cowper and George Herbert

When asked what it is which attracts me, as a poet, to the work of William Cowper, I can do no better than allow him to answer for me. In a letter to William Unwin ( 17January 1782) he wrote Every man conversant with Verse-writing knows, and knows by painfull experience, that the familiar stile, is of all stiles the most difficult to succeed in. To make verse speak the language of prose without being prosaic, to marshal the words of it in such order as they might naturally take in falling from the lips of an extemporary speaker, yet without meanness, harmoniously, elegantly and without seeming to displace a syllable for the sake of the rhime, is one of the most arduous tasks a poet can undertake. It is a task which, as we see from his poem bearing that title, he succeeded in as few others have, and

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A Cowper First Edition: Sequel to an Auction at the Museum

At the Cowper and Newton Museum sale at Olney on 24 April 2010 I purchased item 44 with a view to rebinding it. The catalogue entry for the book was as follows: Cowper’s Poems 1815 Edition ‘Fake’ 1st edition, with title page giving date of 1782, date of true first edition. Illustrated with engravings carrying date of 1815. Remarkable gilded and patterned fore-edge. Full leather binding, gilded tooling marked but restorable. Back cover detached but repairable. pp i-x of Memoir at back missing. On detailed examination it was evident that the book had to be re-backed and the boards re-attached but the text block with its gilded and decorated edges was sound apart from some foxing. None of this, however, explained the wrong date on the title page, why some of the preliminary pages were missing, or why pp xi-xxvi had been bound in at the back whereas pp xxvii-xxxii

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Mary A. Favret, War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Warfare

Spanning two centuries of artistic and journalistic mediations of war, War at a Distance demonstrates how late eighteenth-century reactions to distant state-sponsored carnage have shaped our present-day imaginative engagements with international violence. Mary Favret sees the collective response to war fought at a distance in this period as having a lasting legacy, arguing that a new relationship with military action overseas ‘unsettled basic temporal experiences of the British population’ (11). War at a Distance considers how individuals understand or experience the violence of war when such violence remains beyond the direct sensory experiences of touch, smell, or hearing, out of sight and yet eerily present in the minds and daily lives of those at home. The book’s main claim is that distance (temporal, geographical and epistemological) disorientates and detaches members of the public attempting to grasp the sublime nature of war on a global scale. As a result, a new

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We are all brother-journeymen in one shop: John Newton as Pastor

In the final years of his life, Rev. John Newton was asked by Richard Cecil if and when he was ever going to give up preaching. Newton’s answer was apt. He replied, ‘I cannot stop. What! Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?’1 Again, this time just months before his death, Rev. William Jay visited his 82-year-old mentor and friend. At this point in his life, Newton was hardly able to speak, but managed to utter these profound words: ‘My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.’2 Both anecdotes form a perfect summation of Newton’s self-understanding – as a sinner saved by God’s grace, and calling – to be a minister of the Gospel for as long as the Lord gave him breath. Most people, of course, are familiar with Newton’s famous

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William and Theadora: An Early Love Affair

William and Theadora: An Early Love Affair Neil Curry [An edited version of a talk given by the author at the Cowper Day held in Olney on 10 September 2011] I find myself wondering sometimes whether the sophistication of the recording devices available to us today might not have blunted our memories somewhat, and perhaps even our imaginations. Let me begin, for instance, by asking you to imagine that we are not in Olney in the early years of the twenty-first century, but in Germany at the beginning of the nineteenth, and that we have just heard the very first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. We’d be a bit thunderstruck I think, and what memories we’d take away with us, because we would realise that the chances of us hearing it again were slim. But nowadays we can hear it whenever we want; we just have to put on a

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William Cowper, The Task, Book VI, The WinterWalk at Noon, lines 57-82

The night was winter in its roughest mood, The morning sharp and clear. But now at noon Upon the southern side of the slant hills, And where the woods fence off the northern blast, The season smiles, resigning all its rage, And has the warmth of May. The vault is blue Without a cloud, and white without a speck The dazzling splendour of the scene below. Again the harmony comes o’er the vale, And through the trees I view the embattled tower Whence all the music. I again perceive The soothing influence of the wafted strains, And settle in soft musings as I tread The walk still verdant, under oaks and elms, Whose outspread branches overarch the glade. The roof though moveable through all its length As the wind sways it, has yet well sufficed, And intercepting in their silent fall The frequent flakes, has kept a path for me.

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Bibliography: Critical Writing on William Cowper, 1980-2010

This bibliography is split into two parts: Periodical Articles, Essays, Notes Books and Chapters The works listed contain substantial discussions of Cowper. Excluded are dissertations, editions of Cowper’s writing, online texts, and reviews. For critical writing published before 1980, consult the bibliographies in the following: William Cowper, The Task and Selected Other Poems, ed. James Sambrook (London: Longman, 1994); Lodwick Hartley, William Cowper: The Continuing Revaluation: An Essay and a Bibliography of Cowperian Studies from 1895 to 1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960); K. E. Smith, William Cowper: A Reappraisal (Olney: Cowper and Newton Museum, 2001). Periodical Articles, Essays, Notes Arnold, Keith, ‘William Cowper as a Prophet for Today?’, Cowper and Newton Bulletin, 3:2 (2004), 12-13. Baird, John D., ‘The Poems of William Cowper, II and III: Addenda and Corrigenda’, Notes and Queries, n.s. 44:2 (June 1997), 227-28. Barzilai, Shuli, ‘The Politics of Quotation in To the

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Book Reviews

Thomas Simmons, Imperial Affliction: Eighteenth-Century British Poets and Their Twentieth-Century Lives. New York etc.: Peter Lang, 2010. (Postcolonial Studies 11). xiii + 182pp. ISBN 978-1-4331-0872-3. W. B. Hutchings Thomas Simmons’s Imperial Affliction is an intimate and personal study of a number of eighteenth-century poets (and prose writers) and some of their modern readers. It is at the same time ambitiously broad in its frames of reference. Unusually frank acknowledgements align the process of writing Imperial Affliction with a belief that life and work are inseparable. As Simmons says of his own scholarship, writing and reading are ‘a function of the life’ (p. xii). So is the whole book: the cover illustration and photograph of the author are by his partner, Rachel Sauter, and his generous appreciation of the intellectual and personal contributions of friends and colleagues runs much more deeply than mere convention or politeness. Imperial Affliction, Simmons says, is

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William Cowper and the Material World

No object is too small to prompt his song – not the sooty film on the bars, or the spoutless teapot holding a bit of mignonette that serves to cheer the town-lodging with ‘a hint that Nature lives’; and yet his song is never trivial, for he is alive to small objects, not because his mind is narrow, but because his glance is clear and his heart is large. George Eliot1 It is remarkable that George Eliot – polymath, intellectual, cosmopolitan, sceptic – should have so unerringly identified the essential quality of a writer so different from herself as Cowper. While he is above all the celebrant of the small details of daily life, he looks through and beyond them to a wider vision which they express. Like his admirer William Blake he can ‘see a World in a grain of sand, and a Heaven in a wildflower’. But unlike

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Cowper’s Importance for George Eliot

Cowper’s poetry was an enthusiasm of George Eliot’s youth. The young MaryAnn Evans first read him at the Misses Franklin’s school in Coventry and he appears to have been one of her favourite authors in her early years.1 The residue of that youthful encounter was the ability she displayed throughout her life to quote from his poems or allude to them with easy familiarity. In an earnestly self-scrutinizing letter of September 1839 in which she describes her life as restless and her mind as ‘more than usually chaotic’, Cowper is listed alongside Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Milton as a source of those ‘scraps of poetry’ that form part of that ‘assemblage of disjointed specimens’ which constitute her mental furniture.2 Those scraps were to endure and, like Shakespeare and Wordsworth though on a much smaller scale, Cowper remains an informing presence in her life and work. In her late teens and early

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William Cowper, Hope, lines 75-110

To rise at noon, sit slipshod and undressed, To read the news or fiddle as seems best, Till half the world comes rattling at his door, To fill the dull vacuity till four, And just when evening turns the blue vault grey, To spend two hours in dressing for the day, 80 To make the sun a bauble without use, Save for the fruits his heavenly beams produce, Quite to forget, or deem it worth no thought, Who bids him shine, or if he shine or not, Through mere necessity to close his eyes 85 Just when the larks and when the shepherds rise, Is such a life, so tediously the same, So void of all utility or aim, That poor Jonquil, with almost every breath Sighs for his exit, vulgarly called death: 90 For he, with all his follies, has a mind Not yet so blank, or fashionably blind,

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William the Conqueror: The Friendship between William Hayley and William Cowper

‘It was an idle endeavour to make us enemies’, wrote William Hayley in his Life and Letters of Cowper, ‘which gave rise to our intimacy.’1 Hayley was author of the best-selling self-help book in rhyming couplets The Triumphs of Temper, and a popular poet who had recently turned down Pitt’s offer of the laureateship because ‘Parnassus is not a rotten Borough’2, (also because he didn’t feel his health was up to it). He’d been nagged to write a biography of Milton, not knowing that the great Cowper was working, with Henry Fuseli, on an annotated edition of the poet’s works, until he was ‘surprised and concerned’ to learn that he was ‘represented in a news-paper, as an antagonist of Cowper.’3 So, William Hayley did what William Hayley invariably did. He wrote a letter, complete with accompanying sonnet, to the poet. 7 February 1792, Eartham, near Chichester Dear Sir, I have

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Critical Writing on William Cowper, 2011-2012

Periodical Articles, Essays, Notes Bilbro, Jeffrey, ‘Who Are Lost and How They’re found: Redemption and Theodicy in Wheatley, Newton, and Cowper’, Early American Literature, 47:3 (2012), 561-89. Chantler, Ashley, ‘Critical Writing on William Cowper, 1980-2010’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 2 (2012), 44-56. Curry, Neil, ‘“The Contrite Heart”: Cowper and George Herbert’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 1 (2011), 46-49. Curry, Neil, ‘William and Theodora: An Early Love Affair’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 2 (2012), 26-37. Givens, Ray, ‘William Cowper: On Recovering from Depression’ [poem], Anglican Theological Review, 94:3 (2012), 523-24. Haggerty, Sarah, ‘“The Ceremonial Letter for Letter”: William Cowper and the Tempo of Epistolary Exchange’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 35:1 (2011), 149-67. Hutchings, W. B., ‘Cowper and Conversation’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 1 (2011), 2-15. Hutchings, W. B., ‘William Cowper, The Task, Book VI: “The Winter Walk at Noon”, Lines 57-82’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 2 (2012), 38-43. Menely, Tobias, ‘“The Present Obfuscation”:

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Susan Matthews: Blake, Sexuality and Bourgeois Politeness

Book Reviews Susan Matthews, Blake, Sexuality and Bourgeois Politeness (Cambridge Studies in Romanticism No. 88). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 286 pp., 24 b/w illustrations. ISBN-13: 9780521513579 Luisa Calè ‘In an age of luxury woman aspires to the function of man and man slides into the offices of woman. The epoch of eunuchs was ever the epoch of viragos’: Henry Fuseli’s association of female power, sexuality, and luxury crystallises eighteenth-century anxieties about the feminisation of culture. The alternative possibilities and utopian energy of eighteenth-century sexuality are at the centre of Susan Matthews’s Blake, Sexuality, and Bourgeois Politeness. The tension between ‘sexuality’ and ‘bourgeois politeness’ gains strength from the historical semantics of the word ‘sex’ as a term indicating the behavioural codes that define the difference between the genders. Matthews observes that Blake first uses the words ‘sexes’, ‘sexual’ and ‘sexuality’ after his period in Felpham working for William Hayley (3):

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Simon Watson: An April-Weather Life: A Short Biography of William Cowper, Poet

Congratulations to Simon Watson on a useful new guide to William Cowper’s life and work. There is such a dearth of material about Cowper and his contemporaries that any introduction is welcome, but An April-Weather Life manages to be an enjoyably-written and vivid account that will encourage readers to make their own excursions into the writing of the period. How fashions in reading have changed in the last 180 years. It is said that between 1782, when the first edition of Cowper’s poems appeared, and 1837, the year in which the Poet Laureate Robert Southey completed his own monumental Life and Works of Cowper, more than a hundred editions of Cowper’s poems were published in Britain and almost fifty in America. In 1833, Thomas Taylor, one of Cowper’s early biographers, began his book on Cowper with an apology for adding to the large number of biographies already available. Taylor’s work

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Sincerity and Dread in William Cowper’s Conversion Narratives

Sincerity and Dread in William Cowper’s Conversion Narratives Author: Martha J. Koehler But will sincerity suffice? William Cowper, ‘On Friendship’ (1781)1 Theoretically and historically sophisticated studies of sincerity have abounded in the last decade of literary criticism.2  Along with the related concept of authenticity, sincerity is being scrutinised in ways that attempt to dismantle its association with traditional, metaphysical notions of subjectivity.  While its definitive features – the correspondence of inner intention and outer expression, and the absence of feigning or affectation – are historically bound up with assumptions of origin and integrity that have been ‘severely deconstructed’, sincerity itself ‘has not been thought through in relation to such’, according to Ernst van Alphen and Mieke Bal.3  Much of the impetus for this new scholarship comes from romanticism, a context in which sincere poetry is valorised as an ideal, but simultaneously ironised and exposed as a performance.  Romanticist critics have

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Richard Arnold, Trinity of Discord. The Hymnal and Poetic Innovations of Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and William Cowper. New York: Peter Lang,

Book Review Richard Arnold, Trinity of Discord. The Hymnal and Poetic Innovations of Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and William Cowper. New York: Peter Lang, 2012. xii + 162 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4331-1904-0 J.R.Watson Professor Arnold is to be commended on his choice of subject. It is good to find critical attention being given to the hymn genre, and the three writers who are studied here are well worth serious consideration. Watts was the primary hymn writer of what Donald Davie called ‘Old Dissent’, the culture that sprang from the great fissure in the religion of English Protestants in the aftermath of the ‘Great Ejectment’ of 1662. It was closely associated with the Independent churches, of which Watts was a committed member, as his father had been before him: in the words of Samuel Johnson, ‘he declared his resolution of taking his lot with the dissenters.’ Since his father had been imprisoned

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Cowper’s Task: An Unexpected Reference

Cowper’s Task: An Unexpected Reference Vincent Newey While tidying some personal papers recently I rediscovered a letter I received in 1990 from the poet and critic Philip Hobsbaum, then teaching at the University of Glasgow. One of his reasons for writing was to tell me of a reference to Cowper he had come across unexpectedly in the autobiography of Annie S. Swan, a Scottish author of romantic fiction whose work had once been highly popular and much loved by his mother. The daughter of a potato merchant and small-scale farmer, Annie Shepherd Swan lived from 1859 to 1943. She achieved her greatest success with Aldersyde (1883), a novel set in the Scottish Borders, and wrote also under the pseudonym of David Lyall and her married name of Mrs Burnett Smith. The mention of Cowper comes towards the end of the opening chapter of My Life (1937), which covers her early

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Editions of the Writings of William Cowper An Annotated Bibliography 1960-2013

Editions of the Writings of William Cowper An Annotated Bibliography 1960-2013 Vincent Newey This bibliography of editions complements Ashley Chantler’s cumulative record of critical writing on Cowper since 1980, which is a regular feature of the journal. A list of editions published before 1960 is included in Lodwick Hartley, William Cowper: The Continuing Revaluation: An Essay and a Bibliography of Cowperian Studies from 1895 to 1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960). I have given the number of pages in a selection where this provides guidance to its scope and scale. Baird, John D. and Ryskamp, Charles, eds, The Poems of William Cowper, 3 vols, Oxford English Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980-95). The definitive edition of the poetical works, with extensive textual and contextual apparatus, explanatory notes, and commentary on the poems. Bruce, Michael, ed., William Cowper: Selected Poems, Everyman Poetry (London: J.M. Dent, 1999), xxix + 97

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William Cowper, ‘On the Loss of the Royal George’

William Cowper, ‘On the Loss of the Royal George’ W. B. Hutchings Toll for the brave – the Brave that are no more – All sunk beneath the wave, fast by their native shore – Eight hundred of the brave, whose courage well was tried, Had made the Vessel heel and laid her on her side, A Land-breeze shook the shrouds, and she was overset, Down went the Royal George, with all her crew complete. Toll for the brave – brave Kempenfelt is gone, His last Sea-fight is fought – his work of glory done – It was not in the battle – no tempest gave the shock, She sprang no fatal leak, she ran upon no rock, His sword was in the sheath, his fingers held the pen, When Kempenfelt went down, with twice four hundred men. Weigh the vessel up, once dreaded by our foes, And mingle with

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William Cowper, ‘The Poplar-Field’

William Cowper, ‘The Poplar-Field’ B. Hutchings New: watch this short film taken at the location of ‘The Poplar-Field’ by the Cowper & Newton Museum The Poplars are fell’d, farewell to the shade And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade, The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves, Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives. Twelve years have elapsed since I last took a view Of my favourite field and the bank where they grew, And now in the grass behold they are laid, And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade. The black-bird has fled to another retreat Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat, And the scene where his melody charm’d me before, Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more. My fugitive years are all hasting away, And I must e’er long lie as lowly as they, With a turf

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Critical Writing on William Cowper, 2013–2014

Critical Writing on William Cowper, 2013–2014 Ashley Chantler Periodical Articles, Essays, Notes Buie, Diane, ‘William Cowper: A Religious Melancholic?’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 36.1 (2013), 103-119. Chantler, Ashley, ‘Critical Writing on William Cowper, 2011–2012’ and ‘Additions to “Critical Writing on William Cowper, 1980–2010”’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 3 (2013), 50-52. Clucas, Tom, ‘Editing Milton During the French Revolution: Cowper and Hayley as “brother Editor[s]”’,                                                Review of English Studies,  65.272 (2014), 866–87. Gee, Lisa, ‘“William the Conqueror”: The Friendship Between William Hayley and William Cowper’,                                                      Cowper and Newton Journal, 3 (2013), 31-49. Hutchings, W. B., ‘William Cowper, “Hope”, Lines 75-210’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 3 (2013), 23-30. Hutchings, W. B., ‘On the Loss of the Royal George’, Cowper and Newton Journal, 4 (2014), 38 Keyner, Thomas, and John D. Baird, ‘Cowper’s “Light Propitious”’,   Notes and Queries, 60.1 (2013), 110-11. Koehler, Martha J., ‘Sincerity and Dread in William Cowper’s Conversion Narratives’, Cowper

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David Higgins: Romantic Englishness

Cowper and Newton Journal Book Review David Higgins, Romantic Englishness: Local, National, and Global Selves, 1780-1850. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 225pp. ISBN: 978-1-137-41162-4. Helen Stark Romantic Englishness is a thoughtful and careful exploration of the complex interactions between local, national, transnational and global identities in Romantic autobiographical writing. Taking Englishness as his organising principle, Higgins contends not just that it ‘was a heterogeneous and unstable category in the Romantic period, and always inflected by alterity’ but also that Englishness was an important component of identity in this period and one that has not received sufficient recognition (9). A great strength of this book lies in its coverage of a broad range of authors; Higgins includes case studies of labouring-class authors such as Samuel Bamford, Thomas Bewick and William Cobbett alongside the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Lamb. The key criterion is that all these authors write about England,

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Neil Curry, William Cowper: A Revaluation

Cowper and Newton Journal Book Review Neil Curry, William Cowper:  A Revaluation.  London:  Greenwich Exchange, 2015.  278 pp.  ISBN:  978-1-906075-86-6. £16.99 (pbk) B. Hutchings A new critical biography of William Cowper is an event to be welcomed.  Neil Curry is very well qualified to be its author.  In 2011 Greenwich Exchange published his Six Eighteenth-Century Poets, short critical studies of James Thomson, Samuel Johnson, William Collins, Thomas Gray, Christopher Smart and Oliver Goldsmith.  Sensitively weaving their lives into fresh and independent readings of their works, Curry shows us why these diverse and attractive poets, in his words, ‘deserve to be read’ (p.11).  Moreover, Curry is himself the author of several volumes of poetry, conveniently brought together in the collection Other Rooms: New and Selected Poems by Enitharmon Press (2007).  These are consistently lucid, measured and highly approachable poems, written with quiet authority and offering wide-ranging and meticulous observations of the

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Jane Darcy, Melancholy and Literary Biography, 1640–1816

Cowper and Newton Journal Book Review Jane Darcy, Melancholy and Literary Biography, 1640–1816. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. xii + 235 pp. ISBN: 978-1-137-27108-2. R. Owens Writing in The Rambler in 1750, Samuel Johnson famously declared that ‘no species of writing seems more worthy of cultivation than biography’. ‘Narratives of the lives of particular persons’, he says, ‘enchain the heart by irresistible interest’ because their readers identify with the joys or sufferings of people like themselves.  In a later essay (in The Idler in 1760) Johnson singled out literary biography – ‘memoirs of the sons of literature’ – as offering abundant examples of how ‘nothing detains the reader’s attention more powerfully than deep involutions of distress or sudden vicissitudes of fortune’. Jane Darcy’s book takes as its major theme Johnson’s suggestion that there is an intimate connection between literary biography and the extremes of mental suffering that were then described as

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Lacemakers and Old Songs, in Olney and Elsewhere

Lacemakers and Old Songs, in Olney and Elsewhere David Hopkin O, fellow, come, the song we had last night. Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain; The spinsters and the knitters in the sun And the free maids that weave their thread with bones Do use to chant it Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 4 As no doubt all readers of this journal know, the ‘free maids that weave their thread with bones’ were lacemakers.  When Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night (1601) lacemaking was actually a new technology in England, only introduced from the continent in the later sixteenth century.1  (Nor was it much older in Dalmatia where the play is set.)  It is odd then that lacemakers were already associated with ‘old and antique’ songs.  Yet this association is well documented.  Inspired by this passage, the Shakespearean Sidney Beisly enquired of the readers of Notes & Queries

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Lyric Sincerity: Cowper and the Sapphic Hymn

Lyric Sincerity: Cowper and the Sapphic Hymn Emma Salgård Cunha Introduction This essay offers a reading of Cowper’s Sapphic ode ‘Hatred and Vengeance’ (1774), placing it within two conjoined poetic traditions – that of hymnody and that of the eighteenth-century lyric.  I wish to argue that Cowper’s use of the Sapphic provides a peculiar insight into the contested genre of lyric in the period, particularly in relation to the recovery of a voice of sincerity and authenticity in lyric poetry.  Comparisons between Cowper’s neoclassic lyrics and his hymnody shed light on the ways in which he was able to use religious sincerity to override the characteristic impersonality or artificiality which contemporary commentators found in the secular lyric.  The exploitation of the rare and metrically-intricate Sapphic hymn allowed Cowper to obtain a privileged position of poetic seriousness, and functioned as a solution to a crisis of sincerity and of poetic authority

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Dr Cotton and the Collegium Insanorum at St Albans

Dr Cotton and the Collegium Insanorum at St Albans Richard Stern Dr Nathaniel Cotton (1705-88) is usually remembered for his association with the poets William Cowper and Edward Young, but he was a successful poet in his own right, and a physician who was highly regarded, not least by Cowper himself.  This article will indicate where Cotton might figure, in terms of the treatment of madness and melancholia, as an evangelically minded physician in the middle part of the eighteenth century.  By drawing attention to Cotton’s own writing, in his poetry, fables, letters, sermons, and medical commentary, I will suggest something of the nature of the doctor’s practice, and how it might be regarded as part of earlier and later traditions  This will involve a discussion of Cotton’s Visions in Verse, and other works from the collected edition, Various Pieces in Prose and Verse (1791), with some reference to Cowper’s

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William Cowper and George Romney: Public and Private Men

William Cowper and George Romney: Public and Private Men Joan Addison It was at Eartham, William Hayley’s Sussex home, in August 1792, that William Cowper met the artist George Romney.  In the previous May, Hayley, benefactor of artists and admirer of Cowper, had made his first visit to the poet at Weston.  During his visit, he had written to his old friend Romney, suggesting such a meeting.  His intention, he wrote in his Life of George Romney, was ‘to enliven [him] with a prospect of sharing with me the intellectual banquet of Cowper’s conversation by meeting him at Eartham’.  When the meeting did take place, Hayley’s prediction that the two men would enjoy each other’s company proved correct.  ‘Equally quick, and tender, in their feelings’, Hayley wrote, ‘they were peculiarly formed to relish the different but congenial talents, that rendered each an object of affectionate admiration’1. The pleasure that the

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Mark Rutherford Recalls Cowper: A Study of Some Allusions

Mark Rutherford Recalls Cowper: A Study of Some Allusions Vincent Newey We have learnt, however, from Zachariah that even before Wordsworth’s days people were sometimes touched by dawn or sunset. The morning cheered, the moon lent pathos and sentiment, and the stars awoke unanswerable interrogations in Cowfold, although it knew no poetry, save Dr. Watts, Pollock’s Course of Time, and here and there a little of Cowper.1 This is from The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887), the third and best-known novel of William Hale White (1831-1913), who wrote his fiction and some of his other works under the name of ‘Mark Rutherford’. Cowfold is a fictitious town in the eastern counties, based on Bedford where Hale White was born and raised in a family of devout Nonconformists. On close scrutiny the passage presents certain problems of interpretation. Rutherford has just noted Cowfold’s ignorance of ‘that worship of landscape and nature’

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Milton’s Elegy on the Death of Lancelot Andrewes: Cowper’s Translation

Milton’s Elegy on the Death of Lancelot Andrewes: Cowper’s Translation B. Hutchings John Milton’s Latin poems are largely the product of his earlier years. The most substantial of them, ‘Epitaphium Damonis’, is a lament for his school-friend, Charles Diodati, of whose death Milton heard while in Italy in 1639. Milton here employs pastoral elegy, a form which he had earlier (1637) adopted for his English poem, ‘Lycidas’. ‘Thyrsis’ laments the untimely death of his fellow-shepherd, ‘Damon’, seized from him prematurely (‘praereptum’, l. 7), as Milton had mourned for Edward King, ‘dead ere his prime’ (l. 8), in the guise of a fellow shepherd, ‘Lycidas’. To a twenty-first-century reader it may appear odd that Milton was happy to write in English about the death of a recent colleague – perhaps a friend – at Christ’s College, Cambridge, whereas he reverted to Latin as the medium to mourn a long-standing and closer

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William Cowper and William Mason: Poetry, Politics and the Nonsense Club

William Cowper and William Mason: Poetry, Politics and the Nonsense Club Joan Addison Cowper and the Nonsense Club In June 1786, William Cowper wrote a letter to his old friend Joseph Hill. In it he expressed his pleasure at having recently heard from another friend of their youth, the first communication received from him for several decades. ‘Such notices from friends are always pleasant,’ he wrote. ‘They refresh the memory of early days, and make me young again.’ 1 The friend to whom Cowper referred was George Colman, who like Cowper himself had attended Westminster School. Like Cowper, Colman had been destined for the law. Neither young man would follow the profession. Colman became a successful playwright and theatre manager; Cowper suffered severe mental breakdown and ended his life as England’s most famous poet. Their lives would diverge. But what had cemented their youthful friendship, once school was left behind,

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Byron’s Cowper: a Re-appraisal

There are many ways of coming at the relationship between Byron and Cowper as persons and poets. A perceptive short article on the poets in The Athenaeum in 1834 suggested that: Cowper and Byron may be compared together for the alternations of gaiety and gravity in their works. The author of ‘Childe Harold’ was the author of ‘Beppo’; and the author of ‘The Task’ was the author of ‘John Gilpin’. The prettiest flowers will sometimes grow upon the gloomiest precipices…had the two men met, we may suppose it possible that Byron would have reverenced Cowper’s religion, and that Cowper would have sympathized with Byron’s warmth of feeling’.1 The last point is pure speculation but it is true that both poets alternate gaiety and gravity and this significantly distinguishes them from their contemporaries. Moreover, Byron’s most celebrated intertextual use of Cowper is, indeed, in Beppo: England! with all thy faults, I

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John Wordsworth as Cowper’s ‘Cast-away’

John Wordsworth as Cowper’s ‘Cast-away’ Tom Clucas Abstract The three elegies that Wordsworth wrote after the death of his brother John in 1805 contain echoes of Cowper’s poem ‘The Cast-away’. Wordsworth first encountered this poem shortly before John drowned, in volume two of Hayley’s work The Life, and Posthumous Writings, of William Cowper. Wordsworth’s echoes of images and phrases from ‘The Cast-away’ in his elegies show him attempting to resist his memories of Cowper’s poem. Specifically, he raises and then refutes the possibility that John resembled the Cast-away in having been abandoned to a life at sea. The first elegy, ‘To the Daisy’, originally contained two stanzas which described John’s shipwreck in terms that echoed Cowper’s poem, yet Wordsworth deleted these stanzas in the manuscript. As he worked through the series of elegies, Wordsworth increasingly came to accept the accidental resemblances between John and the Cast-away, until he made the

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Cowper, Slave Narratives, and the Antebellum American Reading Public

Cowper, Slave Narratives, and the Antebellum American Reading Public Katherine Turner The influence of William Cowper’s anti-slavery poems on the abolitionist cause has long been acknowledged, but in rather generalised terms that fail to acknowledge the complexity of his impact on anti-slavery discourse and of his reputation at large, especially in America. This essay describes some of the many ways in which Cowper’s anti-slavery works were recruited by American abolitionists – both white campaigners and African-American producers of slave narratives – and suggests avenues for further investigation into Cowper’s standing in antebellum America. After almost 200 years of relative critical neglect, Cowper’s anti-slavery poems – amongst the earliest written by any author – have in the last decade prompted valuable critical reappraisal, and we have been reminded that Cowper was easily the most widely quoted poet within British and American abolitionist discourse.1 The tone of such scholarship, however, has been

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Victorian Valuations of William Cowper

Victorian Valuations of William Cowper Malcolm Hicks ‘I have found what I have been looking for all my life, a poet whom I can read on a Sunday.’ Thus rejoiced Hannah More, in several ways a kindred spirit of Cowper’s, on receipt of a copy of The Task a generation prior to Victoria’s accession to the throne, whom Anne Stott quotes in her recent biography significantly entitled Hannah More: The First Victorian.1 It is not difficult to identify which of Cowper’s qualities would have appealed to Victorian sensibilities: an enviably unshaken belief in the divine superintendence of the cosmos, which even his episodes of despair served painfully to confirm, the extolling of domestic virtues, and, in an age of practicality mistrustful of Romantic idealism, an unaffected love of nature extending to practical advice on horticulture. It is the expression of his despair, principally in his most familiar poem, ‘The Castaway’,

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Cowper’s Influence on Jane Austen

Fanny Price, the timid heroine of Mansfield Park, never feels at home. Taken at nine from the chaos of her family house in Portsmouth, she grows up in the grandeur of Mansfield Park, under the care of her uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. But although Sir Thomas at the outset declared, ‘Let her home be in this house’, he fails to see the divisiveness of Mrs Norris’s insistence that Fanny be brought up to know her place, never to consider herself on an equal footing with the Bertram children. It is Mrs Norris who plans this relegation in concrete terms, suggesting Fanny be given ‘the little white Attic, near the Old Nurseries … close by the housemaids’.1 Such security as Fanny has is threatened when she is fifteen. Widowhood means Mrs Norris must leave the parsonage and move to a smaller cottage. The Bertrams assume, wrongly, that

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Sam Roberts of Weston, Cowper’s faithful attendant

While researching family history in the 1980s, I made the interesting discovery that Samuel Roberts, often referred to merely as ‘Sam’, Cowper’s lackey or factotum, was a direct ancestor of mine. His son John James Roberts, a carpenter, married Elizabeth Robinson, from a local Baptist family; their son William Robinson Roberts, who moved from Olney to Ampthill, was my great-great-grandfather. I traced Sam’s will and saw that his date of death corresponded to that given in Thomas Wright’s biography of Cowper; Wright also notes that Sam was buried near the tower and porch of Weston Underwood church1. The stone, which once bore an inscription reading ‘for many years a faithfull attendant of the poet Cowper’2, has either been removed or has become illegible. Based on Sam’s age at his death I found a suitable baptism in the Weston register for 1754: son of Edward Roberts, a parish clerk. Sam’s mother

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Anne Brontë, William Cowper and the Pursuit of Individual Salvation

The range of literary works and figures that influenced the Brontës is known to be considerable. While Charlotte, Branwell and Emily found their greatest source of inspiration in the works of Byron and Sir Walter Scott, Anne turned more frequently to the work of William Cowper. Elizabeth Langland comments that Anne was ‘more influenced by the eighteenth century than by the Romantic poets and novelists who shaped her sisters.’1 Charlotte and Branwell make passing references to Cowper’s poetry within their writing, but Anne’s relationship with the poet is much more sustained and complex. Owing to Anne’s dedication poem ‘To Cowper’ her creative relationship with the poet has long been accepted and remarked upon by critics such as Inga-Stina Ewbank, P.J.M. Scott, Marianne Thormählen and Sara J. Lodge.2 Yet while they acknowledge the impact Cowper had on Anne’s poetic composition, specific exploration of the verse is usually brief. In this essay

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John Newton’s Advice on Marriage to John Ryland Jr

Introduction John Newton (1725-1807) had a wide circle of friends with whom he corresponded regularly and to whom he offered counsel. Those receiving advice included the well-known hymn-writer William Cowper (1731- 1800), the evangelical philanthropist, Hannah More (1745-1833), and the anti-slave campaigner, William Wilberforce (1759-1833), as well as a number of Dissenting ministers and friends. Among the Dissenting ministers with whom he corresponded was the Baptist John Ryland Jr (1753-1825), who served as pastor of College Lane Church in Northampton and then, later, as the pastor of the Broadmead Baptist Church in Bristol and as the Principal of the Baptist College in Bristol. Newton’s correspondence with Ryland has been collected together and published by Grant Gordon in Wise Counsel, John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland, Jr.1 Using letters to Ryland from that collection, the diary of Ryland’s second wife, Frances Barrett Ryland 2, as well as some of Newton’s other

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An Echo of Cowper in Time of War

Recent issues of the journal have included not only full-scale articles on relations between Cowper and other authors but also shorter ones noting brief yet suggestive references to the poet or his work. Another of these citations comes in Vera Brittain’s celebrated autobiography of the First World War period, Testament of Youth, published in 1933. Brittain recalls how on the eve of 1915 she parted in London from the man she loved, Roland Leighton, lately enlisted and awaiting deployment to the front. Shortly afterwards, back home in Derbyshire, she had received an affectionate letter from Roland and then attended a service in the local church: The next day, in church, Cowper’s hymn, ‘God moves in a mysterious way’, so often sung during the War by a nation growing ever more desperately anxious to be reassured and consoled, almost started me weeping; as I listened with swimming eyes to its gentle,

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Book Review: John Bugg (ed.), The Joseph Johnson Letterbook

John Bugg (ed.) The Joseph Johnson Letterbook Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 272pp. ISBN 978-0-19-964424-7. £65.00 At the start of his introduction to this first-ever edition of Joseph Johnson’s Letterbook, John Bugg describes Johnson’s bookshop as a hub for some of the most important writers and artists of the time, ‘like City Lights in Beat-era San Francisco, or Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company in 1920s Paris’. As an American academic at Fordham University, Bugg has successfully made a transatlantic leap to set Johnson in the context of the European enlightenment and the English book trade. For anyone interested in the history of print culture in the late eighteenth century, the chance rediscovery of one of Joseph Johnson’s business letterbooks has been akin to finding the holy grail. Johnson was in business as a bookseller-cum-publisher for almost fifty years. His Letterbook includes copy letters and memos written in the fifteen-year period

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This folio of four pages, happy work! : Cowper and the Newspapers

PLEASE NOTE: this is a text only article. The full article is in ‘The Cowper & Newton Journal Volume 8: 2018 SPECIAL ISSUE: Cowper: Home and Away Guest editor: Katherine Turner The best-known passage from The Task, and one which established the image of Cowper as the home-loving poet of fireside retreat contemplating the world ‘at a distance’, is the description from the beginning of Book IV, ‘The Winter Evening’, of the newspaper’s arrival and perusal. A painting which hangs in the Cowper and Newton Museum, attributed to J. Tate Grey and dated 1891, embodies the iconic power of the passage; it depicts Cowper reading the paper to Mrs Unwin and Lady Austen while ‘the bubbling and loud-hissing urn / Throws up a steamy column, and the cups / That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each’ (IV, 38-40).1 The painting, like the poem, emphasizes the domestic sobriety of Cowper’s

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Cowper and Berkhamsted: Memories and Memorials

Given his reputation as the poet who celebrated domestic life, little affection for a specific home or homes emerges from Cowper’s poems or letters. Especially during the years shortly before and after his and Mrs Unwin’s removal from Olney to Weston, it is striking how he describes the time at Orchard Side – the place where he lived longer than any other, for eighteen years – as a period of imprisonment. He writes to Newton in July 1783 describing himself as both free and a Prisoner at the same time. The world is before me; I am not shut up in the Bastile though often as miserable as if I were, there are no Moats about my castle, nor locks upon my gates but of which I have the Key—but an invisible uncontroulable agency, a local attachment, an inclination more forcible than I ever felt even to the place of

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Cowper’s Return Home: Remembering and Working-Through in On the Receipt of My Mother’s Picture

The concept of home was much on Cowper’s mind throughout his career. Most conspicuous, perhaps, are the sections of The Task (1785) that mark him as the celebrant of domestic life, its pleasures and its virtues: Domestic happiness, thou only bliss Of Paradise that has survived the fall! Though few now taste thee unimpair’d and pure, Or tasting, long enjoy thee, too unfirm Or too incautious to preserve thy sweets Unmixt with drops of bitter … (III. 41-6)1 Oh friendly to the best pursuits of man, Friendly to thought, to virtue, and to peace, Domestic life in rural leisure pass’d! Few know thy value, and few taste thy sweets, Though many boast thy favours … (III. 290-04) Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn Throws up a steamy column, and the cups, That

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Cowper Away: a Summer in Sussex

PLEASE NOTE: this is a text only article. The full article is in ‘The Cowper & Newton Journal Volume 8: 2018 SPECIAL ISSUE: Cowper: Home and Away Guest editor: Katherine Turner ‘How should I who have not journey’d 20 miles from home these 20 years, how should I possibly reach your country?’1 This was Cowper’s response in the spring of 1792 when his new correspondent William Hayley invited him to stay in Sussex. It was optimistic of Hayley even to suggest it. No-one – no beloved cousin or old friend, no admired writer or publisher – had persuaded Cowper to travel any distance from his Buckinghamshire home. ‘My passion for retirement is not at all abated’, he had told John Newton ten years earlier, though it was a passion he regarded with ambivalence. His ‘local attachment’ was an invisible bond that held him as if by a chain; ‘an invisible,

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But now we float: Cowper, Air-Balloons, and the Poetics of Flight

In early December 1783, William Cowper wrote to John Newton (Anglican clergyman and Cowper’s collaborator on Olney Hymns) to share his thoughts about the recent air-balloon flights in France: My mind however is frequently getting into these Balloons, and is busy in multiplying speculations as airy as the regions through which they pass. The last account from France, which seems so well authenticated, has changed my jocularity upon this occasion, into serious expectation […] But now we float; at random indeed pretty much, and as the wind drives us, for want of nothing but that steerage which Invention the conqueror of many equal if not superior difficulties, may be expected to supply. – Should the point be carried, and man at last become as familiar with the air as he has long been with the Ocean, will it, in its consequences, prove a mercy or a Judgement? I think a

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He swam very strong: Cowper’s ‘The Castaway’ and the Voyage Account Tradition of Maritime Suffering

The doubling at work in William Cowper’s shorter poems, through which he projects elements of his own emotional and indeed authorial self onto the characters (sometimes human, sometimes animal) of his verse, has long been noted. For example, Vincent Newey has pointed us to the way in which this doubling is at play in the poet’s final original poem ‘The Castaway’ (begun in 1799, only published posthumously in The Life and Posthumous Writings, 1803-4). Newey argues that the suffering mariner of the poem serves as a ‘dark double’ for Cowper’s own ‘feelings of lifelong affliction and approaching death’, whilst simultaneously offering him a form of ‘immortality’.1 He also reminds us that ‘The Castaway’ is a culmination of multiple experimentations with ideas about identification and semblance, some of which – for example ‘On the Loss of The Royal George’ (1782) – reveal an earlier interest in tales of maritime suffering and

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Cowper’s ‘The Snail’

I am a kind of human snail, locked in and condemned by my own nature. The antients believed that the moist track left by the snail as it crept was the snail’s own essence, depleting its body little by little; the farther the snail toiled, the smaller it became, until it finally rubbed itself out. Cynthia Ozick1 The paradox of Cowper and home Domestic happiness, thou only bliss Of Paradise that has survived the fall! Though few now taste thee unimpair’d and pure, Or tasting, long enjoy thee … (The Task, III, 39–42) Cowper has been described as ‘the poet of home life’, but in fact he never tasted ‘pure’ domestic life, as the poem puts it, inasmuch as he remained unmarried and preferred to avoid responsibility for the households in which he lived.2 This is one of several apparent paradoxes about this ‘self-contradictory man’3 and one which is contained

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A Portrait and a Nursery Plate

Over the past 12 months (2003-4) the Cowper and Newton Museum has been active on its own behalf in acquiring significant objects for the collection, and fortunate in receiving donations from well-wishers. Here are the stories of two of them. Portrait of Mary Unwin (1724-1796) by Arthur Devis An engraving based on this portrait has been displayed in the Museum for many years. However, it was not until the art historian Simon Houfe located the original, and alerted the Museum, that we became aware of its existence. He had come across it on a visit to Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon, for centuries home of the Heathcoat-Amory family and now a property administered by the National Trust. It proved difficult to arrange for a photograph to be taken of the picture to the Trust’s exacting standards until one of our Trustees, Joan Jones, whose daughter works at Knightshayes, made personal contact

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The Weather House

This delightful engraving was something of a mystery to me until recently, when I stumbled upon its original source. I was familiar with elements of it, especially the three hares, which appear on a snuffbox in the museum, and the whole design, or parts of it, has been used from time to time to illustrate Cowper’s life and work. It appears as an Appendix at the end of Volume II of William Hayley’s three-volume Life of Cowper. The first two volumes of this, the first biography of the poet, were published in 1803, three years after hisdeath, to be followed by the third volume in 1804. The first few lines of the Appendix consist of Cowper’s ‘Motto on a Clock’ in Latin, followed by Hayley’s translation. It has nothing to do with the subject of theengraving, which follows immediately after it, without a break. This has led at least one

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A Tune Called ‘Cowper’

Cowper is one of the great hymn writers. There can be few people, however, who know that there is a hymn tune named after him. Composed by J.G. Whittaker, it appears in Companion Tunes to Gadsby’s Hymnbook (1927), a substantial compilation of old favourites and newer pieces intended, as the title suggests, to meet the musical needs of those Churches using William Gadsby’s Selection of Hymns for Public Worship. The project was evidently a timely one, for the First Edition, issued in February, was more or less immediately sold out and was followed by a Second Edition (with minor corrections) in November. Our initial researches have yielded no information about J.G. Whittaker beyond an acknowledgement in the Companion which seems to indicate that he was then still living. William Gadsby (1773-1844) is an interesting figure well known in the history of Nonconformist religion. The son of a road mender, he

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The Winner of Sorrow: a Novel by Brian Lynch

Brian Lynch is an Irish poet and scriptwriter: this is his first novel. It is a richly textured, tragi-comic exploration of the life of William Cowper, a fellow-poet with whom he clearly feels a deep affinity. He insists that it is not a biography, but it would be fair to classify it as ‘fictionalised biography’, a genre which has become firmly established in recent times through the practice of writers such as Peter Ackroyd and Julian Barnes. Indeed, Brian Lynch has remained significantly more faithful to the known facts surrounding his subject than have some other authors in the field. There is evidence on every page of his intimate knowledge of Cowper’s letters and poems, and of the work of earlier biographers such as Lord David Cecil and James King. He has closely researched the poet’s milieu, and presents a convincing picture, not only of the lives of William Cowper,

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‘Amazing Grace’

[Of all the many emails and enquiries that come into the museum, by far the most numerous are about ‘Amazing Grace’. ‘How did it come to be written?’, ‘Did Newton write the music?’, etc., etc. Consequently I wrote this piece as a standard answer to all such questions. Most of these enquiries come from the United States but I hope the following explanation will be of interest to everyone.] The Rev. John Newton wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ for the New Year’s Morning sermon at Olney parish church in 1773. It was based on the sermon’s text, I Chronicles 17:16-17, ‘Faith’s Review and Expectation’, and was first published in Olney Hymns (1779). Newton’s friend and neighbour William Cowper wrote some 67 of the Hymns, the remainder of the total of 348 being written by Newton himself. They were mostly intended to illuminate a particular point or sermon during the weekly

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Two Curates, Two Baptists, and a Poet: Olney and the Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade

Slaves bound by chains, the sounds of creaking ship masts, and the barter of human flesh all seem alien to our impressions of eighteenth century Buckinghamshire. Yet Christians of Olney played an important role in the long campaign to abolish the Atlantic slave trade. Though they sometimes made their most dramatic impact upon English laws and society after leaving the county, their tranquil refuge by the Ouse nurtured contemplation and conviction and led to a profound change in all of England and even all the world. Regard for Olney’s curate, Revd. John Newton, led the great Parliamentary leader William Wilberforce (1759-1833) to take up the antislavery cause. A successor curate in Olney to Newton, Revd. Thomas Scott, had as profound an impact on Wilberforce and also on a young Baptist intern at Olney, William Carey, who would become a pioneer missionary to the far reaches of the globe. Carey’s Baptist

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An Important First Edition

The museum’s collection has been greatly enhanced by the acquisition of a unique first edition of William Hayley’s The Life and Posthumous Writings of William Cowper, in three volumes, quarto. This purchase was made possible by a grant of £1500 from the Friends of National Libraries, and a donation of £900 from the Friends of the Museum. The Trustees are most grateful to both organisations for their prompt and generous support. Volumes I and II were published three years after Cowper’s death, in 1803, and Volume III in 1804. The edition is fully described in A Bibliography of William Cowper to 1837, by Norma Russell, Oxford Bibliographical Society 1963, pp.250-3. The book is in excellent condition, in its original leather binding, with very clear, unspotted plates. What is unique about this copy and makes it so important and appropriate for the museum is its provenance, and the inclusion in it

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William Cowper of the Inner Temple

[The following is a shortened version of an article by Dr C.M. Rider, Archivist to the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, which first appeared in The Inner Temple Yearbook 2003/4, pp. 30-32. It is reprinted by kind permission of the author.] When William Cowper’s first volume of poems was published by Joseph Johnson of St Paul’s Churchyard in 1782 it was entitled Poems/ by/ William Cowper of the Inner Temple. However, this description has caused confusion amongst biographers of the poet who in some cases have assumed that William Cowper was called to the bar at the Inner Temple. Others have noted correctly that he was called to the bar at the Middle Temple, but give varying dates for his admission and call. This article seeks to clarify the situation. William Cowper was born on 15 November 1731 in Great Berkhamsted (also spelt Berkhamstead or Berkhampstead), Hertfordshire, the eldest

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Cartogenic Cowper

Among the several types of collectable ephemera, cigarette cards are one of the most fascinating. Issued in their millions from the 1880s through to the outbreak of the Second World War (and later in occasional series and with cigar brands), they comprise a rich reflection of historical events and circumstance, were long a core source of knowledge and information for a mass readership, and had a potent and diverse influence on cultural attitudes. Alongside the sportsmen, film stars, politicians, architectural gems and natural wonders, development of the British Empire, household hints, air-raid precautions, and the myriad other subjects, cards of a literary cast were always in strong evidence. Shakespeare is prominent (as in the famous ‘Shakespearean Series’ of 1917 from Players), though, indicating widespread popular appeal, it is Dickens that seemingly looms largest, notably in sets depicting characters from the novels (one of them again a well-known Players series, ‘Characters

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Cowper’s Woodman Illustrated

An important sidelight on Cowper is the range and quality of the illustrations of his poems and environment in editions and other books, by artists including Richard Westall, Henry Fuseli, John Flaxman, and J. and H.S. Storer, the latter, father and son, being responsible (with John Greig) for the celebrated Cowper Illustrated (1803) and, an expanded version of this, The Rural Walks of Cowper (1822), which even today are ideal guides to the countryside round Olney and Cowper’s favourite haunts. It is perhaps less widely recognized that representations of scenes and figures from the poetry were separately published. John Gilpin proved a popular choice, with nine different prints issued between 1784 and 1833, the year in which an etching by ‘Phiz’ (Hablot K. Browne), illustrator of Dickens, appeared. Three prints, ‘two of Crazy Kate, and one of the Lacemaker in “Truth”’, are mentioned by Cowper as ‘lately published’ in a

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Detached Cowper and His Critical Eye

‘Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD GOD had made’ (Genesis, 3.1) At the 2001 Cowper and Newton Day, in Olney, readings were given of Cowper’s poetry and prose. I chose to read ‘The Colubriad’ (written 1782, published 1806), a witty poem about an encounter with a snake in a garden. The poem is based on an actual incident recorded in a letter from Cowper to William Unwin (3 August 1782), but what the poem does that the letter does not do is to create a character of whom the reader is supposed to be critical. ‘The Colubriad’ opens with an earnest poet ‘passing swift and inattentive by’ three kittens in a doorway, ‘Not much concern’d to know what they did there, / Not deeming kittens worth a poet’s care’.1 However, when he sees a ‘viper’ by the kittens, one of which

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Eighteenth-Century Military Life in Olney

Many of you will know of the references in Cowper’s letters to military exercises taking place in the vicinity of Olney. In a letter to Rev. John Newton dated Sunday 18 March 1781, Cowper gives the following description of military manoeuvres in what is now Emberton Country Park, about a mile from Olney. There are soldiers quarter’d at Newport and at Olney – these met by order of their respective officers, in Emberton Marsh, perform’d all the Manoeuvres of a deadly Battle, and the result was, that this Town was taken. Since I wrote they have again Encounter’d with the same Intention, and Mr. Raban* kept a room for me & Mrs. Unwin, that we may sit and view them at our Ease. We did so, but it did not answer our expectation; for before the Contest could be decided, the powder on both sides being expended, the Combatants were

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How did Cowper Love Women?

Academics enjoy few things more than formulating questions and then refusing to answer them. This article is no exception, as it asks the question ‘How did Cowper love women?’ and then suggests that the question cannot, in the final analysis, be answered at all. Or rather, I would argue, such questions can be answered – but only by making Cowper less interesting than he needs or deserves to be. Putting a label on the way in which Cowper loved is to box him in, to define him, to ‘pluck out the heart of his mystery’ (as Hamlet complained to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). Despite my devotion to the art (or science) of interpretation, I believe that certain mysteries are better appreciated unplucked and that they can be explored without being explained. In particular, I believe that the wrong kind of biographical criticism makes the reading of poetry a duller experience. Psychopathology

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Recalling Adam’s Dream: A Note on Keats and Cowper

The Imagination may be compared to Adam’s dream – he awoke and found it truth. To Benjamin Bailey, 22 Nov. 18171 Keats’s reference to Adam’s dream recalls that section of Book VIII of Milton’s Paradise Lost in which Adam tells the angel Raphael what he remembers of his creation and entry into conscious life. A footnote in the standard edition of Keats’s letters directs us to lines 452-90,2 where we find a particular parallel in Adam’s report of his first encounter with Eve in all her prelapsarian beauty: ‘I waked / To find her … / Such as I saw her in my dream’ (478-83).3 Adam’s earlier discovery of Paradise itself – ‘I waked, and found / Before mine eyes all real, as the dream / Had lively shadowed’ (309-11) – provides perhaps an even closer recollection, not only because of the similar grammatical structure (where meaning is at once

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Tasking the Mind: Understanding ‘Unstood’ in Cowper’s ‘Yardley Oak’

One man alone, the Father of us all, Drew not his life from woman; never gazed, With mute unconsciousness of what he saw, On all around him; learned not by degrees, Nor owed articulation to his ear; But, moulded by his Maker into Man At once, unstood intelligent, survey’d All creatures, with precision understood Their purport, uses, properties, assign’d To each his name significant, and, fill’d With Love and Wisdom, render’d back to heav’n In praise harmonious the first air he drew. (‘Yardley Oak’, ll. 167-78) These lines are taken from Cowper’s ‘Yardley Oak’ (written around 1791-92), as they appear in the Longman Annotated Texts edition of The Task and Selected Other Poems (ed. James Sambrook (1994), p. 312). At this point, almost at the end of the poem, Cowper confirms the Miltonic genealogy of his ‘fragment’ by turning the poetic focus away from the decaying oak and upon the

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Texts on the Wall of Newton’s Study

If you have visited John Newton’s attic study in what is now the Old Vicarage at Olney, you will have seen these two texts which he kept on the wall as reminders to himself: Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable. Isaiah 43:4 BUT Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bond-man in the land of Egypt, and the LORD Thy God redeemed thee. Deuteronomy 15:15 Why these two verses in particular? A little light is shed on this in his diary for 1767. Lord Dartmouth had the vicarage enlarged for Newton. While the builders were on site, William Cowper and Mary Unwin arrived from Huntingdon and moved in with the Newtons at their temporary address. On 20 October, after the Tuesday night prayer meeting, which began with an exposition from Pilgrim’s Progress, Newton wrote in his diary, ‘Preparing to remove to the vicarage.’ The extra

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The Cowper Johnson Archive

A highlight of the years covered by this retrospective issue of the journal was the acquisition of the Cowper Johnson Archive. It was offered to the Trustees by Bonhams auction house in 2006, on condition that we could raise the purchase price of £220,000 within six months. If we failed to do so, the archive would be auctioned and dispersed. Since it was the most important collection of Cowper-related material ever to come onto the market, we could not allow this to happen. Unlocking the necessary support from the Lottery and other funding bodies depended, crucially, on our raising match funding, mainly from the local community. The target was £25,000. Through the efforts of many individuals and a magnificent response from Olney residents it was not only met but substantially exceeded, and well within the time limit. The Archive was saved for the Museum. An unexpected bonus was the vendor’s

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The Evangelical Tradition in Olney in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Nonconformist beginnings East Anglia and the East Midlands took to the Reformation and the new ideas of religion very easily; perhaps their proximity to the printing presses of The Hague and the rest of Northern Europe was a contributing factor. By the beginning of the seventeenth century the Puritan faction was well established in the area. Unease with the established church of Charles I and his Archbishop Laud expressed itself quite early in the king’s reign. In 1635 some Olney families emigrated to New England in search of religious freedom; they left in April on board the Hopewell of London, arriving in Boston in June. From Olney itself went John Cooper, Edmund ffarington, William Parryer and their families and from the neighbouring villages of Lavendon and Sherington, George Griggs and his family and two brothers, Philip Kyrtland aged 21 and Nathaniel Kyrtland 19. The oldest emigrant was 49 and the

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The Olney Hymns

[This paper was delivered in Leicester as an invited lecture at the annual conference of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 23 July 2002. It has been revised for publication. Thanks are due to the Hymn Society for their kind permission for the text to appear in this journal.] On 13 October 1928, D.H. Lawrence published in the London Evening News a piece entitled ‘Hymns in a Man’s Life’, in which he described the special influence that hymns had exercised upon his consciousness as a child, and the privileged place they still retained there.1 Hymns were important to Lawrence because they filled him with ‘wonder’— and ‘when all comes to all, the most precious element in life is wonder’. ‘To me the word Galilee [“O Galilee, sweet Galilee”] has a wonderful sound. The lake of Galilee! I don’t want to know where it is. I never want to

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The Reverend Morley Unwin and his Family

Morley Unwin, the second son of Thomas and Martha, was baptised on 31 July 1704 at Saint Peter Cornhill, London. Thomas Unwin was a goldsmith. Morley’s parents were married as soon as Thomas completed his apprenticeship. Their firstborn son, another Thomas, is listed as being baptised in 1702 followed by Morley, four more sons and finally a daughter Martha named after her mother. Morley was probably educated at Charterhouse. It was close to his home in London and the school he chose for his son. He was a Fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge, from 1727-1744. He was a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Divinity, Superior Bursar, Censor Theologicus and Philosophicus, Dean of Chapel, and Catechist; also Chaplain in the Navy, Master of the Free School, Huntingdon and Vicar of Oakington, Cambs. He was Chaplain to the Earl of Harborough, who presented him to Richard, Bishop of Lincoln who

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Book Museum Tickets

Our Museum building remains CLOSED.  We are opening our gardens on limited entry.  The Cowper & Newton Museum gardens will be open to welcome you on Wednesday 5th August 10.30 – 12.15 and Saturday 8th August 10.30 – 12.15

(Follow our social media accounts or check back here for further opening days & times as they become available)