The Cowper Johnson Archive

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Excerpt

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 gift, outside the sale, of the copy of Abbott’s portrait with accompanying pedigree of the Cowper family, which now hang in the hall at Orchard Side (see below: 2. Johnson on Abbott’s Portrait of Cowper). Felix Pryor, an art historian and manuscripts expert retained by Bonhams, produced the following description prior to the offer for sale. It is a meticulously researched guide to the treasures we were about to acquire, set in the context of Cowper’s life and work. We are glad to have this opportunity of placing it on permanent record through the medium of the journal. The portraits and ‘relics’ are in most cases on permanent display and can be viewed by anyone visiting the Museum. The books are held in the Museum Library and may be consulted on request. As a condition of the Lottery grant the letters were deposited in the County Record Office in Aylesbury

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 gift, outside the sale, of the

copy of Abbott’s portrait with accompanying pedigree of the Cowper

family, which now hang in the hall at Orchard Side (see below: 2.

Johnson on Abbott’s Portrait of Cowper).

Felix Pryor, an art historian and manuscripts expert retained by

Bonhams, produced the following description prior to the offer for sale.

It is a meticulously researched guide to the treasures we were about

to acquire, set in the context of Cowper’s life and work. We are glad

to have this opportunity of placing it on permanent record through the

medium of the journal.

The portraits and ‘relics’ are in most cases on permanent display and

can be viewed by anyone visiting the Museum. The books are held in the

Museum Library and may be consulted on request. As a condition of the

Lottery grant the letters were deposited in the County Record Office in

Aylesbury (now the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies) to be preserved

under approved archival conditions: interested readers should contact

the archivist at archives@buckscc.gov.uk (Note by Tony Seward)

This extraordinary collection was assembled and preserved by the

Revd. John Johnson (1769-1833) and the descendants of his eldest son

William Cowper Johnson (1813–1893): for further details, see the notes

on individual provenances below. Johnson was Cowper’s first cousin

once removed, his grandfather being the son of Roger Donne, Cowper’s

maternal uncle:

For twenty-seven years Cowper held no intercourse with his maternal

relations, and knew not whether they were living or dead. Johnson, however,

when a Cambridge student, introduced himself to the poet during a Christmas

vacation. Cowper conceived an affection for ‘the wild but bashful boy’, which

was amply requited. Cowper, who used to call him ‘Johnny of Norfolk’, was

deeply indebted to his kinsman for the care taken of him during the latter

years of his life. Cowper died in Johnson’s house in the market-place of East

Dereham 25 April 1800.

Dictionary of National Biography

Johnson commissioned Lemuel Abbott’s portrait of Cowper, and greatly

assisted his cousin in his translation of Homer. After Cowper’s death,

he helped Hayley with his Life, and through Hayley came into the orbit

of William Blake, who drew his portrait. Many of the objects in this

collection have passed by descent through the family directly from

Johnson; but others were bequeathed to later members of the family by

Lady Hesketh and other intimates of the poet: it seems fair to say that

the Cowper Johnson family was regarded throughout the nineteenth and

twentieth centuries as custodians of Cowper’s memory and guardians of

his shrine. The present collection has remained with the family to this

day.

LETTERS

1. Letters by William Cowper to Joseph Hill

Series of over 170 autograph letters (including verse epistles) by William

Cowper, to his close early friend and lifetime supporter Joseph Hill (a

few to his wife), the series annotated by Lady Hesketh and bound for

the Revd. John Johnson; title-page (‘The Original Letters of Cowper to

his friend Joseph Hill Esqr. including those to Mrs Hill; arranged, and

prepared for binding, by the Revd. John Johnson, LL.D, the Writer’s

friend and Relation. A.D. 1820.’) and contents list, later inscription pasted

in by Sarah Hill presenting the volume to Joseph Jekyll of Wargrave

Hill, 14 March 1821; the letters mounted and sometimes overlaid or

strengthened, with the text in places pasted over, some headed with

autograph signed receipts by Cowper for monies received from Hill (in

one or two instances torn off in the course of business), a few other

letters fragmentary and one or two damaged by damp, green morocco

gilt, spine stamped ‘Original Letters of Cowper 1755-1793/ To Joseph

Hill Esq/ MDCCCXX’, all edges gilt, small tear on upper cover, 4to;

contained in a contemporary matching fitted case, with lock

According to King and Ryskamp (Letters and Prose Writings of

William Cowper, i, 1979, p.xxxii, where these are published): ‘This

is a collection of 176 letters from 10 October 1755 to 10 December

1793 on 472 pages. They were arranged and prepared for binding by

John Johnson in 1820. These letters are owned by the Misses C. and A.

Cowper Johnson.’ As far as we aware, it is the longest series of original

Cowper letters to one correspondent extant, covering very nearly his

whole adult life, especially the early years: the next largest being those

to John Newton at Princeton and those to William Unwin at the British

Library. Neither of the Newton nor Unwin series has survived intact,

while about 25 letters from our series to Joseph Hill are either lost (1),

known only from printed texts (3) or in other collections such as the

Pierpont Morgan, Massachusetts Historical Society, Princeton, New

York Public Library, the Boston Public Library and the Cowper and

Newton Museum, Olney (21).

According to King and Ryskamp’s census, this can also lay claim to

being the second largest collection of Cowper letters in any one place;

the largest being the collection of 404 letters (to various correspondents)

assembled by Professor Hannay and now at Princeton. King and

Ryskamp list the next largest collections, after ours, as being those to

various correspondents at the British Library (118 letters), Panshanger

(72 letters), the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney (c.50 letters) and

the Pierpont Morgan (50 plus letters).

The collection was magnificently bound by John Johnson for Sarah,

Joseph Hill’s widow. She bequeathed it to Joseph Jekyll (1754-1837),

the lawyer and wit, of Wargrave Hill (where the young Gertrude Jekyll

was to live). It was then left by his descendants Sir Herbert and Joseph

Jekyll to Canon Cowper Johnson, and belonged at the time of King and

Ryskamp’s edition of the letters to Misses C. and A. Cowper Johnson.

A notable feature of the series is that many of the letters have been

annotated by Cowper’s cousin, and arguably closest friend of all, Lady

Hesketh. Her comments are clearly directed to John Johnson and refer

to Hayley’s posthumous Life of Cowper. Some of her annotations are

included in King and Ryskamp’s edition of the letters, but most are not.

Hers is a running commentary of especial interest in light of Cowper’s

posthumous reputation (one in which Blake was also to be involved). In

the words of Verlyn Klinkenborg:

Though his cousin Lady Hesketh understood the need for an authorized

biography, she intended to confine to the immediate circle of his friends

any knowledge of what she considered the misfortune of his Evangelical

beliefs and the undoubted tragedy of his periods of severe depression.

William Hayley, the official biographer, respected her wishes, but when the

first volume of his Life and Letters of William Cowper appeared in 1803,

the reviewers abruptly brushed away the fragile web of Hayley’s adulatory

narrative and seized upon a previously unknown fact: Cowper was a brilliant

correspondent. Within twenty years of his death, Cowper’s reputation had

almost completely reversed itself; his poetry had begun to fade, while he was

justly hailed as one of the greatest of English letter writers. The attractions of

Cowper’s epistolary style – so adaptable and good-humored – ruined Lady

Hesketh’s plans to hide his miseries in oblivion, and today the details of his

secluded life are better known than those of any other poet of his period.

British Literary Manuscripts: Series I, from 800 to 1800,

Pierpont Morgan Library/ Dover, 1981, 112.

Lady Hesketh’s unpublished dockets on the letters include comments

such as: ‘This letter actually makes my heart bleed! – O! what must

have been the sensations of such a heart as his while writing! I don’t

know whether I coud be Cruel enough to wish Ld T to see this and some

others of this parcel, but surely he could not see such letters from such

a friend without a degree of Remorse that I coud not wish my greatest

Enemy’; ‘How very beautiful’ (on Cowper’s meditation on death); ‘a

most pleasing letter of the Serious kind’ (about his breakdown of 1763);

‘Very clever & worthy of the Writer but perhaps better suppressed at

this distance of Time’ (about the American War of Independence); ‘I

intreat Mr Hayley may have this’ (Cowper discussing publication of

his Poems of 1782); ‘Just the very thing our biographer wou’d like to

publish. it shews the Authors best [?] turn’d inside out’; ‘O! this must

and shall see the light!’ (Cowper on his domesticity); ‘pray let this be

published; & Just as it stands – why not, yet the Name may be omitted

if you’ve any real objection to being Popular’ (Cowper’s letter claiming

that he has written nothing recently ‘except a certain facetious History

of John Gilpin, which Mr Unwin would send to the Public Advertiser’);

‘I should greatly wish the first part of this letter might appear but on no

account the article about Johnson tho I myself Subscribe to evry Tittle

of it’ (Cowper on Thurloe’s pension to the dying Dr Johnson); etc.

Four of the letters include verse, the first letter of all (10 October

1755), being the verse-epistle beginning ‘If I write not to you/ As I gladly

would do/ To a Man of your Mettle & Sense…’; other poems transcribed

by Cowper for Hill being ‘The Pine Apple & the Bee’ (2 October 1779,

published in 1782), ‘On the Promotion of Edwd Thurlow Esqr/ To the

Lord Chancellorship of England’ (14 November 1779, published 1782),

and ‘Nose Pl[ain]t[iff] Eyes Def[endan]ts’ (27 December 1780).

Although Hill, the successful lawyer and practical man of business,

is usually seen as very different from his friend, the letters nevertheless

abound with references to Cowper’s verse, a subject that Hill clearly

held close to his heart. They include significant references to his first

publication, the Poems of 1782 (‘…I hope my Bookseller has paid

due attention to the order I gave him to furnish you with my book, the

composition of those pieces afforded me an agreeable Amusement at

Intervals for about a twelve month, and I should be glad to devote the

leisure hours of another twelvemonth to the same occupation, at least if

my lucubrations should meet with a favourable acceptance. But I cannot

write when I would, and whether I shall find Readers is a problem not

yet decided – so the Muse and I are parted for the present…’); the everpopular

John Gilpin (‘…You may think perhaps that having commenced

Poet by profession, I am always writing verses. Not so – I have written

nothing, at least finished nothing, since I published – except a certain

facetious History of John Gilpin, which Mr Unwin would send to the

Public Advertiser. Perhaps you might read it without suspecting the

Author…my Book procured me this favor – it has procured me likewise

other favors which my modesty will not permitt me to specify, except

one, which modest as I am I cannot suppress, a very handsome Letter

from Dr Franklin at Passy. These fruits it has brought forth, but whether

it has brought forth any money I know not, having never heard from my

Printer since he published…’); what is generally seen as his greatest

achievement, The Task, both before publication (‘…I am going to the

Press again, and a volume of mine will greet your hands either some

Time in the course of the Winter or early in the Spring. You will find

it perhaps on the whole more entertaining than the form[er] as it treats

a greater variety of subject[s] and those, at least the most of them, of a

sublunary kind. It will consist of a Poem in Six books called the Task. To

which will be added another which I finished yesterday, called I believe

– Tirocinium – on the subject of Education…’), and after (‘…I have

orderd my volume to your door. My Bookseller is the most dilatory of all

his fraternity, or you would have received it long since. It is more than a

month since I returned to him the last proof, and consequently since the

Printing was finished. I sent him the Manuscript at the beginning of last

November that he might publish while the Town is fu[l]l, and he will hit

the exact moment when it is entirely empty…’); his translation of Milton’s

Latin poems (‘…I have made a considerable progress in the translation

of Miltons Latin poetry. I give them, as opportunity offers, all the variety

of measure that I can. Some I render in heroic rhime, some in stanzas,

some in seven, and some in eight syllable measure, and some in blank

verse. They will all together I hope make an agreeable miscellany for the

English reader. They are certainly good in themselves, and cannot fail to

please but by the fault of their translator…’); and his magnum opus, his

translation of Homer (‘…I begin to find some prospect of a conclusion,

of the Iliad at least, now opening upon me, having reached the 18th

Book. Your Letter found me yesterday in the very fact of dispensing

the whole host of Troy, by the voice only of Achilles. There is nothing

extravagant in the idea, for you have witnessed a similar effect attending

even such a voice as mine, at midnight, from a garret window, on the

dogs of a whole parish whom I have put to flight in a moment…’).

The series also includes valuable references to Cowper’s reading

habits (‘…My Reading is pretty much circumscribed both by want of

Books, and the influence of particular reasons… Poetry, English Poetry I

never touch, being pretty much addicted to the writing of it, and knowing

that much intercourse with those gentlemen, betrays us unavoidably

into a habit of imitation, which I hate and despise most cordially…’),

and contemporary writers, including Johnson, to whom Cowper’s

erstwhile fellow-clerk Chancellor Thurloe had offered a pension, and

Gray (‘…I have been reading Greys Works, and think him the only Poet

since Shakespear entitled to the Character of Sublime. Perhaps you will

remember that I once had a different Opinion of him: I was prejudiced;

he did not belong to our Thursday Society & was an Eaton Man, which

lowered him prodigiously in our Esteem. I once thought Swifts Letters

the best that could be written, but I like Greys better; his Humour or his

Wit, or whatever it is to be called is never illnatur’d or offensive, & yet

I think equally poignant with the Deans…’).

By way of bonus, Cowper also transcribes the full text of Benjamin

Franklin’s famous letter to John Thornton in praise of his poetry, in which

Franklin tells Thornton: ‘The relish for reading of Poetry had long since

left me, but there is something so new in the manner, so easy and yet

so correct in the language, so clear in the expression yet concise, and so

just in the sentiments that I have read the whole with great pleasure, and

some of the pieces more than once – I beg you to accept my thankfull

acknowledgments, and to present my respects to the Author…’ While

Cowper’s attitude to Franklin’s cause is the subject of a long mockdialogue

with Hill written late in 1781 (‘…Well Cowper – what do you

think of this American War?/ I – To say the truth I am not very fond of

thinking about it; when I do, I think of it unpleasantly enough. I think

it bids fair to be the ruin of this Country./ You – That’s very unpleasant

indeed – if that should be the consequence, it will be the fault of those

who might put a stop to it if they would./ I – . But do you really think it

practicable?/ You. – Why not?…’).

In addition, this series touches on some of the great, often formative,

events in Cowper’s life, such as his mother’s early death (‘…To condole

with you on the death of a Mother aged 87 would be absurd… Your lot and

mine in this respect have been very different, as indeed in almost every

other. Your Mother lived to see you rise, at least to see you comfortably

established in the world. Mine dying when I was six years old, did not

live to see me sink in it. You may remember with pleasure while you

live, a blessing vouchsafed to you so long, and I while I live I must

regret a comfort of which I was deprived so early. I can truly say that

not a week passes, (perhaps I might say with equal veracity say a day) in

which I do not think of her…’); his religious calling (one letter marked

by Lady Hesketh ‘This is a charming letter full of good Sense Piety &

Truth, without any of the methodistical Cant wch I dislike extremely’ in

which he declares that ‘It was not without many [d]readfull Afflictions

and a deep Sense of the Wrath of God [ag]ainst Sin, that I was brought

to a serious Hearing of the Word of God. Depend upon it, it is well

worth your while to e[n]quire into these things…’); his breakdown of

1763 and the death of his brother (‘…I have not done conversing with

terrestrial Objects, though I should be happy were I able to hold more

continual Converse with a Friend above the Skies. He has my Heart –

but he allows a Corner in it for all who shew me Kindness, and therefore

one for You. The Storm of 63 made a Wreck of all the Friendships I

had contracted in the Course of many Years, Yours excepted, which has

survived the Tempest…’); and the death of others close to him (‘…Mr

Unwin is dead… at nine o’clock on Sunday morning he was in perfect

Health and as likely to live 20 years as either of us, and before 10 was

stretched speechless and senseless upon a Flock Bed in a poor Cottage,

where, (it being impossible to remove him) he died on Thursday evening.

I heard his dying Groans, the Effect of great Agony, for he was a strong

Man, and much convulsed in his last Moments…’).

Nor – like The Task – does this series shun those everyday

preoccupations that have made Cowper’s letters so highly prized from

Hayley’s day to this, a quality which he himself acknowledges (‘….Dear

Sephus,/ Uncertain whether or no this will ever reach your Hands, I shall

lay an Embargo upon all that Wit & Humour which generally pours

itself into my Epistles, and only write the needfull…’), the subject of

gardening being especially popular (‘…Having commenced Gardiner,

I study the Arts of pruning, sowing, and Planting, and enterprize every

thing in that way from Melons down to Cabbages. I have a large Garden

to display my Abilities in, and were I 20 Miles nearer London, might

turn Higgler, and serve your Honour with Cauliflowers and Brocoli at

the best hand…’).

2. Johnson on Abbott’s Portrait of Cowper

Autograph letter signed (‘JJ’) by the Revd. John Johnson, to his sister

Kate at East Dereham, written when staying with Cowper at Weston

Underwood and during a sitting by Cowper to Lemuel Abbott for the

portrait which Johnson had commissioned:

I was not up till Mr Abbott and my Cousin were set down to Breakfast – Mr

Abbott, say you, and who is Mr Abbott? Oh my love, I can no longer keep the

secret – Mr Abbott is perhaps the first Portrait Painter in the Kingdom with

respect to a likeness – he has actually painted a most enchanting likeness

of our great Poet – nothing can be more like – and this is the reason of my

going up to London when I did – I engaged Mr Abbott to come down on

the 12th of this month, that is to say, on this day sennight – he accordingly

came down – and has finished his face – such a likeness, well, my love – this

Portrait is mine at present, but my intention has always been to present it to

our Aunt and Uncle Bodham… Our dear Cousin is painted in the attitude of

Study – with his Homer lying on his favourite desk, before him… All this

Country already knows that I went up to Town for the purpose of engaging

a Painter without saying any thing to my Cousin – and Every Body seems

delighted with the idea – for my own part I never dreamt of any thing except

securing my point – for I knew that if I hinted it to our Cousin before I went

he would not have let me go, being so unambitious of appearing on canvas

– however he now delights in the business and enters into the subject with

great pleasure – He has been the best Sitter Mr Abbott ever had in his life – I

am now relieving him by sitting for the lights and shades of the leg, and am

therefore cross-legged and sitting at his desk – but he will resume his seat

again for the finishing part.

(4 pages, 4to, integral address, seal and postmark, Weston Underwood,

19 July 1792)

[The original of this portrait was sold to the National Portrait

Gallery; the copy now in the museum was commissioned by the family

as a replacement.]

BOOKS FROM COWPER’S LIBRARY

For a history of this library and its dispersal, see Geoffrey Keynes,

‘The Library of William Cowper’ in Transactions of the Cambridge

Bibliographical Society, vol.iii, I, 1960, p.47ff.

Cowper spent the last five years of his life being cared for by his

first cousin John Johnson, Rector of Yaxham with Welborne, Norfolk.

In all 177 titles were listed as being in Cowper’s possession at his death

by William Barker, a local bookseller. The rest of his library having

perished by fire, as he tells Hill (in the present collection) in the spring

of 1788:

I am likely to be furnishd soon with shelves which my Cousin of Norfolk

Street is about to send me, but furniture for those shelves I shall not presently

procure unless by recov’ring my stray Authors. I am not young enough to

think of making a new collection, and shall probably possess myself of few

Books hereafter but such as I m[a]y put forth myself… Alas! My Library – I

must now give it up for a lost thing for ever. The only consolation belonging

to the circumstance is or seems to be, that no such loss did ever befall any

other man, or can ever befall me again… Those Books which had been my

fathers, had, most of them, his arms on the inside Cover, but the rest, no

mark, neither his name or mine. I could mourn for them like Sancho for his

Dapple, but it would avail me nothing.

Cowper’s surviving library passed, on his death, to Johnson, who gave

a few volumes away to members of the family. On Johnson’s death in

1833 library and relics were divided among his three sons, William

Cowper Johnson, John Barham Johnson and Henry Vaughan Johnson.

This division was indicated by their pencilled initials on the inside

covers, ours belonging to the eldest son, ‘WCJ’. Although the present

collection clearly does not represent all the books WCJ inherited, it does

contain what are by any account some of the most outstanding, such as

Cowper’s copies of Milton and Homer. While this section has remained

with the family, those belonging to John were sold at Sotheby’s in 1943

and those to Henry were bought by Keynes in 1928 and partly dispersed

by him at Sotheby’s.

A notable feature of all these books is that each was signed by Cowper

on the top left-hand corner of the title page and dated 1797, in what

Keynes describes as ‘a spidery and uncertain hand’. This was done in an

attempt to help Cowper, suffering as he was during these last years from

debilitating depression. Johnson has left an account of the process:

Today we entered upon an experiment from which I had great hopes, and

which in some sort answered the purpose. I should have observed that the

Homer had been laid aside a long time, without my being able to persuade

him to resume it. The scheme, therefore, which I now formed to draw him out

of himself, was this. He had about four hundred Volumes which followed us

from Weston. It struck me, therefore, that by coaxing him to write his name

in every one of these Volumes, I should perhaps have the happiness to find

that he would be tempted to look into them. So I proposed to him that he

should write his name in ten Volumes every day, so long as they lasted. To

this he readily agreed – though from an odd reason, dear Soul – viz. because

he thought that he must live till they were all finished at that same rate. – So

he began to work, and to my great joy was tempted, as I had hoped, to peep

into almost every Volume as he went along.

(Journal for 16 August 1797, quoted by Keynes)

On 26 September Johnson added: ‘Finished the books this day’. Rarely

can a set of ownership inscriptions have had greater poignancy.

In addition to the 1797 signature, many of the present volumes have

(as described by Keynes) ‘Cowper’s crest stamped in gold on a [black]

leather label fixed to the spines and his bookplate… pasted inside the

front cover’.

3. Bible – Greek New Testament

Novum Testamentum Graeci, 2 vols (1763), both title-pages signed

‘Wm Cowper 1797’, vol.i. with Cowper’s armorial bookplate and that

of his father, vol.ii with his father’s only, Cowper crest on spine (one

from remaining impress only), vol.i initialled ‘WCJ’ and inscribed at the

end ‘Rev Dr Johnson’, calf, joints weak, spine chipped, 8vo.

In his letter to Joseph Hill (see above) about the loss of his early library,

Cowper especially regretted that of his father’s books: ‘Those Books

which had been my fathers, had, most of them, his arms on the inside

Cover, but the rest, no mark, neither his name or mine. I could mourn for

them like Sancho for his Dapple, but it would avail me nothing’ (8 May

1788). See also his father’s copy of Pasore’s Lexicon, below.

4. Brown (John)

A Dictionary of the Holy Bible, third edition, in two volumes (1789),

both title-pages signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’, no bookplate, Cowper crest

on spine on vol.ii (with impress where formerly on vol.i), vol.i initialled

‘WCJ’, half-calf marbled boards, joints weak, spines chipped, 8vo.

5. Cervantes Saavedra (Miguel de)

The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, translated by

Smollett, fifth edition, in 4 volumes, all title-pages signed ‘Wm Cowper

1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate in each volume, Cowper crest on

spines (one crest label lacking), first volume initialled ‘WCJ’, calf, spines

cracked, joints weak and covers coming loose, spine chipped, 8vo

Writing to Joseph Hill about the loss of his early library, Cowper

invokes Cervantes: ‘I could mourn for them like Sancho for his Dapple,

but it would avail me nothing’ (8 May 1788, from the letter in the present

collection).

6. Gillies (John)

Memoirs of the Life of the Reverend George Whitefield (1772), signed

‘Wm Cowper 1797’, upper right inscribed ‘Maria Johnson/ from My

dear Johnnie’, no bookplate, Cowper crest on spine, calf, joints weak,

spine chipped, 8vo.

7. Green (William)

A New translation of the Psalms (1762), Cowper’s signature cut away

from the title-page, Cowper’s armorial bookplate, calf, Cowper crest on

spine, 8vo.

8. Griffith (Richard)

A Series of Genuine Letters between Henry and Frances, third edition,

vols i and ii bound in one (1767), title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’,

no bookplate, Cowper crest on spine, joints weak, calf, spine chipped,

8vo.

9. Hervey (James)

Meditations and Contemplations, 22nd edition (1776), title-page signed

‘Wm Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate, Cowper crest on

spine, inside cover initialled ‘WSC’, fly-leaf inscribed ‘To my dear

Maria/ April 1820’, price calculations at end, calf, joints weak, spine

chipped, 8vo.

Perhaps I am partial to Hervey for the sake of his other Writings (you

know I hated him once) but I cannot give Pearshall the Preference to

him now, for I think him one of the most Spiritual & truly Scriptural

Writers in the World

(Cowper to his cousin Mrs Cowper, 17 April 1766)

10. Hervey (James)

Theron and Aspasio, fourth edition, 3 volumes (1761), all title-pages

signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’, no bookplate, part Cowper crest remaining

on one spine, vol i signed ‘WCJ’, calf, joints weak, spines chipped,

8vo.

While Cowper greatly admired Hervey’s Meditations, he did allow

himself to poke some fun at Hervey’s other famous work, telling Joseph

Hill that Teedon, the Olney schoolmaster, ‘has formed his stile (he told

me himself) by the pattern that Mr Hervey has furnish’d him with in

his Theron and Aspasio; accordingly he never says that my garden

is gay, but that the flowery tribe are finely variegated and extremely

fragrant. The weather with him is never fine, but genial, never cold and

uncomfortable, but rigorous and frowning.’ (See original letter, 29 June

1785.)

11. Homer

The Iliad, in Greek with facing Latin translation (1728), title-page signed

‘Wm Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate, small fragment of

Cowper crest on spine, outer part of front fly-leaf remaining (detached)

inscribed by Cowper (‘ […] Translation of the Iliad on/ […] Novemb.r

1784./ […] Jan.r 13. 1786’) and bearing the ownership inscriptions of

John Thornton (1729), H.W. Green (1774), T. Jones (1777) [Thomas

Jones, Lady Austen’s brother-in-law, from whom Cowper acquired the

volume (see note below)] and W.C. Johnson (1830), calf, lacking one

cover, spine worn, 8vo.

A key book from Cowper’s library, being – as his autograph inscription

makes clear – the volume from which he translated the Iliad. Cowper’s

translation of Homer was an undertaking that James King, his modern

biographer, places at the centre of his literary career:

I have devoted a great deal of attention to the translation of Homer, which

Cowper felt was his great literary achievement and enduring monument. In

his letters, Cowper left a detailed record of his progress on Homer, which he

came to see as his vindication as a professional writer. Although our critical

response is now rightly focused on the letters and original verse compositions,

I have attempted to demonstrate how crucial the Homer project was for him.

Cowper was a man who became aware of ambition comparatively late in

life, and in his dedication to Homer – and to his own claim to immortality –

Cowper’s passivity gave way to earnest, determined activity…the translation

of the Iliad and Odyssey was to become the culmination of Cowper’s poetical

career, and, in the process, a major aim of his parallel ‘career’ as a letter

writer was attained as never before.

William Cowper: a Biography, 1986, pp.x-xi

In his copy of the Odyssey, Cowper wrote: ‘My Translation of the Iliad

I began on the twenty first day of November in the year 1784.’ (King,

p.195). This is matched by what remains of the inscription in the present

volume: ‘[…] Translation of the Iliad on […] Novemb.r 1784./ […]

Jan.r 13. 1786’. As this volume records, the first draft of his translation

of the Iliad was finished on 13 January 1786. After further revisions

the completed work was published on 1 July 1791 (for John Johnson’s

copy, see below).

James King identifies this copy of the Iliad as having belonged to

Thomas Jones, Lady Austen’s brother-in-law (p.190).

12. Janeway (James)

Invisibles, Realities Demonstrated in the Holy Life and Triumphant Death

of Mr John Janeway (1745), fly leaf signed and dated ‘Wm Cowper/ April

14./ 1769’, title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s armorial

bookplate, initialled ‘WCJ’ and signed ‘Maria Johnson’, Cowper crest

on spine, calf, joints weak, spine chipped, 8vo.

A book with, for Cowper, a poignant association. He refers to it in

Adelphi, his account of his own conversion and of his brother John’s

death: ‘About this time, I reminded him of the account of Janeway’s

death which he once read at my desire. He said, “[I] laughed at it in

[my] own mind and accounted it mere madness and folly. Yet base as I

am,” (said he), “I have no doubt now but God has accepted me also and

forgiven me all my sins.”’ (Letters and Prose Writings, i, p.58). This

copy of Janeway was acquired by Cowper on 14 April 1769, a little less

than a year before his brother’s death, on 20 March 1770.

13. Johnson (Samuel)

The Rambler, ninth edition, in four volumes (1779), all title-pages signed

‘Wm Cowper 1797’, each with Cowper’s armorial bookplate, traces of

Cowper’s crest on spine (one intact), calf, joints weak, spine chipped,

8vo.

14. Juvenal (Decimus Junius)

The Satires of Juvenal Translated (1739), title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper

1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate, trace of Cowper crest on spine,

inner cover initialled ‘WCJ’, inscribed with purchase price, calf, upper

cover detached, spine chipped, 8vo.

This has been annotated throughout in Latin: the hand is not

Cowper’s.

15. Labutte (Rene)

A French Grammar (1784), title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’,

Cowper’s armorial bookplate, impress from Cowper crest on spine,

purchase inscription in pencil (‘March 27. 1797/ Binding – 1/8’), initialled

‘WCJ’, half-calf marbled boards, joints weak, spine rubbed, 8vo.

16. Lawrence (John)

The Clergy-Man’s Recreation: Shewing the Pleasure and Profit of the

Art of Gardening, second edition (1714), title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper

1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate, Cowper crest on spine, name of an

earlier owner above the date 1715 cut away (?for the autograph) on flyleaf,

calf, spine and endpapers restored, 8vo.

Gardening featured large in Cowper’s life, partly as a refuge

from depression: ‘all of Cowper’s observations on gardening have

the unmistakable air of authenticity, but a garden for him was also a

symbolical representation of man’s ability to care, protect, and foster…

he was able in The Task to describe the countryside and its life – his

extended garden – in all its complexity as “blest seclusion from a jarring

world”.’ (James King, William Cowper: a Biography, 1986, p.93).

It forms a recurrent theme in his letters to Joseph Hill in the present

collection. This volume has been extensively annotated by the original

owner with lively comments (‘…come be quiet, you’ll have Mr Bradley

upon your back if you havnt a Care, how can you speak so disrespectfully

of Philosophy…’).

17. Lexicon – Hederich (Benjamin)

Graecum Lexicon Manuale (1766), title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper

1797’, no bookplate, small patch indicating original presence of Cowper

crest on spine, inscribed in pencil ‘WC Johnson/ from his father/ …July

11. 1831’, calf, joints weak, 4to.

This is clearly the Greek lexicon acquired by Cowper in order to

undertake his translation of Homer. In the autumn of 1780 he wrote to

William Unwin: ‘If you could meet with a Second Hand Virgil, Ditto

Homer, both Iliad & Odyssey, together with a Clavis, for I have no

Lexicon, & all tolerably cheap, I should be obliged if you will make the

purchase.’ (3 September 1780).

18. Lexicon – Pasore (Giorgio)

Lexicon Graeco-Latinum in novum domini nostrum Jesu Christi

Testamentum(1650) bound with Etyma nominum propriorum (1650),

initial title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’, armorial bookplates of

Cowper and his father John, Cowper crest on spine, calf, joints weak,

spine chipped, 8vo.

Another of the few surviving books from the library of Cowper’s

father, which he mourned in his letter to Joseph Hill: see his Greek New

Testament, above.

19. Milton (John)

Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books, edited by Thomas Newton,

seventh edition, in two volumes (1770), both title-pages signed ‘Wm

Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate in both volumes, vol.i

signed ‘WCJ’, calf, upper cover of vol.i. detached, joints weak, spines

chipped, 8vo.

Milton and Paradise Lost were, of course, enormously influential on

Cowper from his Westminster days onwards, and he felt a strong sense of

self-identification with the poet who, disabled by blindness, transformed

that handicap into a strength: ‘He assumed his great task would be to

write a poem about a corrupt individual – himself – who wanders back

into the garden and finds salvation. Such thoughts preoccupied him,

and he saw The Task as a continuation of Paradise Lost… Cowper now

envisioned his career as a poet to be a dedication to the poet-priest calling

of Milton.’ (James King, William Cowper: a Biography, 1986, p.145).

The printer Joseph Johnson issued a prospectus for a magnificent

edition of Milton on 1 September 1791, with Cowper as editor and

Fuseli as illustrator. King remarks that, although ‘it was appropriate that

he should decide to edit the verse of the English poet whose literary

successor he had become’, when he agreed to the proposal ‘the only

edition of Milton Cowper possessed was the seventh edition (1770) in

two volumes of Thomas Newton’s edition of Paradise Lost.’ (pp.232

and 234). The project was eventually to be abandoned.

At the back of the first volume is pencilled a variation of Milton’s

description of Satan (Newton, i, p.268): ‘Satan like a Cormorant/ Sits on

the tree of life/ In prospect not for use’, with a further passage marked

in the second.

20. Milton (John)

Paradise Regained…Samson Agonistes and Poems upon Several

Occasions, in two volumes, edited by Thomas Newton (1770), both

title-pages signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate in

both volumes, ink proof-correction at ii, p.307, calf, cover of becoming

detached, joints weak, spines chipped, 8vo.

As part of the aborted Milton edition, Cowper translated Milton’s

Latin and Italian poems in the autumn of 1791. It was for him ‘the

only attractive element of this project’ (John D. Baird in the Oxford

Dictionary of National Biography). At the end of vol.ii (containing the

Latin and Italian poems) are some pencil calculations which might relate

to the project. On 14 November 1791 Cowper wrote to Joseph Hill, ‘I

have made a considerable progress in the translation of Miltons Latin

poetry. I give them, as opportunity offers, all the variety of measure that

I can. Some I render in heroic rhime, some in stanzas some in seven,

and some in eight syllable measure, and some in blank verse. They will

all together I hope make an agreeable miscellany for the English reader.

They are certainly good in themselves, and cannot fail to please but by

the fault of their translator.’ (See the letter in the present collection.)

132

21. Newton (John)

Collection of works in one volume, comprising Six Discourses as intended

for the pulpit (1760), A Sermon Preached…on…the day appointed

for a General Fast (1781), A Sermon Preached…on the…Death of

Richard Conyers [1786], The Best Wisdom: A Sermon Preached…on…

the day of the annual meeting of the Society for Promoting Religious

Knowledge (1788), Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade (1788), A

Sermon…on…the day of general thanksgiving for the King’s happy

recovery (1789), initial title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s

armorial bookplate, impress from Cowper’s crest label on spine, calf,

joints weak, spine chipped, 8vo.

A representative volume (including the important ‘Thoughts upon the

African Slave Trade’) by the man who, of course, exercised enormous

influence over Cowper and was his collaborator on the Olney Hymns.

22. Newton (Thomas)

Dissertations on the Prophecies, second edition, in three volumes

(1759), each title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’ (see note), Cowper’s

armorial bookplate in each, Cowper crest on spines, vol.i inscribed ‘To/

Maria Dorothy Johnson/ from J.J./ June 8.1820.’, initialled ‘WCJ’, calf,

joints weak, spine chipped, 8vo.

Each title-page bears Cowper’s earlier ownership signature, to which

he has subsequently added the date 1797. The Dissertations by Thomas

Newton, editor of Milton (see above) were especially influential: ‘Its

popularity both reflected and contributed to the persistence of the prophetic

mode (and with it anti-papalism) as a key element in eighteenth-century

Anglican apologetics’ and ‘helped his contemporaries to make sense of

their world and strengthened the national sense of protestant identity in

his lifetime and down to the revolutionary wars of the 1790s.’ (ODNB).

Cowper refers to the Dissertations in two letters to Lady Hesketh, of 5

and 12 July 1765, by which date he had presumably acquired the present

volumes.

23. Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro)

Opera, edited by Charles de la Rue SJ (1687), title-page signed ‘Wm

Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate, Cowper crest on spine,

133

initialled ‘WCJ’, further childish annotations, calf, joints weak (front

fly-leaf detached), spine chipped, last few pages of index lacking at end,

8vo.

This is one of the volumes acquired by Cowper at the same time as his

Iliad and Greek lexicon (see his letter to William Unwin of 3 September

1781, quoted above in our note on Hederich’s Greek lexicon).

24. Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet de)

Memoirs of the Life of Voltaire written by himself, third edition (1785),

title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper 1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate,

Cowper crest on spine, initialled ‘WCJ’, calf, joints weak, spine chipped,

8vo.

Inscribed by Johnson in pencil: ‘read to Mr C – 12 July 1797’ and

below ‘March 27 ’97’ with a note of price paid for the book and the

binding. In his earlier days Cowper had, with his brother John, made a

translation of the Henriade.

25. Williams (Edward)

Poems, Lyric and Pastoral (1794), title-page signed ‘Wm Cowper

1797’, Cowper’s armorial bookplate, remains of Cowper crest on spine,

inscribed by Johnson ‘March 27 ’97/ Bg – 1/9’, initialled ‘WCJ’, calf,

joints weak, spine chipped, 8vo.

‘William Cowper, Esq./ Inner Temple’ is listed among the subscribers.

Cowper had encountered Williams – the poet, forger and Welsh

propagandist, otherwise known as Iolo Morganwg – in 1792, but (according

to Williams’s own account) was too ‘nervously sensitive’ to introduce

himself. (James King, William Cowper: A Biography, 1986, p.248).

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

26. Homer – Cowper (William)

John Johnson’s copy of The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, translated into

English Blank Verse by W. Cowper, first edition, in two volumes (1791),

both title-pages inscribed by Johnson in ink ‘E. Lib. Joannis Johnson./

Cai: Coll: Cantab:/ 1791’, first fly-leaf inscribed with the price of 5

guineas, pencilled initials ‘WCJ’, contemporary red straight-grained

morocco gilt, all edges gilt, spines faded, 4to.

Among the list of subscribers is ‘Mr. John Johnson, Caius’ Coll.

Camb. f.’ (‘f’ denoting a copy on fine paper). For Cowper’s copy of the

Iliad, see above. Johnson helped Cowper with the translation and with

its publication by his namesake, Joseph Johnson, acting as Cowper’s

amanuensis and drumming up subscriptions. He also inherited from

Cowper the manuscripts and proofs (Rothschild Collection, 684-693).

Out of 317 subscription copies ordered, 106 were on fine paper.

PORTRAITS BY WILLIAM BLAKE

27. Portrait miniature by Blake of Cowper after Romney

Showing Cowper head-and-shoulders, turning to his right, wearing the

linen cap given him by Lady Hesketh (for the original, see below), oval

73 x 62 mm., in the original red morocco satin-lined case fitted with two

bronze clasps, (the ‘elegant Case’ as described by Lady Hesketh, see

below), blue-green velvet surround, glazed, oval 87 x 72 mm.

Blake drew this miniature after Romney’s celebrated portrait, which

Hayley owned, for his engraving of Cowper, used as a frontispiece

to volume one of Hayley’s Life and Posthumous Writings of William

Cowper (1803). It was executed before February 1801.

Many references to it are to be found in the correspondence of Hayley

and his circle, cited by G.E. Bentley, Blake Records, 1969. Hayley wrote

to Romney himself on 3 February 1801: ‘It may interest you perhaps

to hear that I am very busy at present in writing a Life of our beloved

Cowper, & the good Enthusiastic Blake…is also at work on the same

subject, I have taught him he says to paint in Miniature, & in Truth he

has made a very creditable copy from your admirable Portrait of the

dear departed Bard, from which he will also make an engraving’ (p.78).

On 25 February 1801 he wrote to Lady Hesketh, ‘I intend that this very

amiable Man shall execute, under my own Inspection, all the plates for

the Work; & I am persuaded He will produce a Head of Cowper, that will

surprise & delight you; & assuredly it will be executed con amore, as

he idolizes the Poet, & will have as fine a portrait to work from, as ever

pencil produced. –’ (pp.78-9). He then sent her the miniature. Famously,

she was horrified at what she saw, writing to Hayley on 19 March:

[On] one subject I am determin’d – absolutely determind! – I mean the

subject of the picture, which I have this moment receiv’d and for which I

do indeed thank you: tho.’ the Sight of it has in real truth inspired me with a

degree of horror, which I shall not recover from in haste! …I cannot restrain

my Pen from declaring that I think it dreadful! Shocking! and that I intreat

you on my Knees not to suffer so horrible a representation of our angelic

friend to be presented to the publick and to disgrace and disfigure a work I

long so much to see[.] I give you my word that I opend the elegant Case you

sent me without ye smallest spark of prejudice… I cannot bear to have it in

my possession nor wou’d I for worlds, shew it to any one… I must observe

that I have no doubt that the Original from which this fatal Miniature is taken

is a very fine Picture, considered as a Picture, & I even believe the miniature

is very well executed… [but I must intreat] that you will not be so cruel as to

multiply this fatal resemblance, by having the picture engrav’d[!] (p.79).

In Bentley’s opinion ‘Lady Hesketh’s objection to Blake’s miniature

was clearly based upon the faint hint in Romney’s portrait of the sitter’s

madness’ (p.80). Blake himself wrote at this time, ‘Miniature is become

a Goddess in my Eyes & my Friends in Sussex say that I excell in the

pursuit. I have a great many orders & they Multiply.’ (10 May, p.80). On

15 September Hayley’s old friend John Carr wrote to him, ‘I beg also to

be remembered to Mr Blake… I shall long to see his Head of Cowper.’

(p.82). At some time between 10 September and 20 November Hayley

wrote a poem to his dead son Tom, asking him to give spiritual advice

to Blake:

Now to the feeling Blake attend[,]

His Copies of dear Cowper view

And make his Portraits of our Friend

Perfect in Truth as Thou art true. (p.83)

Although Lady Hesketh became reconciled to the Romney, she never

overcame her dislike of Blake’s miniature, telling Hayley that the eyes

‘starting from his head, like some unhappy man escaping from his

keepers’ and ‘the bottle-nose’ and ‘the strange drawing up between

the nose and the mouth’ were quite unlike Cowper. (Quoted by Norma

Russell, A Bibliography of William Cowper, 1963, pp.301-2).

The provenance is as follows: it was given by Hayley, by whom it

was commissioned, to the mother of his second wife, Mary Welford, on

their first introduction in 1809. Mary’s sister Harriet then gave it to John

Johnson by whom it was left to his eldest son William Cowper Johnson

(see Russell, also a note of provenance supplied by Mary Johnson in

1986, who states that it was left directly to WCJ).

28. Portrait miniature by Blake of John Johnson

Oval, slightly faded and slight soiling, later lacquered frame, 92 x 76

mm.

Executed by Blake in January 1802, Hayley recalling in his

autobiography (edited by Johnson): ‘He [Blake] had wonderful Talents

for original design – & at Hayleys suggestion, He executed some portraits

in miniature very happily, particularly a portrait of Cowpers beloved

Relation, the Revd Dr Johnson, who arrived at Felpham on a kind visit to

the Biographer in January 1802.’ (Bentley, p.88, where it is reproduced).

RELICS AND OTHER MATERIAL

29. Cowper’s linen cap, as drawn by Romney, and celebrated by

Cowper in verse

White linen topped with blue silk ribbon and cotton tie, c.340 mm.

high.

This is the distinctive East India-style headpiece worn by Cowper

in the pastel by Romney, ‘one of the masterpieces of pastel drawing in

British art’ (ODNB), and in turn depicted by William Blake in his copy

of Romney’s drawing (see above). It gains further distinction in that it

was given to Cowper by Lady Hesketh, and is the first gift he thanks her

for in ‘Gratitude; addressed to Lady Hesketh’:

This cap, that so stately appears,

With ribbon-bound tassel on high,

Which seems by the crest that it rears

Ambitious of brushing the sky:

This cap to my cousin I owe,

She gave it, and gave me beside,

Wreath’d into an elegant bow,

The ribbon with which it is tied.

30. Cowper’s writing slope, as painted by Abbott

George III fiddle mahogany writing box of rectangular form banded in

fruitwood and edged in boxwood, the lid with an oval patera, one side

fitted with a drawer, the fitted interior with glass sander, and folding

support for the lid to be fitted as a book support; with brass swan-neck

carrying handles, 150 mm. high, 455 x 245 mm.

This writing box features in Abbott’s portrait of Cowper, with, upon it,

his translation of Homer (see John Johnson’s letter above). It was given

to him by Lady Hesketh, whom he thanked on 8 December 1785: ‘Oh

that this letter had wings, that it might fly to tell you that my desk, the

most elegant, the compactest, the most commodious desk in the world,

and of all the desks that ever were, or ever shall be, the desk I love the

most, is safe arrived – how pleasant it is to write upon such a green

bank!’ On 24 December 1785 he wrote to William Unwin: ‘Let me sing

the Praises of the Desk which my dear Cousin has sent me. In General, it

is as elegant as possible. In particular it is of Cedar, beautifully lacquer’d

– When put together it assumes the form of a handsome small chest,

contains all sorts of accommodations, is furnish’d with cut-glass for ink

and sand, and is hinged, handled. and mounted with silver. It is inlaid

with Ivory, and also serves the purpose of a Reading desk. It came stored

with Stationery-ware of all sorts, and this splendid sheet is a part of it.’

31. Cowper’s occasional table, as painted by Abbott

Circular top mahogany occasional table with circular centre column

supporting three scroll-shaped legs, 700 mm. high, top 450 mm.

This, with the desk, features in Abbott’s portrait of Cowper.

32. Cowper’s washstand and shaving mirror, celebrated in verse

Georgian mahogany and tulipwood banded chamber cabinet, the divided

hinged top revealing a rise-and-fall mirror and circular apertures, over a

drawer on block legs divided by an arched frieze to the front, 880 mm.

high, 450 x 440 mm.

Given to Cowper by Lady Hesketh and celebrated in ‘Gratitude’

This table, and mirror within,

Secure from collision and dust,

At which I oft shave cheek and chin

And periwig nicely adjust […]

33. Cowper’s moveable bookshelves, celebrated in verse

Pair of late Georgian grained pine ‘waterfall’ bookcases, each of three

open shelves over a drawer on square-tapering legs, each 1190 mm.

high, 460 x 265 mm.

Given to Cowper by Lady Hesketh and celebrated in ‘Gratitude’:

This moveable structure of shelves,

For its beauty admired and its use,

And charged with octavos and twelves,

The gayest I had to produce;

Where, flaming in scarlet and gold,

My poems enchanted I view,

And hope in due time, to behold

My Iliad and Odyssey too:

They were left by Lady Hesketh to John Johnson; see the late 19th-century

‘Extract from Lady Hesketh’s Will’: ‘I give to the Revd Dr Johnson a

pair of mahogany Book Cases with two drawers under them’.

34. Cowper’s pocket watch

Gold repeating pocket watch, the verge escapement repeating a bell on

depression of the bow, in a pierced inner case and shagreen outer case

and associated outer, by Thomas Martin, second half of the eighteenth

century.

This belonged to Theadora Cowper’s father (Cowper’s uncle Ashley),

referred to in Cowper’s letter to Lady Hesketh of 5 July 1788. It appears

to have been recently on display at the Cowper and Newton Museum,

Olney.

35. Mourning ring for Lady Hesketh

Enamel and diamond memorial ring, set with an urn, in later case,

engraved in memory of the Dowager Lady Hesketh, born July 1733,

died 15 January 1807.

Cowper’s publisher, Joseph Hill, wrote to John Johnson on 18 March

1807: ‘I hope you will do me the Favour to accept of a Mourning Ring

with Lady Hesketh’s initials, H.H./ I think you will be willing to wear

it sometimes in memory of an excellent woman, who was very sensible

of your merit.’

36. Mourning broach for William Cowper

Set with a lock of his hair, reverse ring engraved ‘Willm Cowper ob.t 1800

Aet 69’, upper ring enamelled ‘Cara Chioma Di Testa Impareggiabile’.

37. Lock of Cowper’s hair

Set in a round broach, with remains of green silk ribbon (in envelope

identified in ballpoint), with a dodecahedron broach containing a slightly

darker lock of hair).

38. Cowper’s Omphale seal ring

Set with an intaglio head of Omphale, chipped.

Cowper was given this by his cousin Theadora Cowper. It was lent to

the Hanover Exhibition of 1890.

39. Ring commemorating Cowper’s three pet hares

Rotating three-seal ring, each engraved with one of Cowper’s three pet

hares, left in her will by Lady Hesketh to John Johnson: ‘Also I give

to the said Dr Johnson, the tried and affectionate friend of my late dear

Cousin, the Seal given to me by the Princess Elizabeth representing

Mr Cowper’s three favourite Hares, & which I know will be highly

acceptable to him.’

Copyright

All articles are subject to copyright

Footnotes

The Cowper and Newton Journal includes scholarly articles, notes and reviews on Cowper, Newton and their contemporaries, as well as more general articles from the 18th century.

Joint Editors

Professor Vincent NeweyTony SewardDr William Hutchings

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).

Reviews Editor: Tony Seward

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.

References

No references

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