ePub 版

far to go back: his brother parson came : Jerry and my lady's woman were married in presence of the Protector, who gave her five hundred pounds for her portion, which, with

what she had saved before, made Mr. White easy in his circumstances; but lie never loved his wife, nor she him, though they lived afterwards together near fifty years.


ONE of its brightest ornaments has been || as long as the Royal Family continued to frelost to the sex by the death of this lady, whoquent the Theatres. contributed so much to establish the claim of woman to high mental rauk; in departments too, in which it has been supposed most difficult to attain it-the drama and poetry.

She was born in 1743," at Tiverton, Devon, where her father, Mr. Parkhouse, who partook of the enthusiasin which existed in his youth, in favour of the wits and poets, and of literature in general, cultivated her rising mind; his education and mental powers well qualified him for the task. In her dedication to him of The Maid of Arragon, she says :— "You gave my youthful fancy wings to soar, "From your indulgence flows my wild-note


It was his favourite boast that her letters would have obtained insertion in the Spectator.

Mrs Cowley was married in January 1771. Her husband, Captain Cowley, of the Hon. East India Company's service, died about ten years ago. Her mind reverting to her native place, having always wished to close her days amidst its rural beauties, and amongst her early friends, she lately retired thither, and died there on the 11th of last March, aged sixty six.

Neither before or after her first composing for the drama, was Mrs. Cowley attached to theatrical entertainment. The sums gained about the time she commenced, large enough to induce almost any one to make attempts, allured her, who was conscious of her powers; yet so little anxious was she for entering on her career, of even profitable fame (though then the celebrity of successful dramatic composition was thought almost superior to any other), that it was not until twelve months after she had sent, anonymously, to rrick her first play, that she caused ingon to be made whether it had beeu acceae. It was the last play Garrick produced tore he resigned the management.

The Belle's Stratagem alone, eventually produced twelve hundred guineas. It was dedicated, by permission, to the Queen, before whom it was performed once in every season

Her high success tempted forward her facile pen, and, in the course of a few years, The Runaway, The Belle's Stratagem, Which is the Man? The Fate of Sparta, &c. &c. tragedy, comedy, and in one instance, a farce, Who's the Dupe? were added to the public stock of entertainment and literature. Her favourite idea of female character in her plays, is a combination of the greatest vivacity of manners, with the purest innocence of conduct.

A peculiarity strikes the reader after some acquaintance with her style. It is the extreme precision with which she uses her words, in

only their mere direct meaning; she seems

unable to wander from the root of a word. This becomes even a fault; she has no circumspective view of the bye, figurative, indirect, or perverted sense in which the word has come to be used. Sometimes her language, therefore, has the character of not conveying her meaning. This springs from a fonduess she had in early life for etymology, as she could discover it in dictionaries, &c. which attachment will frequently be mischievous, except there has been an education more generally classical than is bestowed on a lady.

May not this error be frequently discovered in the works of female authors? Where it is not so, it has probably been because their works have been submitted to the correction of a man of the world.

Latterly, tired of the drama, and of continu ing any longer to pourtray the manners of the various scenes of life, sometimes for the sake of variety, necessarily low-bred and vulgar, and having taken a distaste to framing the language necessarily appropriate to such characters, Mrs. Cowley transferred her pen to poetry. Genius is not confined to a single region, like a mere knack of writing the result of continued labour in a particular direction. Her larger poems were, The Maid of Arragon, The Scottish Village, and Siege of Acre. There is a beautiful poem of her's, called Editha, given to the Editor of, and buried in a County History. From it we extract the following eulogy on marriage, written instantly en

reading the French decree, in an early period of the Revolution, making marriage no longer an ecclesiastical rite, but a mere legal engagement before a Justice of the Peace, and enabling either party to obtain a divorce arbitrarily, without the consent of the other :

"O marriage! powerful charm, gift all divine, [shine; "Sent from the skies, o'er life's sad waste to "What splendours from the bright tiara spring, "What graces to thy sobe >tsteps cling! "Vengeance will surely cash the idiot land, "Which drags the scere from thy hallow'd hand,

"Which dares to trample on thy hallow'd rites, "And nuptial perfidy, unaw'd invites.

"The weeping world to thee its solace owes; "From thee derives its truest, best repose; "Not the cold compact subtle interest twines, [signs, "Not that which pale submission trembling * Is marriage!—No!-tis when its polish'd



Binds those who in each other's bosom reign; 'Tis where two minds form one ecstatic whole, [soul: "One sweetly blended wish, one sense, one "This was the gift the exil'd Seraph curst, *When from Hell's blazing continent he burst; "Eden's fair charms he saw without a [throne; "The Nature there had fix'd her gorgeous "Its rich ananas, and its aloes high, "Whose forms pyramidal approach the sky; "Its tow'ring pines with luscious clusters [round, "Its skies whose perfume fill'd the region "Its streams pellucid, and its bowers of shade, "Its flow'rs that knew to bloom, but not to fade;


"Its orb which nurs'd the new-created day,
"Its bow which joy'd the night with tender ray;
"Its fields of wavy gold, its slopes of green,
"By the fell Fiend, without a pang, were seen:
"—'Twas then, fierce rancour seiz'd the De-
mon's breast,
[were blest."
“When, in the married pair, he felt mankind

the editors, under a fictitious name as a wo◄ man, write answers to one to whom she was unknown, whom she knew not, or ever expected to hear the name of. When collections were published, in which some of her poems were, she used to amuse herself with laughing at the critical gravity with which the structure of inere " newspaper poetry" was reviewed. Poems by which their date frequently shewed that they were written within twentyfour hours after the event which gave rise to them.

Her style in poetry was certainly unequal; amongst the richest and most musical flow, and rapid energy of new created thought, there are found indeed of necessity, insterstitial lines, lame and prosaic, as though the over exerted faculties had sunk into repose; such portions of her works are the Settings, to the sparkling beauties they contain. The mechanism of literature she was little given to, the file therefore was schlom used for polish, more tedious to a writer than of substantial use to the reader; her lines retain nearly the forma in which they were at once cast.

A thorough proof of the flow of mind in which Mrs. Cowley composed is, that more than once, with the change of subject in the course of a poem, her measure changed, and returned not until the close of the new sub

ject, neither the change or return being discovered by herself until afterwards. Was this a fault or poetic inspiration?

A great many years have elapsed since any thing has been published by her; several of her works are out of print. Literary fame was never in her estimation an essential ingredient of happiness; her heart was in domestic life, where as daughter, wife, and mother, she was indeed perceived to shine.

That Mrs. Cowley looked from the path of fame to the domestic circle, is proved by the dedications of her works; having previously shewn, by a dedication, her gratitude for the patronage of the Queen, and by another, her sense of the honour bestowed upon her by the friendship of Lord Harrowby, a third work is dedicated to her father, a fourth to her busband, and the dedication of the fifth is a tritute to the regard shewn her by his brother the merchant.

In the poems which twenty years ago she threw into the newspapers, a peculiar feature still remained, from her former habit of dramatic composition, which is, that they are also Though Mrs. Cowley had all the brilliant dramatic; that is, they are written in some imagination, sensibility of mind, and liveliness other person's character, never in her own; of manners, which belong to genius, yet there it is no more descriptive of her own feeling, was no assumption in her behaviour. Pride than is the language of the characters in her accompanies learning, the growth of a sense plays. She would amuse herself by assuming of some sort of merit, which feeling is in the the signature of a man, and write as a lover; mind, from a consciousness of the arduous or expecting never to be discovered, even by labour by which the man of learning made his


acquisitions; he thinks he grants, in his conversation, a portion of acquired riches. The powers of genius, being natural, appear not surprising or meritorious to the possessor, who, conscious of no effort, is not always conscious of superiority, and therefore in behaviour insists not on it. Who in Mrs. Cowley's company, ever fancied themselves with one who piqued herself on literary genius, and amongst the ladies who have felt some little mental tremor, perhaps in the commencement of epistolary correspondence with her, with whom did it continue? Yet perhaps the familiar ease and simplicity of her letters, whilst they soothed the sense of inferiority in a correspondent, rendered them not the least perfect of her compositions.

She disliked mere literary correspondence ; if she found herself accidentally entangled in it, she soon tired. The constant reference to, and examination of, what had been done, was to her a disagreeable retrograde mental operation. Those in particular who employed themselves in framing common-place books, seemed to her capable only of collecting mental food for themselves, not of creating any for others. Native thought always pressed upon her; invention was the natural habit of her mind, it was almost inexhaustible; her memory was slight.

In declining literary connections, Mrs. Cowley was left without any share in that fund of mutual praise, and literary protection in periodical works, in which many authors think it prudent to be concerned.

What a combination of justice, discrimina tion, and taste, is her criticism' on Miss Burney, in the same poem :-

"What pen but Burney's then can soothe the breast?

"Who draw from Nature with a skill so true? « In every varying mode it stands confest, "When brought by her before the inquirers view.

"For powers peculiar all ber portraits fill, "When lines are bold and strong, a vulgar pen "May take the sketch; it asks no mighty skill "Misers to paint, or mad, or wayward men. "But humau nature in its faintest dye

"Burney detects, drags it to open day;. "Makes evident what slip'd th'uumarking eye, "And bids it glare with truth's pervading ray; "The huddled beings of the common mass, "Who to themselves appear of equal sort, "Must not in unawaken'd error pass, "And sure 'tis this, is keen eyed Burney's forte!


"Touch'd by her spear, they sudden spring to sight,

"But not new form'd-she shews them as

they are;

"She moulds no character; but gives the light, "Which makes them clear as Herschel sees

a star."

Mrs. Cowley penned, in the last seven years, two or three slight poems, in friendship with the families of Lady Carew, Lady Duntre, Mrs. Wood, and other ladies in her neighbour. hood. She has left but two MS. Poems; the one, of some length, professes to pass by The Death of Nelson, &c. &c. or any topic in' adopting which a poet would follow, instead of

She has shewn herself however cheerfully ready to do justice to literary merit. Thus, in the Scottish Village, a due compliment is paid to Miss Seward, of whom we gave a bio-leading public opinion, and she directs it to graphical sketch in our last :

"A Scottish Seward shall demand the prize; "She from whose pensive and mellifluous throat;

"Where'er misfortune scowls her cheerless eyes, "Is pour'd the pitying melancholy note. "Thus the sad nightingale, throughout the night,

"Her foud complaint rings through the

[blocks in formation]

the Braganza family, then on its voyage to the Brazils, and gives a picture of the probable future progress there of the sciences of Europe, and of Christian knowledge. The other procured a subscription for the relief of a poor family in distress.

Of late years she declined all evening parties, nor did she see any company except ladies, and that only at her own house. One morning in the week, Mrs, Cowley was at home to her female friends, and was visited by a crowd; it was a morning rout, if that term be applicable to an assemblage without card playing.

Her life was closed with the utmost de gree of religious cheerfulness.

A perfect edition of her works has never yet been published, but will now appear; and by the public will be well received. Where, in a publication of the same extent, will a reader find more entertainment?


[Continued from Page 86.]

*Or triumphant shews made by the citizens of London, ye may read in 1236, in the reign of Henry the Third, Andrew Bockell then being mayor, how Eleanor daughter to Raymond Earl of Provence, riding through the city towards Westminster, there to be crowned Queeu of England, the city was adorned with silks, and in the night with lamps, cressets, and other lights without number, besides many pageants and strange devices there presented; the citizens also rode to meet the King and Queen clothed in long garments embroidered about with gold, and silks of divers colours, their horses gallantly trapped to the number of three hundred and six, every man bearing a cup of gold or silver in his hand, and the King's trumpeters before them. These citizens did minister wine as butlers, which is their service at the coronation.

"In the year 1298, for victory obtained by Edward I. against the Scots, every company, according to their several trade, made their several shew; but especially the Fishmongers, which in a solemn procession passed through the city, having, amongst other pageants and showes, four sturgeons gilt, carried on four horses, and then four salmonds on silver, on four horses; and after them five-and-forty armed knights riding on horses made like laces of the sea, and then one representing Saint Magnes, because it was Saint Magnes' day, with a thousand horsemen.

"Another shew, in the year 1377, made by the citizens for disport of the young Prince Richard, son to the Black Prince, on the feast of Christmas, and in this manner:-On the Sunday before Candlemas, in the night, one hundred and thirty citizens, disguised and well mounted in a mummery, with sound of trumpets, sackbuts, cornets, shalmes and other minstrels, and innumerable torch lights, rode from Newgate through Cheape, over the bridge, through Southwark, and so on to Kennington beside Lambeth, where the young Prince remained with his mother, and the Duke of Lancaster his uncle, with divers other lords.

“In the first rank did ride forty-eight in the likeness of esquires, two and two together, clothed in red coats and gowns of say or tindall, with comely visors on their faces; after them came riding forty-eight knights, in the same livery of colour and stuff; then followed one richly arrayed like an Emperor, and after

him, at some distance, one stately attired like a Pope, who was followed by twenty-four cardinals; and after them eight or ten with black visors, not amiable, as if they had been legates from some foreigu princes. After they had || entered the manor of Kennington they alighted from their horses, and entered the ball on foot; which done, the Prince, his mother, and the Lords came out of the chamber into the hall, whom the drummers saluted, shewing by a pair of dice on the table their desire to play with the Prince, which they so handled that the || prince was always a winner when he cast at them; when the drummers set to the Prince three jewels one after another, which were a ball of gold, a cup of gold, and a ring of gold, which the Prince won at three casts. After this they were feasted, and the music sounded; the Prince and Lords danced on one side with drummers who did also dance; which jolity being ended, they were again made to drink, and then departed in order as they came."

[ocr errors]

Lord of Misrule at Christmas-Tempest of thunder and lightning.-Twisted trees in the week before Easter.-May games.-Robin Hood and his men shoot before the King.

"Thus much for sportful shews in triumphs may suffice; now for sports and pastimes yearly used. First, on the feast of Christmas there was in the king's house, wheresoever ke lodged, a lord of misrule, or master of merry disports, and the like had they in the house of. every nobleman, gentleman, or man of godly worship, were he spiritual or temporal; amongst which was the mayor of London, and the sheriffs also had their lords of misrule. Ever contending, without quarrel or offence, who should make the rarest pastimes to delight the beholders. These lords beginning their rule on Allhallow's eve, continued the same till the morrow after the feast of the Parification, commonly called Candlemas day. In all which space there were many subtile disguises, masks, and mummeries, with playing at cards for counters, more for pastime than for gain.

"Against the feast of Christmas every manse house, as also their parish churches, were decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green; the conduits and standards in the streets were

[ocr errors]

likewise garnished. Amongst which I read third year of his reign, and divers other years that in the year 1444, by a tempest of thunder on May-day in the morning, with Queen Kaand lightning, on the first of February at night, || tharine his wife, accompanied with many lords Paul's steeple was fired, but with great labour and ladies, rode a Maying from Greenwich to quenched. And towards the morning of the high ground of Shooter's-hill, where as Candlemas day, at the Leaden hall in Cornhill, they passed by the way they espied a company a standard of a tree being set up in the midst of tall yeomen clothed all in green, with green of the pavement fast to the ground, nailed full || hoods, and with bows and arrows, to the num of helm and ivy for disport to the people, was ber of two hundred. One being their chieftain torn up and cast down by the malignant spirit was called Robin Hood, who required the King (as was thought), and the stones of the pave- and all his company to see his men shoot; went all about were cast in the streets and into which being granted, Robin Hood whistled, divers honses, so that the people were sore und all the two hundred archers shot off all aghast at the great tempest. at ouce, and when he whistled again they likewise shot again, and their arrows whistled by so that the noise was strange and loud, which greatly delighted the King, Queen, and their company.

"In the week before Easter there were great shews made for the fetching in of a twisted tree out of the woods into the king's house, and the like into every man's house of honour or worship.

"Moreover, this Robin Hood desired the In the month of May, namely on May-day King and Queen, with their retinue, to enter in the morning, every man without impedithe greeu wood, where, in arbours made with ment would walk into the sweet meadows and grecu woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds praising God in their kind. And for example here Edward Hall hath noted, that King Henry VIII. in the

boughs and decked with flowers, they were sat down and served plentifully with venison and wine by Robin Hood and his men, and had other pageants and pastimes to their great entertainment."

[blocks in formation]
« 上一頁繼續 »