Mrs. Cowley.
Dramas and Poems.

In Three Volumes

Vol. I.


Entered at Stationers’-Hall.

Published by Wilkie and Robinson, Paternoster-Row.
Printed by T. Davison, Whitefriars. 18131813.

A1v A2r

by permission.
The Queen.


In the Following Comedy my purpose
was to draw A Female Character that, with the
most lively Sensibility, fine Understanding, and elegant
Accomplishments, should in her natural charracter
unite that graceful Reserve and Delicacy,
which, veiling those charms, render them still more
interesting. In delineating such a Character my
Heart naturally dedicated it to Your Majesty, and
formed a wish for Permission to lay it at your feet.
Your Majesty’s graciously allowing me this high
Honour is the point to which my hopes aspired, and
a Reward, of which I may indeed be proud.

With the warmest wishes for the continuance
of your Majesty’s Felicity,
I am
your most devoted
and most duittiful Servant,

Hannah Cowley.






Sir George Touchwood.





First Gentleman.

Second Gentleman.


French Valet.




Letitia Hardy.

Mrs. Rackett.

Lady Frances Touchwood.

Miss Ogle.

Kitty Willis.



Dramatic writings are a constant resource both in
Society and in the Closet—no where have they been the
mere fashion of a day. The liveliness and hilarity of
Comedy is a refuge from care, where care is light, and
the woes that yield not to a Laugh, oft are guiled away
in the stream of gentle Pity, for the woes of others, which
the Tragic Muse delights to infuse, until real grief,
checked in its current, yields to the Fortitude she loves
to inculcate.

The Mind is rectified by the knowledge of the World
dramatic compositions convey; and they glide improvement
into the Heart, by a skilful arrangement of Facts,
from which, whatever may have been the characters
and thoughts necessarily introduced, the result is—a
feeling of disgust for the vices, and of respect for the
virtues, with which Nature has tenanted the heart of
man. Enforced, not by Precepts dry and uninteresting,
but by leading the Auditor to form Conclusions for
himself, and to abide by them with all the attachment we
feel to our native thoughts. Faint is the rhetoric that A3v vi
imperiously dictates change in the heart, compared with
that which leads the addressed to think for himself the
thoughts of the Writer.

The Public are now, for the first time, presented
with a Collection of the Works of the late Mrs.
; and in the third volume the publishers have
included several Poems now for the first time printed.

She was the daughter of Mr. Philip Parkhouse of
Tiverton in Devonshire, who was educated for Holy
Orders, and with that view went through the celebrated
School of that town. A loss in the family deprived
him of certainty of provision in the Church, and
with a mere Chance he was not content; he therefore
desisted from his first intention, and became a Bookseller,
as the nearest approach he could then prudently
make to a life of some degree of literary enjoyment.
Upon having in middle life reason to think that he
would have been provided for in the Church, it was his
custom to say, alluding to her whose works are before
the reader,—“I feel no Regret! I should have been
thrown into a different part of the world and connections,
and should not have had my Daughter!”
He was
a Member of the Corporation of the Town, and was
very highly respected in his neighbourhood as a man of
great Talents and Probity, and a thorough Scholar.

He was old enough to have witnessed the close of that
Æra which might be denominated the Reign of Literature
in England, and was himself a man of Genius
partaking the enthusiasm of his time, and awake with
the utmost sensibility to literary distinction. He was A4r vii
not very distantly related to the Poet Gay, who records,
it will be recollected, his visit to his relations in Devonshire,
in his Journey to Exeter inscribed to the Earl of Burlington.

The excellence of his Daughter was the delight and
pride of his heart to the last hour of his life, which
continued to near the close of her literary career, and
she, in return, felt for him the most intense filial affection.
An affection that spoke throughout her first
Poem—The Maid of Arragon; a sweetly pleasing
Tale of filial piety, in the Dedication of which she tells

“The Tale to you, to you the Bayes belong, You gave my youthful Fancy wings to soar, From your indulgence flows my wild-note song. ” Vol. 3. p. 7

Mrs. Cowley was born in Tiverton in 1743. In
such a Father’s society she caught that lively tone of
classical illustration which at times displays itself in
her works, and has sometimes led to a mistaken belief
that she was, what of all women she would have disliked
to be—a Learned Lady! the character held up by her
to ridicule in her first Comedy—The Runaway.

She was about twenty-five years of age when she was
married to Mr. Cowley, a man of very considerable
talents. Their family consisted of four children;
some very beautiful lines will be found in the third
volume inscribed by her to the memory of their eldest
daughter, who died early in life. That Daughter she
survived twenty years, but never survived her grief for A4v viii
her loss. Mr. Cowley died in 1797, a Captain in the
East India Company’s service. It was when he was
with his Regiment in India that she dedicated her
Comedy of More Ways Than One to him, in the
beautiful Poem prefixed to it. It is to this Gentleman’s
Brother that The Fate of Sparta will be found dedicated
with so much elegance and feeling.

In the year 1776, some years after her Marriage, a
sense of mental power for dramatic writing suddenly
struck her whilst sitting with her Husband at the
Theatre.—“So delighted with this?” said she to him
—“why I could write as well myself!” His laugh, without
notice, was answered in the course of the following
morning by sketching the first Act of The Runaway,
and, though she had never before written a literary
line, the Play was finished with the utmost celerity.
Many will recollect the extraordinary success with
which it was brought out. It established the Author’s
Name at once, and caused incessant applications to her
to continue to write.

This Comedy was followed by Who’s The Dupe.
In which the keeping of a downright Farce is preserved
distinct in species from the elegant Vivacity and Satire
of Comedy. After a lively correspondence with her
Father for Greek to laugh at, written in the Roman
Character, she obtained the lines with which she plays
so humorously.

She now dared a loftier flight, and her Tragedy
Albina was produced. In the elegant Liveliness of
Comedy, the Humour of Farce, and the thwarted A5r ix
Passions and lofty grandeur of Tragedy, she thus
dared the whole range of the Drama, before she made
a second attempt in any particular department of it.
And still delayed, until, to make herself mistress of
the extent of her powers, she had taken up the
Poet’s Lyre and composed her Poem The Maid of
—in which the reader will not find her inferior
to herself.

The passion for the Drama was then as steady as
that for Poetry is at present. She recurred to it, and
in the course of the same year, 17801780, produced The
Belle’s Stratagem
, by Permission dedicated to the
Queen. Thenceforward she wrote the other Dramas
which these volumes contain.

Any information deemed a useful preparative to
the perusal of any particular play will be introduced,
where it will be most serviceable, in a Note prefixed to

They will be found arranged in the Order in which
they were written. Thus the only part of the history of
an Author, in which in general the public take an interest,
the history of the progress of the writer’s Mind,
is at once obtained. The contrary course, of arranging
by Classes, denies to the reader the relief, in Variety,
which even the Author required!

The different departments of the Drama, Tragedy
Comedy and Farce, were kept quite distinct in her
mind. The Comedie Larmoyante is never found
amongst her works; her Tragedies vouch that this was
not from inability to touch the Passions. As free are A5v x
her Tragedies from the intrusion of the Comic Muse,
as is her Thalia from losing her Spirits and shedding
tears. Who’s The Dupe is the only instance in which
she descended to Farce, but, with the utmost flow of
Humour, she will be found to have by no means sunk
herself with her Subject; her mind is always perceived
paramount to the vulgarity or the folly she is describing.
Still, she as correctly writes Farce, as before
she wrote Comedy, and afterwards wrote Tragedy, is
equally at home, as each in its due turn may be requisite,
in the humorous, the pathetic, the witty, and the sublime.
There is one instance, at the close of her dramatic
writings, in which, for variety, she professes to write
a mixed Drama—A Day In Turkey.

The reader’s expectation that she should excel in
delineating Females will not be disappointed. Indeed
one of the circumstances in which her Dramas differ
from the more modern plays is—that Women are generally
made the Leading Characters. Her favorite idea
of female character is—a combination of the purest
innocence of Conduct with the greatest vivacity of
Manners, in the mind of a woman who, like Lady Bell
in Which Is The Man (V.i. p. 337)— “is
mistress of her whole situation, and cannot be surprised.”

Every female performer who deems herself capable of
personating a Gentlewoman will at times have recourse
to her Works.

Nor will her pencil be found to fail in her portraits
of the other sex. With no weak one are drawn, the
Pedant Gradus, the lofty Westmoreland, the impetuous A6r xi
Gondibert, the elegant Doricourt, the Trifler
Flutter, the assuming clown Pendragon, the musical
Vincentio, the literary upstart Sir Marvell Mushroom,
and the weak mind, vain of office, of Sir Robert Floyer.
Her idea of the character of an English Gentleman is
best described by herself in Vol. 3. p. 358.

Modern Writers in general cannot be said to fail in
their attempts to bring Gentlemen and Gentlewomen on
the Stage—they dont attempt it. There seems to be an
inclination but to paint from lower life. But Mrs.
constantly keeps up the elegance of Style which
Comedy, as distinct from Farce, should preserve. In
her plays Posterity may perhaps find as complete specimens
as will reach them, of english Colloquy towards
the close of the eighteenth Century, and of Manners
as characteristic of the day, as the style of the elder
Dramatists is of their’s.

Characters of coarse and peculiar outline she appears
seldom to have attempted—

“When lines are bold and strong, a vulgar pen The sketch may take; it asks no mighty skill Misers to paint, or mad, or wayward men.” V. 3. p. 108.

The Mirror held up to nature, amidst the settled manners
of the present day, abounds not with peculiar
character; to introduce much of it therefore is to give
an air of Improbability. Her Characters seem actual
copies from Life, and that may be pronounced of them
all in general, which Davies in his Life of Garrick A6v xii
says of the Characters in The Belle’s Stratagem—they
are true Sons and Daughters of Adam. She was accustomed
to say that she always succeeded best when
she did not herself know what she was going to do, and
suffered the events, and even the plot, to grow under
her pen. It is this that has so often given an air of
real Nature to her Works. In one instance however a
portion of one of the plots of a Comedy (The School
For Greybeards
) was taken from an old Play. It was
extracted and prepared for her, she knew not whence it
came, nor ever saw the original. Her plots, except in
this instance, had their origin only in her own mind.

Though her Characters were not written for particular
Performers in general, yet it has been thought
right to give with each play the original Dramatis

We proceed now to another branch of Literature.
Her mental powers found not their limit in the composition
of these eleven Dramas all of them successful
—the claim of her Name to celebrity has greater
breadth of foundation. The Volume of her Poems
proves that she was mistress of every Measure of
Poetry, as well as of every department of the Drama.

They, like her Plays, are arranged in the order in
which they were composed, with one exception—the
Address prefixed to them. Its prefatory character
designated its appropriate station in the Work. The
Dramas and the Poems, with the exception of The
Maid Of Arragon
, were chronologically distinct
enough to fall naturally into separate Classes. The A7r xiii
more beautiful passages in her larger poems are pointed
out in the Contents prefixed to each.

In The Maid Of Arragon she first ventured on poetic
flight. It is one moving Picture throughout. Its
Blank Verse is carried on in a sweetly pleasing tone
accordant to the subject, and in a Measure which is
certainly not of that species which Johnson denominates
—crippled Prose; she never indulges in that extreme
variation from the Measure adopted—that causes none
to be perceptible. The Subject is Spain under the Invasion
of the Moors; it seems a prophetic description
of Spain under the usurpation of the French.

In The Scottish Village she has viewed, with the
Philosopher’s and the Theologian’s eye, the Vices and
Virtues of civilized life. Opposing, to an enumeration
of the ills consequent on population, the advantages of
busy literary and cultivated Society.

In Edwina The Huntress, a Poem full of beautiful
description, the Manners and Amusements of Days
of Old
are described. The Eulogium on Marriage,
and the description of Paradise, will not escape the
reader, nor the Miltonic picture of Satan viewing it
without a pang until—

“Fierce Rancour seized the Demon’s breast, When, in the Married Pair, he felt mankind were blest!” Vol. 3. p. 175.

In The Siege Of Acre she dares a loftier Theme.
Though more of Mind was requisite to compose this
Poem, the Subject touches less the dearest feelings of A7v xiv
the Heart than the scenes of Domestic Life on which,
in her other poems, she delights to dwell, she has therefore
engrafted into it, besides domestic scenes amongst
the Christians of Syria, the lively Episode of Osmyn
And Ira
. Itself a complete little Poem, in which are
related the adventures of a Bride, going with her True-
love to the Wars in the romantic spirit of the Asiatic

In Emigration, a picture is drawn of the future
progress of christian knowledge and of general Improvement
in South America, in consequence of a Royal
Family from Europe, the house of Braganza, being
transferred thither.

Besides these a considerable number of shorter poems
will be found, many of which were never before published.
Other rapid sketches were immediately thrown aside, or
deemed worthy but to live for a day as Newspaper
poetry too careless to merit preservation; or parts, that
were not so, were borrowed from more finished poems
included in her collection.

Her plays and poems constituted the whole of her
Works, with only one exception, the Tale in Prose which
will be found at the end of the third Volume.

As the Reader of her Works may feel some curiosity
on the subject, information has been sought concerning
her habits of composition. Catching up her pen immediately
as the thought occurred to her, she always proceeded
with the utmost facility and celerity. Most of
her smaller poems were written without rising from
the chair in which the thought struck her. Her pen A8r xv
and paper were so immediately out of sight again, that
those around her could scarcely tell when it was she

She was always much pleased with the description of
Michael Angelo making the marble fly around him, as
he was chiseling with the utmost swiftness, that he might
shape, however roughly, his whole design in unity with
one clear conception. If she found she could not proceed
swiftly, she gave up what she had undertaken. Many
were the instances in which she was known to compose
quicker than a careful Amanuensis could copy.

Her Verses were framed by the ear. She did not
scan as she proceeded, and indeed seldom at all. The
contrary practice probably produces the regular dulness
of the poems of the many; where the thoughts
proceeding in trammels, the Judgment that corrects—
stifles at the instant the Genius that should create. In
such a current of mind did she compose, that with the
change of Subject her Measure would change imperceptibly
to herself; she points out an instance of it in
Emigration, which, as she did not prepare the
Poem for publication, remains uncorrected.

The task of finishing was little consonant with her
Vivacity, and her works were sometimes laid open to
the Public—before the extraneous matter after her
first chiseling was cleared away.

Authors, whose Works have endured, have probably
always been regardless of immediate Finish. That
such works have reached us must have depended upon
their being retouched when Genius, having first had A8v xvi
unshackled sway, reposed and gave way, whilst Judgment,
dilatory and cool, in duller steadiness of thought,
applied its rule and its compass.

Those around Mrs. Cowley perceived, with Surprise,
that she never seemed to hold Literature in much
esteem. Her Conversation was never literary. She
was no storer up of her Letters. She disliked literary
Correspondence; if she found herself accidentally entangled
in it, she instantly retired. The constant
reference to, and examination of what had been done
was to her disagreeably retrograde. Native thought
always pressed upon her, Invention was the natural
habit of her mind.

From enquiry in her family it appears that none
recollect her to have read the play or the poem of another,
the little she had read consisted chiefly of Travels.
She was equally regardless of her own Works. If
parts of them were cited in her presence she never
recognized them.

Though, in common life, her Memory appeared to be
slight—yet her reader finds that she always abounds
with the illustration she wants! To those around all
seemed suddenly to burst in upon her, and her description
of The Poet, in the Address prefixed to the
Volume of her poetry, to be truth with relation to

“All information is his own Of what belongs to either zone, Not by laborious tasks acquired, Or by attention, strain’d and tired, B1r xvii Ah no! his intellectual glance Pervades Creation’s mystic dance, What others gain by Study hard, Flows in, upon the musing Bard, A Word, the slightest hint will do To bring all knowledge in review. Calm and unmoved his mind may seem Emitting scarcely forth a gleam, Chance but a casual spark to stir, The brightest flashes quick occur, All is instant fulgent Light Pouring on his mental sight!” V. 3, p. 1.

Neither before nor after she wrote did she take
pleasure in viewing, nor was accustomed to be present
at, a theatrical representation. She never witnessed
a first performance of one of her own plays. Successive
years elapsed without her being at a Theatre
once. Though her writings gave public celebrity to
her Name, her mind always retreated to the shades of
private life.

That she looked from the path of Fame to domestic
life is proved by the Dedications of several of her
Works. Having previously in one shown her sense of
the patronage of the Queen, and in another paid her
tribute to the friendship with which Lord Harrowby
had honoured different members of her family, a third
is dedicated to her Father, a fourth to her Husband,
and the dedication of the fifth is a tribute to the regard
shown her by his Brother the Merchant.

Her Countenance was peculiarly animated, but her
deportment was easy and unassuming, there was nothingVOL. 1. b B1v xviii
in her manners that indicated an Author. In
the liveliness of the Characters in her Dramas, she was
pourtraying others not herself. The vivacity of her
Plays is the more extraordinary from its being so
little the habit of her own mind—that is more accurately
conveyed in the pensiveness of The Maid Of
. She was rather fond of being alone, where
the Muse “Whose cheering influence makes lone hours so sweet,” V. 3, p. 199.
guiled Time away in Fancy’s flow of thought. No pen
can give so true a picture of her, as she gives of herself
to her Husband, in the Dedication of her Comedy
More Ways Than One.

She passed the greater portion of the year that preceded
the french revolution in France, superintending
the education of her Daughters, and formed there the
idea of the Character of the young frenchman of that
day—the A la Greque of A Day In Turkey.

Her residence had been chiefly in London. As life
advanced her mind recurred to her native place, having
always wished to close her days amidst its rural beauties.
She had constantly been the panegyrist of her native
County Devon; a Poet’s description of it will be
found in her Preface to The Scottish Village, and
at the close of her Fire-side Tour. To the place
of her birth, she finally retired about eight years before
her decease, as a pleasing and proper situation B2r xix
in which to pass the closing years of her life—amidst
her early friends.

There Life wore away in placid happiness. Her
amusive employment in her Garden, on the side of the
river Exe there, will be found frequently described in
the Vers de Societé that form the latter portion of the
third Volume, and are now for the first time printed.
In them her mind will not be found weakening with the
advance of Age; her prayer at the close of her Departed
was granted to her, to the last she
enjoyed “The Mind to taste, the Nerve to feel!” V. 3, p. 112.

For several succeeding years she had neither published
any thing, nor thought of her Works. The first
burst of the revival of patriotic spirit in Spain, when
Bishops advanced at the head of Troops, caused her
mind to recur to her description, in The Maid Of
, of a similar scene. She read the Poem
with pleasure, her attention to her Works was revived,
and the whole of them were again perused and retouched,
the non omnis moriar of the Poet arose in her mind,
and she felt a pleasing sense of delight in the idea of
being the source of amusement after her departure.

A life too lingering she had always wished to be
spared. Never having been previously visited with a
serious illness, during the last twelve months her health
slowly declined, and she had a very strong presentiment
of her quickening departure, looking forward to it with b2 B2v xx
a religious cheerfulness that can never have been surpassed.

She had, through life, without Cant, been really
religious. Her first compositions were Prayers, some
of which, written in youth, were many years preserved.
Her fondness for composing them continued long. In
Dramas appeals to the Deity are too frequently introduced,
there she intruded them not. But she indulged
her bias in her first poem, The Maid Of Arragon,
where the Daughter commences and the Father closes
with prayer.

About a Fortnight previous to her decease it was
perceived that she was growing worse; but, as during
her whole life, she withstood confinement and medicine.
Even the day before her decease she struggled with her
illness, and busied herself in planting Flowers. On the
morning of Saturday the eleventh of March 1809 she
rose not from her bed—at eight in the evening she
expired, in her sixty-seventh year, and in full possession
of her mental powers. Her illness arose, as was pronounced
by the Gentleman who was at length called in,
from an affection of the liver, which had been gradually
stealing upon her.

Her pen traces no more—her Lute is for ever silent!
Her Works are now for the first time collected. All
the retouchings to be found amongst her Papers have
been introduced gradually as they have been discovered.

On this Collection depends the future rank of her
Name in the republic of Letters; it is tendered for the
acceptance of the Public, if they will so receive it, as B3r xxi
an addition to the general stock of entertainment and

An account of her habits and mode of writing has
been given. Her Works are before the Reader to form
his own Judgment. But, when he shall have perused
the whole in their collected state, perhaps without rashness
he may be asked (and until then the question is
deferred) whether he has not found her Dramas
abounding in sentiments always in unison with the
english heart, heightened throughout by incessant
sprightliness or strength of Dialogue, holding up vice
to Laughter in her Comedies, in her Tragedies to Indignation
—whether in her Poems he has not found
Sensibility always awake, Description always vivid, a
loftiness of Mind, and a sweetness of Measure, that
will also assist in preventing her Name from dying
with her!—whether he does not feel that the whole constitute
the Works of one highly gifted, of one of those
who may perhaps in future time cause it to be felt
—that this too was an Age in which Genius had not
deserted the realm.



  • Page 24, The last word read she.
  • 28, Line 14, read Impostor.
  • 36, Line 18, For “Sir George” read Sir Charles
  • 65, Line 3, read Plutus.
  • 79, Line 21, For “Mr. D.” read Mr. H.
  • 103, Last line but one, read Witling’s.
  • 118, Line 18, for “Grang.” read Grad.
  • 142, Line 9, for “Grang.” read Grad.
  • 153, Line 22, for “Eer” read Ere.
  • 166, Line 8, read between.
  • 177, Line 29, read for ever.
  • 214, Line 2 from bottom, for “rault” read fault.
  • 215, Line 7, for “a” read the.
  • 234, Last line but two, for “Brodignag” read Brobdingnag.
  • 242, Line 19, for “in” read and.
  • 260, line 8 from bottom, dele “the” before the word “taste”.
  • 269, Line 3, me, not Italic.
  • 347, Line 10, read Counterscarps.
  • 396, Lines 4, 5, 6, deledelete the rules before Julio Vincentio and Garcia.
  • 410, Line 6, for “Gracia” read Garcia.
  • 458, Line 7, for “bride” read bribe.

omittedThe first volume contains the five plays listed in the table of contents for this volume.

End of the First Volume.



Mrs. Cowley.

Dramas and Poems.

In Three Volumes.

Vol. II.


Published by Wilkie and Robinson, Paternoster-Row.
Printed by T. Davison, Whitefriars.

A1v A2r A2v A3r


  • Page 17, Line 12 from bottom, for “though” read “through”.

  • 89, Line 4 from bottom, for “lowring” read “lowering”.

  • 125, Line 19, for “Victoria” read “Olivia”

  • 341, Line 3 from bottom, read “chance”.

  • 384, Line 5 from bottom, read “you overlooked”.

omittedThe second volume contains the five plays listed in the table of contents for this volume.

End of the Second Volume.


Mrs. Cowley.

Dramas and Poems.

In Three Volumes.

Vol. III.


Published by Wilkie and Robinson, Paternoster-Row.
Printed by T. Davison, Whitefriars.

A1v A2r


  • Page 78, Line 10, for rave read lave.
  • 121, Line 7 from bottom, for Therpsichore read Terpsichore.
  • 122, Line 1514, for where read were.
  • 138, Last line, after her insert ’tis.
  • 190, Last line, after love insert then.
  • 343, Line 2, before Thaw insert A.

omittedThe volume of poems and the tale “Green Coat and Brown Coat” are transcribed separately.