Dramas and Poems.
In Three Volumes
Entered at Stationers’-Hall.
Published by Wilkie and Robinson, Paternoster-Row.
Printed by T. Davison, Whitefriars. 18131813.
Dedication, by permission. To 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.
Madam, With the warmest wishes for the continuance of your Majesty’s Felicity, I am your most devoted and most duittiful Servant,
Sir George Touchwood.
Lady Frances Touchwood.
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 vi 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. Cowley; 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 vii 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 himThe 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 viii 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 ix 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 Arragon—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 it.
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 x 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 Bloomer 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 impetuousxi A6r xi petuous 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. Cowley 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 xii 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 Personæ.
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 xiii 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 xiv 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 Character.
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 xv A8r xv and paper were so immediately out of sight again, that those around her could scarcely tell when it was she wrote.
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 xvi 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 herself—All information is his own Of what belongs to either zone, Not by laborious tasks acquired, Or by attention, strain’d and tired, xvii 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 xviii B1v xviii thing 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 Arragon. 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 xix 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 Youth 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 Arragon, 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 xx 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 xxi B3r xxi an addition to the general stock of entertainment and literature.
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, dele 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.
Dramas and Poems.
In Three Volumes.
Published by Wilkie and Robinson, Paternoster-Row.
Printed byT. Davison, Whitefriars. #rule
omittedThe second volume contains the five plays listed in the table of contents for this volume.
End of the Second Volume.
Dramas and Poems.
In Three Volumes.
Published by Wilkie and Robinson, Paternoster-Row.
Printed by T. Davison, Whitefriars.
omittedThe volume of poems and the tale “Green Coat and Brown Coat” are transcribed separately.