Abraham Cowley

Abraham Cowley (kōō´lē, kou´–), 1618–67, one of the English metaphysical poets. He published his first volume of verse, Poetical Blossoms (1633), when he was 15. While a student at Cambridge, Cowley wrote three plays and began the scriptural epic Davideis (1656), in which he developed the use of the couplet as a vehicle for narrative verse. As a result of the Puritan uprising he left Cambridge and in 1656 went to France, where he served as secretary and royalist agent for Queen Henrietta Maria. Cowley's principal works include The Mistress (1647), a love cycle written in the manner of John Donne; Poems (1656), including the Pindaric odes and the elegies on Richard Crashaw and William Hervey; and Verses on Several Occasions (1663), including "To the Royal Society," an ode recalling his earlier prose tract Proposition for the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy (1661).

See Samuel Johnson's essay in Lives of the English Poets (1778); biographies by A. H. Nethercot (1931, repr. 1967) and J. G. Taaffe (1972); studies by R. B. Hinman (1960) and D. Trotter (1979).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Abraham Cowley: The Muse's Hannibal
Arthur H. Nethercot.
H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1931
FREE! Essays, Plays and Sundry Verses
Abraham Cowley; A. R. Waller.
University Press, 1906
Librarian’s tip: "Poeticall Blossomes" begins on p. 1
Metaphysical to Augustan: Studies in Tone and Sensibility in the Seventeenth Century
Geoffrey Walton.
Bowes & Bowes, 1955
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Abraham Cowley and the Decline of Metaphysical Poetry;" Chap. 4 "Abraham Cowley and the Pindarique Ode;" Chap. 5 "Cowley's Essays in Verse and Prose and the Transition to Neo-Classicism"
Excess and the Mean in Early Modern English Literature
Joshua Scodel.
Princeton University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "Concord, Conquest, and Commerce from Spenser to Cowley"
Absolutism and the Scientific Revolution, 1600-1720: A Biographical Dictionary
Christopher Baker.
Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Cowley, Abraham (1618-1667)" begins on p. 78
English Literary Criticism: the Renaissance
O. B. Hardison.
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "Abraham Cowley (1618-1667)" begins on p. 317
Saul and the Social Contract: Constructions of 1 Samuel 8-11 in Cowley's 'Davideis' and Defoe's 'Jure Divino.'
Austin, Michael.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 32, No. 4, Fall 1996
The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors
Alan Hager.
Greenwood Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Abraham Cowley (1618-1667)" begins on p. 89
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