William Cowper of the Inner Temple, Esq: A Study of His Life and Works to the Year 1768

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IX
THE DEFECT

It has become the fashion to love him for his letters and his lovableness, but to be lukewarm about his poetry.

H. W. GARROD of Cowper--1951

There is an effeminacy about him, which shrinks from and repels common and hearty sympathy.

WILLIAM HAZLITT of Cowper--1818

Of course he was an invalid, and his attachment to local scenes can be discounted on that account. He had not enough vitality to seek new experiences, and never felt safe until habits had formed their cocoon round his sensitive mind. But inside the cocoon his life is genuine. He might dread the unknown, but he also loved what he knew; he felt steadily about familiar objects, and they have in his work something of the permanence they get in a sitting-room or in the kitchen garden. E. M. FORSTER of Cowper--1932

The stocking-cap on the poet's head, the tea cup in the poet's hand had to him a look of limitation, of almost feminine restraint. Cowper's life seemed to him a sheltered one: it did no good to remind himself that Cowper had been for a good deal of his life, insane. RANDALL JARRELL--1954

There is one curious fact revealed in these letters [from John Newton to John Thornton], which accounts for much of Cowper's morbid state of mind and fits of depression, as well as for the circumstances of his running away from his place in the House of Lords. He was a Hermaphrodite. It relates to some defect in his physical conformation; somebody found out his secret, and probably threatened its exposure.

CHARLES GREVILLE-18341

FOR nearly a century and a half there have been comments like Hazlitt's about William Cowper. And during the past eighty years biographers have speculated about the nature of his alleged physical defect. It has been

____________________
1
Garrod, "'Books and Writers'", Spectator, CLXXVI ( 1951), 690; Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets: on Thomson and Cowper', Works, ed. P. P. Howe ( London, 1930), V, 91); Forster, "'William Cowper, an Englishman'", Spectator, CLVIII ( 1932), 75; Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution ( New York, 1954), p.110 ; Greville Diary, ed. Philip Whitwell Wilson ( Garden City, New York, 1927), I, 139-40.

-135-

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William Cowper of the Inner Temple, Esq: A Study of His Life and Works to the Year 1768
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates viii
  • Short Titles and Abbreviations ix
  • Preface xiii
  • I - Berkhamsted 1
  • II - Westminster 14
  • III - The Boys 36
  • IV - Reading 55
  • V - The Temple 64
  • VI - The Geniuses 78
  • VII - Writing 102
  • VIII - Theadora 119
  • IX - The Defect 135
  • X - Failure 145
  • XI - The Saints 158
  • A - Uncollected Letters And Essays: 1750-67 177
  • B - Uncollected Poems: Early And Late 226
  • C - Uncollected Contributions To Magazines: 1789-93 246
  • Notes on Cowper's Relatives And Friends 261
  • Index 267
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