It was in some ways a heroic enterprise: ambitious, scrupulous, and driven by an unshakable antagonism toward Pope, whose standard version in rhyme he had set out to supplant on the grounds that blank verse would do greater justice to both the unaffected grandeur and the detail of the original. The last decade of Cowper’s life began promisingly. So far Cowper’s poetic writing had been mostly talented adaptations of John Milton, Abraham Cowley, and “Mat Prior’s easy jingle,” the best of them exercises in the epistolary art of which he was always an instinctive master. He befriended the writers-to-be Robert Lloyd, Charles Churchill, George Colman the Elder, and Vincent Bourne, whose animal fables he translated from the Latin at intervals throughout his life. The Letters and Prose Writings, in two volumes, edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp, was published in 1979–80. During lockdown, with car traffic substantially reduced, many people discovered – or rediscovered – the advantages and pleasures of cycling. A similar shift of sensibility can be seen in a hardening compulsion toward the primitive, the oracular, and the demonic during this phase of Cowper’s career. What the concluding movement then brings into focus, however, is the less comforting seam of the same post-Enlightenment subjectivity: the promise of ceaseless mental struggle and incompleteness of which the closest analogue is the existentialism of Soren Kierkegaard and Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818). An ill-fated affair with Theadora, which began in 1752 and ended at her father’s insistence in 1755, prompted his first substantial body of verse. The end of “The Castaway” is his most audacious act of writing the self uniquely and positively into being. And, screaming at the sage presage, William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) was the foremost poet of the generation between Alexander Pope and William Wordsworth. The immediate trigger for “The Castaway” was a passage in George Anson’s Voyage round the World (1748) recording the “unhappy fate” of a seaman swept overboard in a violent storm. Cowper’s vision of the world and being-in-the-world found fullest expression in The Task, which, originating in Lady Austen’s playful request for a blank-verse poem on “the sofa,” grew over a period of 12 months into a magnum opus of six books and around 5,000 lines. His health suffered under the strain, however, and there were occasional periods of mental illness. Capitalising on that trend while simultaneously aiming to tackle the UK’s obesity pandemic, the government has promised ‘a revolution in cycling and walking’. Major holdings have been established at Princeton University Library (the Hannay and Povey Collections); the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California (including Cowper's record book of his poems); the British Library (notably letters and the Ash manuscripts of holograph poems); and the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney, Bucks. … Although he was called to the bar in 1754 and transferred residence to the Inner Temple in 1757, the legal profession was one to which he admitted he “was never much inclined.” The routine of Chapman’s office was regularly exchanged for the pleasure of being “employed from Morning to Night in giggling and making giggle” with his cousins Theadora and Harriot at the house of his uncle, Ashley Cowper, in Southampton Row. ” But his importance goes far deeper. The nations hunt; all mark thee for a prey, Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. His father had died in 1756, leaving little wealth, and Cowper’s family used its influence to obtain two administrative posts for him in the House of Lords, which entailed a formal examination. The suicidal derangement brought on by the prospect of this public ordeal drove him to Nathaniel Cotton’s Collegium Insanorum at St. Albans, where he was gradually restored and converted to Evangelicalism in 1764. When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,

The humorous vein that pleased Cartwright shows with particular brilliance in the inimitable satiric portraiture. Here the poet’s double is the redbreast happy in his solitude and at home in a closed recess of beauteous forms. In 1767 Morley Unwin was killed in a riding accident, and his family, with Cowper, took up residence at Olney, in Buckinghamshire. This article was most recently revised and updated by, Academy of American Poets - Biography of William Cowper, Christian Classics Ethereal Library - Biography of William Cowper, Poetry Foundation - Biography of William Cowper, William Cowper - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). His major undertaking while The Task was at press was the translation of the Iliad, begun toward the end of 1784. Offering his credentials to the world, he transforms exile into a welcome calling of which the greatest privilege is intercourse with the living organic reality of nature “in all the various shapes she wears.” The detailed descriptions of that reality in “Retirement” have a double yield, foreshadowing the richer fruits of his masterpiece, The Task (1785).

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