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Posts Tagged ‘William Cowper’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Stothard
17 August 1755 – 27 April 1834

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Thomas Stothard

Thomas Stothard was born in London, the son of a well-to-do innkeeper in Long Acre A delicate child, he was sent at the age of five to a relative in Yorkshire, and attended school at Acomb, and afterwards at Tadcaster and at Ilford, Essex. Showing talent for drawing, he was apprenticed to a draughtsman of patterns for brocaded silks in Spitalfields. In his spare time, he attempted illustrations for the works of his favourite poets. Some of these drawings were praised by Harrison, the editor of the Novelist’s Magazine. Stothard’s master having died, he resolved to devote himself to art.

In 1778 he became a student of the Royal Academy, of which he was elected associate in 1792 and full academician in 1794. In 1812 he was appointed librarian to the Academy after serving as assistant for two years. Among his earliest book illustrations are plates engraved for Ossian and for Bell’s Poets. In 1780, he became a regular contributor to the Novelist’s Magazine, for which he produced 148 designs, including his eleven illustrations to The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (by Tobias Smollett) and his graceful subjects from Clarissa and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (both by Samuel Richardson).

From 1786, Thomas Fielding, a friend of Stothard’s and engraver, produced engravings using designs by Stothard, Angelica Kauffman, and of his own. Arcadian scenes were especially esteemed. Fielding realized these in colour, using copper engraving, and achieved excellent quality. Stothard’s designs had an exceptional aesthetic appeal.

He designed plates for pocket-books, tickets for concerts, illustrations to almanacs, and portraits of popular actors. These are popular with collectors for their grace and distinction. His more important works include illustrations for:

  • Two sets for Robinson Crusoe, one for the New Magazine and one for Stockdale’s edition
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress (1788)
  • Harding’s edition of Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield (1792)
  • The Rape of the Lock (1798)
  • The works of Solomon Gessner (1802)
  • William Cowper’s Poems (1825)
  • The Decameron

His figure-subjects in Samuel Rogers’s Italy (1830) and Poems (1834) demonstrate that even in old age, his imagination remained fertile and his hand firm.

Art historian Ralph Nicholson Wornum estimated that Stothard’s designs number five thousand and, of these, about three thousand were engraved. His oil pictures are usually small. His colouring is often rich and glowing in the style of Rubens, who Stothard admired. The Vintage, perhaps his most important oil painting, is in the National Gallery. He contributed to John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, but his best-known painting is the Procession of the Canterbury Pilgrims, in Tate Britain, the engraving from which, begun by Luigi and continued by Niccolo Schiavonetti and finished by James Heath, was immensely popular. The commission for this picture was given to Stothard by Robert Hartley Cromek, and was the cause of a quarrel with his friend William Blake. It was followed by a companion work, the Flitch of Bacon, which was drawn in sepia for the engraver but was never carried out in colour.

In addition to his easel pictures, Stothard decorated the grand staircase of Burghley House, near Stamford in Lincolnshire, with subjects of War, Intemperance, and the Descent of Orpheus in Hell (1799–1803); the library of Colonel Johnes’ mansion of Hafod, in North Wales, with a series of scenes from Froissart and Monstrelet painted in imitation of relief (1810); and the cupola of the upper hall of the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh (later occupied by the Signet Library), with Apollo and the Muses, and figures of poets, orators, etc. (1822). He prepared designs for a frieze and other sculptural decorations for Buckingham Palace, which were not executed, owing to the death of George IV. He also designed a shield presented to the Duke of Wellington by the merchants of London, and executed a series of eight etchings from the various subjects that adorned it.

He married Rebecca Watkins in 1783. They had eleven children, six of whom – five sons and one daughter – survived infancy. They lived in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, until 1794, when they moved to a house at 28 Newman Street, of which Stothard had bought the freehold. His wife died in 1825. His sons included Thomas, accidentally shot dead in about 1801; the antiquarian illustratorCharles Alfred Stothard, who also predeceased his father; and Alfred Joseph Stothard, medallist to George IV.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Richard Polwhele
6 January 1760 – 12 March 1838

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Richard Polwhele

Richard Polwhele’s ancestors long held the manor of Treworgan, 4 3/4 miles south-east of Truro in Cornwall, which family bore as arms: Sable, a saltire engrailed ermine. He was born at Truro, Cornwall, and met literary luminaries Catharine Macaulay and Hannah More at an early age. He was educated at Truro Grammar School, where he precociously published The Fate of Llewellyn. He went on to Christ Church, Oxford, continuing to write poetry, but left without taking a degree. In 1782 he was ordained a curate, married Loveday Warren, and moved to a curacy at Kenton, Devon. On his wife’s death in 1793, Polwhele was left with three children. Later that year he married Mary Tyrrell, briefly taking up a curacy at Exmouth before being appointed to the small living of Manaccan in Cornwall in 1794. From 1806, when he took up a curacy at Kenwyn, Truro, he was non-resident at Manaccan: Polwhele angered Manaccan parishioners with his efforts to restore the church and vicarage. He maintained epistolary exchanges with Samuel Badcock, Macaulay, William Cowper, Erasmus Darwin, and Anna Seward.

When in Devon, Polwhele had edited the two-volume work Poems Chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall (1792) for an Exeter literary society. However, Essays by a Society of Gentlemen at Exeter (1796) caused a rift between Polwhele and other society members. Polwhele had by this time begun the first of his two major county histories, the History of Devonshire. This appeared in 3 volumes, 1793-1806, but his coverage was uneven and subscribers deserted. His seven-volume History of Cornwall appeared 1803-1808, with a new edition in 1816.

Polwhele’s volumes of poetry included The Art of Eloquence, a didactic poem (1785), The Idylls, Epigrams, and Fragments of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, with the elegies of Tyrtaeus (1786), The English Orator (1796), Influence of Local Attachment (1796), and Poetic Trifles (1796). However, The Unsex’d Females, a Poem (1798), a defensive reaction to women’s literary self-assertion, is today perhaps Polwhele’s most notorious poetic production: in the poem Hannah More is Christ to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Satan.

Polwhele contributed to the Gentleman’s Magazine and (1799-1805) to the Anti-Jacobin Review. He published sermons, theological essays for the Church Union Society, and attacks on Methodism (although he befriended his main Methodist antagonist Samuel Drew). At the end of his life, retired to his estate in Polwhele, he worked to produce Traditions and Recollections (2 vols, 1826) and Biographical Sketches (3 vols, 1831).

He died at Truro on 12 March 1838. He was buried at St Clement, Cornwall.

  • Six odes presented to That justly-celebrated Historian, Mrs Catharine Macaulay, on her Birth-day, And publicly read to a polite and brilliant Audience, Assembled April the Second, at Alfred-House, Bath, To congratulate that Lady on the happy Occasion. Bath: Printed and sold by R. Cruttwell … sold also by E. and C. Dilly [etc.]. (1777)
  • The Fate of Lewellyn; or, the Druid’s Sacrifice. A Legendary Tale. In Two Parts. To which is added Carnbre’, a Poem. Bath: Printed by R. Cruttwell, for the Author; and sold by E. and C. Dilly … and W. Goldsmith [etc.]. (1777)
  • The spirit of Frazer, to General Burgoyne. An ode. To which is added, The death of Hilda; an American tale. Inscribed to Mrs. Macaulay. Bath: Printed and Sold by R. Cruttwell; sold also by W. Goldsmith [etc.]. (1778)
  • The Art of Eloquence, a didactic poem (1785)
  • The Follies of Oxford: Or, Cursory Sketches on a University Education, from an under graduate To his Friend in the Country. London: Printed for Dodsley, Dilly and Kearsley. (1785)
  • The Idyllia, Epigrams, and Fragments, of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, with the Elegies of Tyrtæus, Translated from the Greek into English Verse. To which are Added, Dissertations and Notes. Exeter: Printed and Sold by R. Thorn [etc.]. (1786)
  • Poems. Namely, The English Orator; An Address to Thomas Pennant … An Ode on the Susceptibility of the Poetical Character; Twenty Sonnets; An Epistle to a College Friend; and The Lock Transformed. With notes on The English Orator. London: Printed for T. Cadell … and C. Dilly [etc.]. (1791)
  • Poems, Chiefly by Gentlemen of Devonshire and Cornwall (1792)
  • Historical Views of Devonshire (1793)
  • The History of Devonshire (1793-1806)
  • Influence of Local Attachment (1796)
  • Poetic Trifles (1796)
  • Essays by a Society of Gentlemen at Exeter (1796), edited by Polwhele
  • The Old English Gentleman (1797)
  • The Unsex’d Females (1798)
  • Grecian Prospects: A Poem, In Two Cantos. Helston: Printed by T. Flindell; For Cadell and Davis … and Chapple [etc.]. (1799)
  • A Sketch of Peter Pindar (1800)
  • Anecdotes of Methodism (1800)
  • Sir Aaron, or The Flights of Fanaticism (1800)
  • History of Cornwall (3 vols., 1803)
  • Polwhele, Richard (1810). Poems. London: Rivington’s. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  • The fair Isabel of Cotehele, a Cornish romance, in six cantos. London: Printed for J. Cawthorn. (1815)
  • Traditions and Recollections (2 vols, 1826)
  • Biographical Sketches in Cornwall (3 vols, 1831)
  • Reminiscences, in Prose and Verse; Consisting of the Epistolary Correspondence of Many Distinguished Characters. With Notes and Illustrations. London: J. B. Nichols and Son … Sold also by Messrs. Rivington. (3 vols., 1836)

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Samuel Rogers
30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855

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Samuel Rogers

Samuel Rogers was born at Newington Green, then a village north of Islington, London. His father, Thomas Rogers, a banker, was the son of a Stourbridge glass manufacturer, who was also a merchant in Cheapside. Thomas married Mary, the only daughter of his father’s partner, Daniel Radford, becoming himself a partner shortly afterwards. On his mother’s side Samuel Rogers was connected with the well-known English Dissenters clergymen Philip Henry and his son Matthew, was brought up in Nonconformist circles, and became a long-standing member of the Unitarian congregation at Newington Green, then led by the remarkable Dr Richard Price. He was educated in Hackney and Stoke Newington.

Two nephews, orphaned young and for whom he assumed responsibility, were Samuel Sharpe, the Egyptologist and translator of the Bible, and his younger brother Daniel, the early geologist.

Samuel Rogers wished to enter the Presbyterian ministry, but his father persuaded him to join the banking business in Cornhill. In long holidays, necessitated by delicate health, Rogers became interested in English literature, particularly the work of Samuel Johnson, Thomas Gray and Oliver Goldsmith. He learned Gray’s poems by heart, and his family wealth allowed him to leisure to try writing poetry himself. He began with contributions to the Gentleman’s Magazine, and in 1786 he published a volume containing some imitations of Goldsmith and an “Ode to Superstition” in the style of Gray.

In 1788 his elder brother Thomas died, and Samuel’s business responsibilities were increased. In the next year he paid a visit to Scotland, where he met Adam Smith, Henry Mackenzie, Hester Thrale and others. In 1791 he was in Paris, and enjoyed the Orleans Collection of art at the Palais Royal, many of the treasures of which were later to pass into his possession. With Gray as his model, Rogers took great pains in polishing his verses, and six years elapsed after the publication of his first volume before he printed his elaborate poem on The Pleasures of Memory (1792) – regarded by some as the last embodiment of the poetic diction of the 18th century. The theory of elevating and refining familiar themes by abstract treatment and lofty imagery is taken to extremes. In this art of “raising a subject”, as the 18th century phrase was, the Pleasures of Memory is much more perfect than Thomas Campbell’s Pleasures of Hope, published a few years later in imitation. Byron said of it, “There is not a vulgar line in the poem.”

In 1793 his father’s death gave Rogers the principal share in the banking house in Cornhill, and a considerable income. He left Newington Green and established himself in chambers in the Temple. Within his intimate circle at this time were his best friend, Richard Sharp (Conversation Sharp), and the artists John Flaxman, John Opie, Martin Shee and Henry Fuseli. He also made the acquaintance of Charles James Fox, with whom he visited the galleries in Paris in 1802, and whose friendship introduced him to Holland House. In 1803 he moved to 22 St James’s Place, where for fifty years he entertained all the celebrities of London. Flaxman and Charles Alfred Stothard had a share in the decoration of the house, which Rogers virtually rebuilt, and proceeded to fill with works of art. His collections at his death realised £50,000.

An invitation to one of Rogers’s breakfasts was a formal entry into literary society, and his dinners were even more select. His social success was due less to his literary position than to his powers as a conversationalist, his educated taste in all matters of art, and no doubt to his sarcastic and bitter wit, for which he excused himself by saying that he had such a small voice that no one listened if he said pleasant things. “He certainly had the kindest heart and unkindest tongue of any one I ever knew,” said Fanny Kemble. He helped the poet Robert Bloomfield, he reconciled Thomas Moore with Francis Jeffrey Jeffrey and with Byron, and he relieved Sheridan’s difficulties in the last days of his life. Moore, who refused help from all his friends, and would only owe debts to his publishers, found it possible to accept help from Rogers. He procured a pension for HF Cary, the translator of Dante, and obtained Wordsworth his sinecure as distributor of stamps.

Rogers was in effect a literary dictator in England. He made his reputation by The Pleasures of Memory when William Cowper’s fame was still in the making. He became the friend of Wordsworth, Walter Scott and Byron, and lived long enough to give an opinion as to the fitness of Alfred Tennyson for the post of Poet Laureate. Alexander Dyce, from the time of his first introduction to Rogers, was in the habit of writing down the anecdotes with which his conversation abounded. In 1856 he arranged and published selections as Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana. Rogers himself kept a notebook in which he entered impressions of the conversation of many of his distinguished friends—Fox, Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Richard Porson, John Horne Tooke, Talleyrand, Lord Erskine, Scott, Lord Grenville and the Duke of Wellington. They were published by his nephew William Sharpe in 1859 as Recollections by Samuel Rogers; Reminiscences and Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, Banker, poet, and Patron of the Arts, 1763–1855 (1903), by GH Powell, is an amalgamation of these two authorities. Rogers held various honorary positions: he was one of the trustees of the National Gallery; and he served on a commission to inquire into the management of the British Museum, and on another for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1796.

 

His literary production remained slow. An Epistle to a Friend (the above-mentioned Conversation Sharp), published in 1798, describes Rogers’s ideal of a happy life. This was followed by The Voyage of Columbus (1810), and by Jacqueline (1814), a narrative poem, written in the four-accent measure of the newer writers, and published in the same volume with Byron’s Lara. His reflective poem on Human Life (1819), on which he had been engaged for twelve years, is written in his earlier manner.

In 1814 Rogers made a tour on the Continent with his sister Sarah. He travelled through Switzerland to Italy, keeping a full diary of events and impressions, and had made his way to Naples when the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba obliged him to hurry home.

Seven years later he returned to Italy, paying a visit to Byron and Shelley at Pisa. Out of the earlier of these tours arose his last and longest work, Italy. The first part was published anonymously in 1822; the second, with his name attached, in 1828. It was at first a failure, but Rogers was determined to make it a success. He enlarged and revised the poem, and commissioned illustrations from J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Stothard and Samuel Prout. These were engraved on steel in the sumptuous edition of 1830. The book then proved a great success, and Rogers followed it up with an equally sumptuous edition of his Poems (1834). In 1850, on Wordsworth’s death, Rogers was asked to succeed him as poet laureate, but declined the honour on account of his age. For the last five years of his life he was confined to his chair in consequence of a fall in the street. He died in London, and is buried in the family tomb in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Hornsey High Street, Haringey.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Cowper
November 1731 – 25 April 1800

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William Cowper

William Cowper was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England where his father John Cowper was rector of the Church of St Peter. His mother was Ann Cowper. Only two of the seven children of John and Ann Cowper lived past infancy – William and John. Ann died giving birth to John on November 7, 1737. His mother’s passing troubled him deeply and was the subject of his poem “On the Receipt of My Mother’s Picture,” which was written more than fifty years later. He grew close to her family, however in his early years. He was particularly close with her brother Robert and his wife Harriot. They instilled in young William a love of reading and gave him some of his first books – John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and John Gay’s Fables.

Cowper was first enrolled in the Westminster School in April of 1742 after moving from school to school for a number of years. He had begun to study Latin from a young age and was an avid scholar of Latin for the rest of his life. Older children bullied Cowper through many of his younger years. At the Westminster School he studied under the headmaster John Nicoll. At the time the Westminster School was popular amongst families belonging to England’s whig political party. Many of them sent their sons there. Many intelligent boys from families of a lower social status also attended, however. Cowper made lifelong friends attending Westminster. He read through the Illiad and the Odyssey, which ignited his lifelong scholarship and love for Homer’s epics. He grew skilled at the interpretation and translation of Latin and this was a skill that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He was skilled in the composition of Latin as well and wrote many verses of his own.

After education at Westminster School, he was articled to Mr. Chapman, solicitor, of Ely Place, Holborn, to be trained for a career in law. During this time, he spent his leisure at the home of his uncle Bob Cowper, where he fell in love with his cousin Theodora, whom he wished to marry. But as James Croft, who in 1825 first published the poems Cowper addressed to Theodora, wrote, “her father, from an idea that the union of persons so nearly related was improper, refused to accede to the wishes of his daughter and nephew.” This refusal left Cowper distraught.

In 1763 he was offered a Clerkship of Journals in the House of Lords, but broke under the strain of the approaching examination and experienced a period of insanity. At this time he tried three times to commit suicide and was sent to Nathaniel Cotton’s asylum at St. Albans for recovery. His poem beginning “Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portions” (sometimes referred to as “Sapphics”) was written in the aftermath of his suicide attempt.

After recovering, he settled at Huntingdon with a retired clergyman named Morley Unwin and his wife Mary. Cowper grew to be on such good terms with the Unwin family that he went to live in their house, and moved with them to Olney, where John Newton, a former slave trader who had repented and devoted his life to the gospel, was curate. Not long afterwards, Morley Unwin was killed in a fall from his horse, but Cowper continued to live in the Unwin home and became greatly attached to Mary Unwin.

At Olney, Newton invited Cowper to contribute to a hymnbook that he was compiling. The resulting volume known as Olney Hymns was not published until 1779 but includes hymns such as “Praise for the Fountain Opened” (beginning “There is a fountain fill’d with blood”) and “Light Shining out of Darkness” (beginning “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”) which remain some of Cowper’s most familiar verses. Several of Cowper’s hymns, as well as others originally published in the “Olney Hymns,” are today preserved in the Sacred Harp.

In 1773, Cowper experienced an attack of insanity, imagining not only that he was eternally condemned to hell, but that God was commanding him to make a sacrifice of his own life. Mary Unwin took care of him with great devotion and after a year he began again to recover. In 1779, after Newton had left Olney to go to London, Cowper started to write further poetry. Mary Unwin, wanting to keep Cowper’s mind occupied, suggested that he write on the subject of The Progress of Error, and after writing his satire of this name he wrote seven others. All of them were published in 1782 under the title Poems by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq..

The year before this publication, Cowper met a sophisticated and charming widow named Lady Austen who served as a new impetus to his poetry. Cowper himself tells of the genesis of what some have considered his most substantial work, The Task, in his “Advertisement” to the original edition of 1785:
“…a lady, fond of blank verse, demanded a poem of that kind from the author, and gave him the SOFA for a subject. He obeyed; and, having much leisure, connected another subject with it; and, pursuing the train of thought to which his situation and turn of mind led him, brought forth at length, instead of the trifle which he at first intended, a serious affair—a Volume!”

In the same volume Cowper also printed “The Diverting History of John Gilpin”, a notable piece of comic verse. John Gilpin was later credited with saving Cowper from turning completely insane.

Cowper and Mary Unwin moved to Weston in 1786 and shortly before this became close with his cousin Harriet (Theodora’s sister), now Lady Hesketh. During this period he started his translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into blank verse, and his versions (published in 1791) were the most significant English renderings of these epic poems since those of Alexander Pope earlier in the century, although later critics have faulted Cowper’s Homer for being too much in the mould of John Milton.

In 1795 Cowper moved with Mary to Norfolk. They originally stayed at North Tuddenham, then at Dunham Lodge near Swaffham and then Mundesley before finally settling in East Dereham.

Mary Unwin died in 1796, plunging Cowper into a gloom from which he never fully recovered. He did, however, continue revising his Homer for a second edition of his translation, and, aside from writing the powerful and bleak poem “The Castaway”, penned some English translations of Greek verse and turned some of the Fables of John Gay into Latin.

Cowper was seized with dropsy in the spring of 1800 and died. He is buried in the chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury, St. Nicholas Church, East Dereham. A window in Westminster Abbey honours him.

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