Abraham Cowley



Born in London to a wealthy widow, Cowley’s introduction to literature was a spare copy of Faerie Queene he found in his mother’s parlor. He was writing and publishing substantial works by his early teens, and after his education at Westminster he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. He wrote plays, poetry, and one book of essays, and was an unmatched scholar. In the turbulent political stage of 17th century England, he sided with the royalists, a leaning which proved a source of literary inspiration (several of his works were written about nobles and nobility). His support of the crown forced him into exile in 1644 and he lived in Paris for 12 years. He eventually returned to London, continued writing, and maintained a presence in the political world. However, toward the end of his life he grew weary of politics and retired to the country, where he spent his remaining years in communion with his books and his pen. He died in 1667.

(Compiled by Joey Franklin)

See also

Essays by Abraham Cowley

Of agriculture

If heraldry were guided by reason, a plough in a field arable would be the most noble and ancient arms.

Of greatness

I confess I love littleness almost in all things. A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house, a little company, and a very little feast.

Of myself

Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running about on holidays and playing with my fellows, I was wont to steal from them and walk into the fields, either alone with a book, or with some one companion, if I could find any of the same temper.

Of solitude

It is very fantastical and contradictory in human nature, that men should love themselves above all the rest of the world, and yet never endure to be with themselves.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana by Patrick Madden

Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies. If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at Amazon.com.

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2011 Symposium on the Essay
Welcome Table Press Symposium on the Essay

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