Greening, John. "Rescuing the Castaway: The Case of William Cowper." Quadrant 47, no. 12 (December 2003): 60-63.
Packer, Barbara. "Hope and Despair in the Writings of William Cowper." Social Research 66, no. 2 (summer 1999): 545.
Roy, James A. Cowper and His Poetry. Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Press, 1969.
CATACHRESIS The use of a word or phrase in a manner that disrupts the norm is called catachresis. That use may involve a mixed metaphor, a word out of context, or a flagrant pairing of ideas that normally do not appear together, often to great effect. In Abraham Cowley's poem "The Muse," he includes catachresis when he writes, "Thy verse does solidate and crystallize," inventing the term solidate and comparing verse to water that may change form with changes in temperature. John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester, suggests in "A Satyre against Mankind" that books may act as life preservers, causing men to try "To swim with bladders of philosophy," while Christopher Smart in "My Cat Jeoffry" describes his feline, explaining, "he camels his back to bear the first notion of business," ironically comparing Jeoffry to a beast of burden. John Donne adopts catachresis through personification in "A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day," as he describes the shortest day of the year: "The world's whole sap is sunk: / The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk," and in "Batter My Heart," one individual is compared to an entire community: "I, like an usurp'd town to another due, / Labour to admit you."
CATALEXIS Synonymous with truncation, catalexis describes the omission of one or more syllables from the end word in a line of poetry. It indicates the absence of an unstressed syllable at the end of a trochaic or dactylic line and the absence of a stressed syllable at the beginning of an iambic or anapestic line (see meter). An example of the latter case appears in John Donne's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" in the line "Our two souls therefore, which are one." Catalectic indicates the line lacks one syllable, while brachycatelectic indicates that two syllables are missing. Should a line contain excess syllables, it is termed hypercatalectic. Such a line appears in Thomas Carew's "An Elegy upon the Death of the dean of Paul's, Dr. John Donne." Carew first claims that no one can mimic Donne's style, then he does so, by inserting a line with one too many syllables in the middle of lines marked by iambic pentatmeter: "Since to the awe of thy imperious wit / our troublesome language bends, made only fit / With her tough thick-ribb'd hoops, to gird about." Lines containing regular meter are termed acatalectic.
CAVALIER POETS lyric poets writing during the reign of Charles I (1625-49) are sometimes classified as Cavalier poets. The label indicates their allegiance to the monarch. All were courtiers whose poetry focused on romance and Royalist sentiments, most reflecting a humorous, plaintive, or cynical tone. Many stressed the carpe diem theme, providing arguments to fair maidens that love saved is love wasted. Most Cavalier poetry exhibited elegant, and often erotic, language and imagery; employed heroic couplets; and owed much by way of conceit to John Donne and Ben Jon-son. The group included Thomas Carew (? 1595-?1639), Sir John Suckling (1609-41), Richard Lovelace (1618-58), and Edmund Waller (1606-87). Many Cavalier poets were well educated, and some performed military as well as artistic service to the king. A few died in poverty or suffered exile, due to involvement in various political schemes. All felt in friendly competition with one another, and their poetry reflects the pressure to perform well, as they often remained completely dependent on the court for their livelihoods.
CAVENDISH, MARGARET, DUCHESS OF NEWCASTLE (1623-1673) Margaret Lucas matured as a pampered young woman in a family of means, the daughter of the wealthy landowner Thomas Lucas and Elizabeth Leighton. Elizabeth, eventually a widow who learned to manage her own properties, raised her several children, educated by the help of tutors. Margaret showed creative tendencies at an early age, dressing herself in outlandish styles that would carry over into adulthood. She served Queen Henrietta Maria as a maid of honor between 1643 and 1645, a position she claimed not to enjoy. In letters Margaret begged her mother to allow her to return home, as she felt uncomfortable among members of the court, having been raised in semi-isolation. How much of her discomfort was feigned is not known, but she later claimed to have been disliked because of her attractive face and figure, which, according to her, sparked a great deal of jealousy. Despite her claim of shyness, she wore dresses revealing a generous decolletage.
Living abroad in France with the Queen, Margaret met her future husband, the exiled Royalist Marquis William Cavendish. Although he was many years older than Margaret, he persisted in courting her despite her coy response. She married Cavendish and recorded the supposed jealousy of those in the Queen's entourage who foolishly sought to prevent the union. Despite their great difference in age, the two shared many interests, and Cavendish lived to make his young wife happy, so the marriage proved blissful. Because of Cavendish's Royalist sentiments, the couple was forced to remain abroad during the Civil War, living in Paris, Rotterdam, and Antwerp, despite Margaret's repeated written appeals that they be allowed to return to England. When the couple at last could return home, they took up residence on the Cavendish family estate. Much to her sorrow, Margaret never bore children, but she seemed to have a congenial relationship with her husband's grown children. Her husband doted on her, encouraging her to write and willingly publishing her voluminous works.
Margaret Cavendish was one of the first English women who publicly sought a life of the mind. She invested her energies in intellectual pursuits, engaging in self-education in areas of science and philosophy. Her imagination, however, overshadowed her propensity for fact and logic, and she produced some outrageous fantasies, which she labeled "natural science." Along with her husband, she published nearly 12 folio volumes of essays, poetry, and drama, as well as her biography of her husband, to which she appended her own brief autobiography. She published Poems and Fancies (1653), which was followed by a supplementary volume in the same year titled Philosophical Fancies. In her first book, The Worlds Olio (1655), she noted that fame, a product of published writing, served as a superior substitute for children: "Fame . . . the older it groweth, the more it florishes, and is the more particularly a mans own, then the child of his loines . . . many times the child of his loines deceives the parent, and instead of keeping his father's fame, brings him infamy." The pursuit of that fame offered her a lifelong project.
Nature's Pictures (1656) was followed by many additional volumes, including Plays (1662); Philosophical Letters (1664); Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666); Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666); Plays and Grounds of Natural Philosophy (both 1668); and The Lotterie (an unpublished play). In one work, titled "Melancholy and Mirth," the female character in her verse, conveniently named Margaret, claims that John Milton "was obliged for many of his thoughts in his L'Allegro and Il Penseroso to this lady's Dialogue between Melancholy and Mirth." Scholars who later studied Margaret's works, while admitting her obvious immaturity and egoism, admired her boldness in claiming herself as the inspiration for works that appeared 20 years before her own by a poet who completely overshadowed her own lively, if not overly inventive, talents. Equally clever is the rhetorical strategy of referring to her work within the work itself. William Cavendish achieved dukedom in 1665, and for the remainder of her life, Margaret enjoyed a comfortable existence.
one of the few prominent writers of her time, she protected her own interests first, as a member of her class would, but that resulted in her promoting the right of all women to become educated. She railed against the double standard that allowed men far more freedom than women. Her progressive attitude, however, did not prevent her occasional elitist attack on members of her own gender as foolish, but no one equaled her engagement with new ideas or the strong effect she had on the public. She committed the same social crime as had other women writers who supposedly assumed male traits by writing, but despite her detractors' charges of her claiming credit for works she did not author, she persevered.
In 1667 the duchess's expression of a desire to visit England's newly formed Royal Society, an all-male group dedicated to the discussion of science and philosophy, met with resistance. She did find some support in the group, but not because of her scientific writings; rather, her husband had several friends in the society who felt a political obligation to the duchess. The diarist Samuel Pepys wrote that the invitation was extended only after much debate; he noted that the event would probably become the subject of future ballads. Fortunately Margaret's good sense took over, and she remained silent during the meeting, simply listening and observing. However, she still expressed her individuality through her dress, as she had since a child. She often dressed in male attire, an action that modern scholars believed helped relieve her frustration over not enjoying all of the independence afforded to men. It raised eyebrows in the London social scene. Sir Charles Lytton once noted that Margaret "dressed in a vest, and instead of courtesies, made legs and bows to the ground with her hand and head." She chose her visit to England's most learned group to display again her attitude toward the double standard of her day. An attendant named John Evelyn fulfilled Pepys's prediction by writing a ballad about the occasion that included the following lines:
Though I was half-afeard
God bless us! when I first did see her
She looked so like a Cavalier
But that she had no beard.
Pepys remained fascinated by Cavendish, as evidenced by his multiple diary entries focusing on her.
He confesses in 1667 his eagerness "To see the silly play by my Lady Newcastle called The Humorous Lovers; the most silly thing that ever came upon the stage, I was sick to see it, but yet would not but have seen it, that I might better understand her." While the authorship of that particular play is sometimes credited to Margaret's husband, creating an especial interest in Pepys's comment, equally important is the confession by one of her severest critics to a desire to know better the estimable force that was the duchess of Newcastle. Eventually gaining the unfortunate nickname "Mad Madge" because of her well-publicized eccentricities, Cavendish often attracted curious crowds. Pepys records the anticipation of one group that gathered when they learned she was due to appear at court. Catching only a glimpse of her, he describes her arrival in a silver coach. Her footmen were all dressed in velvet, and she wore a velvet cap. For a brief moment he saw her face between her white carriage curtains, a face he describes as that "of a very comely woman." When she died, she was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Frederic Rowton pronounced her "indefatigable" in 1853, then noted of her writing, "The Duchess is not without force, and that, too, often of a picturesque and effective sort . . . but the bulk of her works are insufferably tame, common-place and prosy." By the middle of the 20th century, feminist critics would give the duchess her due as one of the first English feminists, an early dramatist who went so far as to write a play, The Convent of Pleasure, that focused on a lesbian relationship. Her works are widely anthologized; some of her most famous poems are "An Excuse, for So Much Writ upon My Verses," "The Poetess's Hasty Resolution," and "The Hunting of the Hare."
Critics agree that the value of Margaret's books lies merely in their existence; most are available to view at the British Museum. But as scholars have looked more closely at her works, they have recognized additional values. Her Sociable Letters (1664) is now acknowledged as the forerunner to the epistolary novel, a credit long attributed to the English male writer Samuel Richardson and his book Pamela (1740). In that collection of epistles, the duchess assumed a fictional persona who wrote letters on myriad topics. One entry, Number CXXIII, anticipates John Dryden as the first per
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