Ward, Thomas Humphry, ed. "Thomas Cowley." In The English Poets: Selections with Critical Introductions by Various Writers. Vol. 2, 234-243. New York: Macmillan, 1914.

COWLEY, HANNAH PARKHOUSE (17431809) Hannah Parkhouse Cowley was born in Tiver-ton, Devon. Her father, Philip, sold books, and her mother may have been related to the poet John Gay. She married Thomas Cowley, a Stamp office clerk, at age 25 and soon after began writing plays. Living in London, she went often to the theater and decided to try her hand at drama. According to some accounts, she declared that she could easily match the quality of the plays she and her husband watched. The famous actor David Garrick read and revised her first effort, The Runaway, and recommended it to Richard Cumberland, and it enjoyed a successful run at Drury Lane in 1776. The 800 guineas Cowley received encouraged her to produce additional plays, as her family needed the income. Twelve additional comedies, tragedies, and farces were produced by 1795, including a favorite of the court, The Belle's Strategem (1780), which Cowley dedicated to the Queen; she reportedly received 1,200 guineas for that drama. Although not a popular figure and often described as vulgar and ill behaved, Cowley became the most successful female playwright at the end of the 18th century. She earned her negative reputation in part as a result of her sensitivity, at one point making a public complaint to Garrick regarding his servant's actions toward her and her husband. She also accused the popular writer Hannah More of plagiarizing from her drama Albina. She did not take part in "literary society" and apparently enjoyed reading travel books far more than reading poetry.

For unexplained reasons, Cowley's husband signed on to serve with the East India Company and departed England in 1783. The marriage seems to have been a contented one, as Cowley dedicated a comedy, More Vows Than One (1784), to her husband, and The Fate of Sparta (1788) to a brother-in-law. The Cowleys had two daughters, who studied in France, where their mother visited them in 1788; one daughter died in 1790, still a teenager. Cowley dedicated her final play, The Town Before You (1795), to a woman in Calcutta, leading historians to surmise that she may have visited the country.

Cowley's poetry did not enjoy the level of fame her drama achieved. She first published The Maid of Aragon: A Tale in 1780, followed by The Scottish Village, or Pitcairne Green (1786); then wrote for The World under the name Anna Matilda, leading some critics to ridicule her work. Florid and characterized by high sentiment, works such as The Poetry of Anna Matilda (1788), The Poetry of the World (1788), and The British Album (1790) earned derision by other poets, most especially William Gifford in The Baviad. Her husband died in India in 1797, after an attempted visit to his daughter, who was in Calcutta at the time. A short time later, Cowley moved back to Tiverton. While she did not participate in others' societal gatherings, she invited "ladies only" to gather at her house weekly. After her death, her Works (1813) were published in three volumes and included a brief memoir written by Cowley, as well as the later anthologized poem "Departed

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