chapter  7
4 Pages

Lady Austen and light verse

The eight moral satires, together with thirty-four miscellaneous short poems written in the late 1770s and early 1780s, were published in March 1782 as Poems by William Cowper of the Inner Temple, Esq. The reviewers' praise of the volume was somewhat qualified, but was sufficient to encourage the author to write more verse. His first undertaking was prompted by a new friend, William Bull, a liberal dissenting minister. In July 1782 Bull asked Cowper to translate the spiritual songs on divine love and the raptures of a Christian believer written in French by the seventeenth-century mystic Madame Guyon. Though Cowper was no mystic he respected Madam Guyon's piety and was pleased by a neatness in her verse which reminded him of his much-admired Matthew Prior (Letters II, 70, 77), so he translated some three dozen of her songs. He left the decision as to publication in Bull's hands; Bull published them in 1801, after Cowper's death.