chapter
19 Pages

Introduction

The Introduction establishes the critical context for the book. Beginning with the influential eighteenth-century verdict of Samuel Johnson in his Lives of the English Poets, but also incorporating the high estimation of contemporaries, including Milton, it makes the case that Abraham Cowley’s reputation has plummeted in recent decades, despite intermittent efforts to revive it. Johnson’s view was pivotal to this, but another important reason is the comparative neglect of royalist writers by modern scholarship, a situation which has been remediated in the last ten to fifteen years. Cowley’s published corpus is discussed, emphasising its wide range and its beginnings with Cowley the child-poet. His dramatic output, including The Puritan and the Papist, was another early sign of literary prowess. The collection Poems (1656) is perhaps his most important publication, including within it Miscellanies, The Mistress, Pindarique Odes and the Davideis, A Sacred Poem of the Troubles of David. It also, however, featured a passage, apparently embracing Hobbesian contract theory, giving rise to accusations of disloyalty to the royalist cause, which he had served steadfastly as a secretary to Queen Henrietta Maria and Henry Jermyn among the courts-in-[Q1]exile, and as a spy. This in turn makes Cowley an instructive case study on the question of royalist allegiance during the Interregnum.