chapter  1
26 Pages

Abraham Cowley and Print

Paratexts and Contexts

In this chapter, Robert Wilcher shows that as well as accommodating his literary activities to changing tastes and different social environments, Cowley had to contend with the processes and perils of getting what he had written into print during an age of turmoil. His earliest poems and plays were published with a fanfare of preliminary gestures, including a depiction of the boyish author – in Poetical Blossomes – about to be crowned with a laurel wreath. But no printer or stationer takes responsibility for issuing the two anti-puritan satires of the early 1640s. Among the later works, some were seen into print without Cowley’s knowledge or consent, several were introduced by prefaces that reveal much about his purposes and tribulations as an author, and one gave a false name on the title-page[Q2] and fleshed it out in an inventive advertisement ‘Concerning the Book and Author’. Wilcher considers how a variety of paratextual materials – frontispieces, title-pages, dedications, commendatory verses, epistles, and prefaces – reflect both the personal circumstances of Cowley and the broader contexts in which the products of his pen were made public.