University of Virginia Library

William Cowper and the European Magazine
Arthur Sherbo

Number 53 in the catalogue of Cowper's library, printed in Appendix A of Thomas Wright's life of the poet (London, 1892), is "European Magazine, 1789," and the question naturally arises, Why did Cowper have a single volume of this periodical? He had sixteen volumes of the Gentleman's Magazine, nineteen volumes of the Monthly Review, and twenty-seven volumes of the Analytical Review. To the first he contributed poems and prose pieces and to the third a number of reviews. Biographies of Cowper and the superb Bibliography of William Cowper to 1837 by Norma Russell, published in 1963, make no mention of any contributions to the European Magazine, for it has gone unnoticed that seven of Cowper's poems were printed in it. Three poems were printed in the April issue: "Song. By Mr. Cowper.


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The poplars are fell'd . . ."; "On the Death of a Lady's Bullfinch. By the Same"; and "The Dog and the Waterlilly. No Fable. By the Same." (pp. 330-331). The Poplar-Field had been printed in January 1785 in the Gentleman's Magazine (p. 53), and the version in the European Magazine follows that text but with two substantive differences. Line 4 in the GM reads "Nor Ouse in its bosom their image receives"; in the 1800 Poems it reads "Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives"; but in the EM it reads "Nor the Ouse on its surface their image receives." Line 14 reads, respectively as above: "And I must alas! long lie as lowly as they," "And I must ere long lie as lowly as they," "And I must myself lie as lowly as they." These seem hardly to be errors of transcription. The EM text of the bullfinch poem also follows the text of that poem as it appeared in the GM for February 1789 (pp. 163-164), with differences in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. There is one palpable error, "arose" for "arise" in line 17, and there are the following differences, with the GM text first: hunger's cruel rage / cruel Hunger's rage (l. 5), Of which / With which (l. 29), explore / t'explore (l. 38). Further, the EM version omits the entire penultimate stanza. It should be remarked that the EM's "With which" of line 29 is the accepted reading. It is worth noting that the GM version bears the epigraph, "Lugete o Veneris Cupidinesque," nowhere else present in reprintings of the poem. The Dog and the Water Lily, according to the Oxford Cowper and to Norma Russell, was first published in the GM for December 1791 (p. 1143), although in fact it first appeared in the EM in April 1789. The EM text is, therefore, of more than cursory interest. I omit differences in punctuation, etc. in what follows. The received text (Oxford, 1934) is first: his race / its race (l. 5), found for / gave to (l. 8), swallow / Swallows (l. 11), windings / winding (l. 28), finish'd / ended (l. 29), wreath / flower (l. 31). I defer my conclusions.

In May 1789 the EM printed "The Morning Dream. By W. Cowper, Esq." (pp. 414-415), the poem having previously appeared in the November 1788 GM (pp. 1008-09). There are thirteen substantive differences between the two texts, seven of the readings in the EM agreeing with the 1800 Poems text. The remaining six readings are identical in the GM and the 1800 Poems. Respectively, then, GM, EM, and 1800: Sweet / glad / glad (l. 1), dreamt / dream'd / dream'd (ll. 3,5), bore / wore / wore (l. 10), ne'er / never / ne'er (l. 12), a / the / a (l. 14), sung / sang / sang (l. 19), T'was / It was / T'was (l. 24), a / the / the (l. 29), that / which / that (l. 39), But / When / But (l. 43), for / as / for (l. 44), Ruler / rulers / rulers (l. 47). The Lily and the Rose, published in the 1782 Poems, was reprinted in the EM for June (p. 496). Four substantive differences are present, the first reading being from the EM: cruel / civil (l. 17), said she / she said (l. 21), both / each (l. 24), loveliest / fairest (l. 26). The "loveliest" of the EM text violates the metrical pattern of the poem, but does away with the repetition in "The fairest British fair." One wonders if the EM's "cruel," instead of "civil," in "This civil bick'ring and debate," is not more consonant with the Rose's "redden[ing] into rage" (l. 9).

Two poems remain, both printed in the July EM (pp. 63-4): "The


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Queen's Visit to London. On the 17th of March 1789. By W. Cowper, Esq." and "On the Benefit said to be already received by his Majesty from Sea-Bathing." Charles Ryskamp has called attention to pre-1815 printings of the latter poem, and the EM text follows that of the Whitehall Evening-Post in the July 16-18 number.[1] It, unlike the other six poems printed in the EM, cannot gain entry into that part of Norma Russell's bibliography of pieces "Published for the first time, or published with variant readings in periodicals." The other poem, the Queen's Visit to London, is particularly interesting for, while it was written in March 1789 on a matter of national concern, its first publication has hitherto thought to have been by William Hayley in the posthumous 1803 edition of Cowper's poems. However, in the 1815 Poems edited by the Reverend John Johnson, the poem on the Queen's visit was printed from an unpublished manuscript, or so it has been thought. But I believe, on the evidence of the textual differences in five of the six poems already discussed, and on the fact that two readings in the EM poem on the Queen's visit are also in the "unpublished" manuscript, that Cowper himself provided the texts of the six poems for printing in the EM. Here are the textual differences between the EM text of this last poem and that of the Hayley edition of 1803, with the EM readings first: his / her (l. 5), terms of that / aenigmatic (l. 49), those / that (l. 58), wonder in a / wonders in her (l. 63), brilliant / sparkling (l. 74). The EM readings in ll. 5 and 58 are those of the MS and 1815; the other EM variants are such as to preclude the probability of errors of transcription. I should add that EM omits the entire fifth stanza found in other versions.

From its inception in 1782 until well beyond 1789 the EM was guided, but not (he insisted) edited, by Isaac Reed. Cowper is not mentioned in Reed's extant diaries, edited by Claude E. Jones,[2] and hence it is purely fanciful to imagine Reed, even though at the center of the literary and scholarly world of London, soliciting contributions from the poet. But there are the seven poems, six of them with significant textual variants, and there is number 53 in the catalogue of Cowper's library (part or full payment for those contributions?). Future editors of Cowper's poems will have to decide for themselves how they will treat the EM texts. What is more, a small addition to Norma Russell's bibliography is in order.

A certain Matthew Knapp, animadverting on a number of contributions to the GM,[3] concluded by writing, "I send you the following epitaph on a tomb in the churchyard of Newport Pagnell, in Bucks, as it is the production of the celebrated author of 'The Task,' &c." He then quoted Cowper's tenline epitaph on T. A. Hamilton. The Oxford Cowper (p. 386) gives the first printing as 1800, and the appearance of the epitaph in the GM is not noted by Norma Russell. In her bibliography she records the presence of the poem


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in the volume of Cowper's translations from the French of Mme de la Motte Guyon, published by Cowper's friend the Reverend William Bull in 1801 at Newport Pagnell. Miss Russell's footnote on the epitaph reads, in part, "Bull states in the preface that it had appeared in a 'periodical publication.' This has eluded me. It did not appear in the G.M. until after it had been published by Bull" (p. 185). Possibly the fact that the poem did not appear in the poetry section of the GM accounts for Miss Russell's failure to trace it. Except for differences in capitalization and punctuation the GM text differs from the Oxford text in printing "A heart" in l. 6 for "An heart."

I believe that the poem "The Question Answered," printed in the GM (1788, i. 542-543) and following two poems by Cowper, might have been included in Miss Russell's bibliography in the section entitled "Answers to Cowper" (pp. 282-283). The poem answers Cowper's question in The Task, "Would I describe a preacher such as Paul," the passage ending with the line, "Behold the picture—is it like?—like whom?" I am somewhat surer that the translations of the mottoes to the five Connoisseur essays (111, 115, 119, 134, 138) generally accepted as Cowper's, ought to be printed in a complete edition of his poetry and should also find a place in the bibliography under "Translations." The translations are, in order, of Horace's Odes, I. xxiii, 11; III. vii. 1; of Terence's Eunuchus, I. ii. 25; of Horace's Odes, III. vi. 1; and of Juvenal's sixth Satire, 1. 452.[4]

A poem on Cowper by Richard Polewhele (a sufficiently important figure to be noted as writing a poem on Cowper) is in GM, 1795, ii. 600 but is not in Russell's bibliography in the pertinent section of poems on Cowper.



See his note in The Library, 5th Ser., 15 (1960), 208-209.


Isaac Reed Diaries, 1762-1804 (1946). See pp. 263, 270, 273-274, 276, 285, 294 for Reed and the EM.


1791. i. 330-1. He contributed antiquarian pieces to the GM. See also 1791. i. 592, ii. 700, 900, 1103-04 in this year.


Query: Is it generally known, if indeed it is true, that Cowper was "employing his excellent talents in a translation of Lucan" after publication of his Homer? See GM, 1792, ii. 798 from which I quote.