William Cowper and Mary Unwin had become indispensable to one another. A plan to marry came to nothing – the imminent prospect of matrimony threw Cowper into panic – but they continued, platonically, to share a home. He needed support and companionship, she someone to whom she could devote herself. In Orchard Side, their poky house on Olney High Street near Newton’s church, Cowper kept the forces of darkness at bay by constant occupation. At first this took the form of gardening and caring for a menagerie of pets, including his tame hares Bess, Puss and Tiny ...
Cecil is at his most vivid when evoking the scenes of domestic content so often described by Cowper himself. His favourite time of day was tea-time, particularly on winter afternoons when the candles were lit, the curtains drawn against approaching night and the kettle boiled for ‘the cup that cheers but not inebriates’.
When Helen MacEwan picked up David Cecil’s ‘The Stricken Deer, or the Life of William Cowper’, all she knew about Cowper was that he was Jane Austen’s favourite poet. But by the time she closed its covers, ‘William Cowper was a friend’. In Issue 58 of #slightlyfoxed, Helen discusses Cowper’s gentle, tormented life, and how Cecil’s book inspired her to write her own literary biographies. Her article, and Cowper’s garden, was illustrated by ‘The Medlar Tree’, a #woodengraving by Howard Phipps. #woodcutwednesday
Howard Phipps studied painting and #printmaking at The Gloucestershire College of Art. He is now based near Salisbury and is probably best known for his drawings and engravings of the chalk downs of Wiltshire and Dorset.