Poeticall Blossomes, 1633
The Mistress: Or, Several Copies of Love Verses, 1647
Poems, 1656 (also known as Miscellanies)
Verses Lately Written upon Several Occasions, 1663
Poemata Latina, 1668
Loves Riddle, pb. 1638
Naufragium Joculare, pr., pb. 1638
The Guardian, pr. 1641 (revised as Cutter of Coleman-Street)
A Proposition for the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy, 1661
A Vision, Concerning His Late Pretended Highnesse, Cromwell the Wicked, 1661
Several Discourses by Way of Essays in Prose and Verse, 1668
The Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley, 1668, 1681, 1689
Abraham Cowley (KOW-lee) was the seventh child of a London stationer who died before his child’s birth. Cowley’s mother obtained her son’s admittance to Westminster School as a king’s scholar, and very early the boy demonstrated his ability as a poet; at the age of fifteen he published a collection of poems, Poeticall Blossomes. In 1637 he entered Cambridge University, where he continued his literary efforts with a pastoral drama, Loves Riddle, and Naufragium Joculare, a Latin comedy. Cowley received his bachelor’s degree from Cambridge in 1639 and his master’s degree in 1642. During the English Civil War he sided with the Royalists against the Puritans and was forced to flee to France in 1646.
In exile he was sent by the Stuarts on diplomatic missions throughout western Europe. One of his chief tasks at court was to encode and decode the voluminous correspondence between Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria until Charles’s death at the hands of the regicides in 1649. A volume of love poetry, The Mistress: Or, Several Copies of Love Verses, was published in 1647 while the poet was in France. The book was popular throughout the seventeenth century. After Cowley’s return to England, his Miscellanies, a collection of his poetical works, appeared in 1656. This volume included his love poems, the “Pindarique Odes,” and his unfinished epic, “Davideis.” The odes were highly serious poems; the “Davideis” was a Biblical epic in rhymed verse that he had written in part while he was at Cambridge.
While in England, Cowley was arrested and imprisoned as a spy, but he was later released on bail. He studied medicine and was given a medical degree at Oxford in 1657. He then returned to France to remain there until the Restoration in 1660. Shortly after Charles II ascended the throne, Cowley, awarded a lease of land by the Crown, settled in the Surrey countryside, where he remained until his death. During his last years, living in quiet retirement, he wrote eleven essays in the style of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne and composed a series of poems in Latin on flowers and plants.