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The Stricken Deer: Or the Life of William Cowper

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First published in 1929, The Stricken Deer was the winner of that year's James Tait Black Memorial Prize and also the Hawthornden Prize: it was David Cecil's first book. For a time, towards the end of the eighteenth-century, William Cowper was the foremost poet in England. But David Cecil's biography doesn't celebrate a life of success, rather, in Cowper's own words, 'the s First published in 1929, The Stricken Deer was the winner of that year's James Tait Black Memorial Prize and also the Hawthornden Prize: it was David Cecil's first book. For a time, towards the end of the eighteenth-century, William Cowper was the foremost poet in England. But David Cecil's biography doesn't celebrate a life of success, rather, in Cowper's own words, 'the strange and uncommon incidents of my life.' Cowper suffered from severe bouts of depression. His personal tragedy however enriched English literature: the fear of madness made him turn to writing poetry as a form of mental discipline, and isolation for the great world and from his own kind helped him to become the most enchanting of letter-writers. 'This is a sympathetic and vivid biography; it is subtle with a kind of gentle acuteness and vivid without literary ostentation. It is the work of a biographer with a clear head and a clever heart ... the rarest of all merits is the sensitive fairness of the of the biographer's estimate of character and situation throughout.' Desmond MacCarthy, "Sunday Times"


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First published in 1929, The Stricken Deer was the winner of that year's James Tait Black Memorial Prize and also the Hawthornden Prize: it was David Cecil's first book. For a time, towards the end of the eighteenth-century, William Cowper was the foremost poet in England. But David Cecil's biography doesn't celebrate a life of success, rather, in Cowper's own words, 'the s First published in 1929, The Stricken Deer was the winner of that year's James Tait Black Memorial Prize and also the Hawthornden Prize: it was David Cecil's first book. For a time, towards the end of the eighteenth-century, William Cowper was the foremost poet in England. But David Cecil's biography doesn't celebrate a life of success, rather, in Cowper's own words, 'the strange and uncommon incidents of my life.' Cowper suffered from severe bouts of depression. His personal tragedy however enriched English literature: the fear of madness made him turn to writing poetry as a form of mental discipline, and isolation for the great world and from his own kind helped him to become the most enchanting of letter-writers. 'This is a sympathetic and vivid biography; it is subtle with a kind of gentle acuteness and vivid without literary ostentation. It is the work of a biographer with a clear head and a clever heart ... the rarest of all merits is the sensitive fairness of the of the biographer's estimate of character and situation throughout.' Desmond MacCarthy, "Sunday Times"

34 review for The Stricken Deer: Or the Life of William Cowper

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark Nenadov

    On the one hand, there are some very compelling aspects to this book. The narrative is often very vivid and well-written. Cecil understood that the historian is not a mere curator of facts but a storyteller. On the other hand, the author takes a few too many imaginative liberties (he sometimes writes as though he were an eyewitness, even though he obviously was not one). He gets a little carried away in attributing thoughts and feelings and reimagining scenes and it has detrimental effect. Cecil On the one hand, there are some very compelling aspects to this book. The narrative is often very vivid and well-written. Cecil understood that the historian is not a mere curator of facts but a storyteller. On the other hand, the author takes a few too many imaginative liberties (he sometimes writes as though he were an eyewitness, even though he obviously was not one). He gets a little carried away in attributing thoughts and feelings and reimagining scenes and it has detrimental effect. Cecil is also unrestrainedly biased against evangelicalism (especially John Newton-he goes out of his way to insult him in an almost absurdly exaggerated way ). I think the slant causes him to get Cowper and his contemporaries (such as Newton) seriously wrong and further causes a credibility problem. This book will always remain an important one in wrangling with the incredibly complex character of William Cowper, but its flaws should be registered and accounted for.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kris Lundgaard

    Glorious and devastating.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    I read this as background to Jane Austen as Cowper's poetry is often mentioned in her novels. He was an unusual character, plagued throughout his life by severe mental breakdowns, and I found the book interesting. It is not a scholarly work, no indication of where the author got his information, but very readable. Cowper became somewhat of a celebrity late in life even though he lived very simply and quietly. He owed some of the success he had to women friends who couldn't seem to resist his odd I read this as background to Jane Austen as Cowper's poetry is often mentioned in her novels. He was an unusual character, plagued throughout his life by severe mental breakdowns, and I found the book interesting. It is not a scholarly work, no indication of where the author got his information, but very readable. Cowper became somewhat of a celebrity late in life even though he lived very simply and quietly. He owed some of the success he had to women friends who couldn't seem to resist his odd charm and watched out for him! If you are a Janeite, you should learn something about this writer.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Incredibly biased. Lord Cecil blamed John Newton's calvinism for compounding Cowper's condition. Useful to read if you have an extensive interest in Cowper as I do - but otherwise there are much more helpful biographies of Cowper. Incredibly biased. Lord Cecil blamed John Newton's calvinism for compounding Cowper's condition. Useful to read if you have an extensive interest in Cowper as I do - but otherwise there are much more helpful biographies of Cowper.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy Doolan

    Definitely of it’s time with little research and major presumptions. Treated every person as a character in a drama rather than real people. To say John Newton had no influence or no influence in Olney is pure fantasy miles from the truth.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cinnamon

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mckinley

  8. 5 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  10. 5 out of 5

    Aria Ligi

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Allady

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jude Brigley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ted Sim

  14. 5 out of 5

    eq

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary Cornelius

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jo

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sally Carson

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Simon

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zsa Zsa

  23. 5 out of 5

    Inga

  24. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  25. 5 out of 5

    Burton

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

  27. 5 out of 5

    Keely

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy Allred

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  30. 5 out of 5

    أسماء صبري

  31. 4 out of 5

    Necas63

  32. 5 out of 5

    Ebony Bate

  33. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  34. 4 out of 5

    Mark Flory

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