Cowley At Chertsey





The poet Cowley died at the Porch House, Chertsey, on the 21st of July,

1667. There is a curious letter preserved of his condition when he

removed here from Barn Elms. It is addressed to Dr. Sprat, dated

Chertsey, 21 May, 1665, and is as follows:--



"The first night that I came hither I caught so great a cold, with

a defluxion of rheum, as made me keep my chamber ten days. And,

too, after had such a bruise on my ribs with a fall, that I am yet

unable to move or turn myself in bed. This is my personal fortune

here to begin with. And besides, I can get no money from my tenants,

and have my meadows eaten up every night by cattle put in by my

neighbours. What this signifies, or may come to in time, God knows!

if it be ominous, it can end in nothing but hanging."----"I do hope

to recover my hurt so farre within five or six days (though it be

uncertain yet whether I shall ever recover it) as to walk about

again. And then, methinks, you and I and the Dean might be very

merry upon St. Ann's Hill. You might very conveniently come hither

by way of Hampton Town, lying there one night. I write this in

pain, and can say no more.--Verbum sapienti."



It is stated, by Sprat, that the last illness of Cowley was owing to his

having taken cold through staying too long among his labourers in the

meadows; but, in Spence's Anecdotes we are informed, (on the authority

of Pope,) that "his death was occasioned by a mere accident whilst his

great friend, Dean Sprat, was with him on a visit at Chertsey. They had

been together to see a neighbour of Cowley's, who, (according to the

fashion of those times,) made them too welcome. They did not set out for

their walk home till it was too late; and had drank so deep that they

lay out in the fields all night. This gave Cowley the fever that carried

him off. The parish still talk of the drunken Dean."



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