Lot 207
  • 207

Cowley, Abraham

12,000 - 18,000 USD
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  • Cowley, Abraham
  • Autograph letter signed, to an unnamed English Lord then resident in Poland
  • paper
Writing with ill-founded optimism about the Royalist cause, providing news of Cromwell's invasion of Scotland ("...The danger of Cromwells overrunning us in Scotland as hee had donne before in England and Ireland seemes to be past, and the violent motion of the wheele being once stopped it will bee more easy to turn it the other way...") as well as affairs in England, Ireland, Holland, and Portugal, three pages, the text continuing up the margins on two pages, the final page of the bifolium being taken by an autograph letter, unsigned, by Cowley's patron Henry Jermyn, later First Earl of St Albans, to the same correspondent, on the finances of the exiled royal family ("...thear is really noe misery nor poverty equall to that this house nowe suffers..."), altogether four pages, folio (335 x 230 mm), Paris, 3 September 1650 [new style], docketed ("Mr Cowleys letter"); damp, and dust stained, tears neatly repaired. Red folder and matching red morocco-backed folding-box.


Sotheby's, 2 April 1973, lot 231, to A.R. Heath— Sotheby's, 18 December 1986, lot 3. acquisition: Purchased at the foregoing sale through Bernard Quaritch Ltd 


CELM CoA 227

Catalogue Note

A long letter by the great Royalist poet, detailing the plight of his political cause. It is a letter full of optimism, pinned on hopes that would soon crumble. Cowley's great news was the Parliamentary invasion of Scotland and he makes much of Cromwell's early difficulties against the Covenanters' army. However Cromwell's move to Dunbar was just a tactical retreat: he was shortly to crush the Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar, the most devastating victory of his formidable career (the battle took place on 3 September old style, which was ten days later than this letter, with its new-style dating). Cowley also writes in expectation that Prince Rupert would soon control the seas with Portuguese help; in fact Blake would shortly take Portugal out of the war by capturing her Brazil fleet, leaving Prince Rupert's navy homeless and reduced to mere piracy. The Royalist attempts to forge an international alliance likewise foundered, and a year after this letter (on the anniversary of Dunbar) the last Royalist army was defeated at the Battle of Worcester.

Autograph material by Cowley is extremely rare on the market. This letter and one autograph manuscript poem are the only items to have sold at auction in forty years. Altogether some forty autograph letters by Cowley are recorded, the vast majority in institutional collections.