‘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’.’
Helen MacEwan explores the life of William Cowper through David Cecil’s moving biography, The Stricken Deer, in her article ‘A Snatch of Morning’ featured in Issue 58 of Slightly Foxed. The article is illustrated by this wonderful wood engraving by Howard Phipps, ‘The Medlar Tree’.
In this remarkable and enlightening piece we learn that William Cowper turned to gardening in order to keep his depression at bay, and later ‘versifying, which he took up as a diversion at the age of 49, often writing in his greenhouse in the garden.’