Eliza COOK (1818-89)

VWAP125 Cook Eliza
A verse-maker rather than a poet, she was prolific and popular, though many of her verses show Victorian mawkishness at its worse (sometimes at its comical worst). Amidst all the doggerel are a few accidental gems, such as her most successful poem, The Old Arm Chair. (I love it, I love it; and who shall dare / To chide me for loving that old Arm-chair?) Miss Cook herself was very different from her verse, being considered ‘very peculiar’ with her short hair parted on one side like a man’s, and her rather flowery masculine attire. Her robust manner did not deter her long-term friend Charlotte Cushman, and American actress with ‘a strongly built heroic figure’.
Her first collection, Lays of a Wild Harp, came out just before Victoria’s reign (1835), and throughout her reign Miss Cook’s rhymes cropped up in numerous periodicals and magazines (and, later, on greetings cards). She edited Eliza Cook’s Journal from 1849-54, giving it up on grounds of failing health, although she lived another 35 years.

Her complete works were published in 1870. Poems within it include: Old Dobbin; To A Favourite Pony; The Gipsy Child; The Acorn; The Loved One Was Not There. One that perhaps only she could have got away with was Song of the Dying Old Man to his Young Wife whose final verse declaims:

Bury me in the churchyard where the dark yew-branches wave,
And promise thou wilt come sometimes to weed the old man’s grave!
’Tis all I ask! I’m blind – I’m faint – take, take my parting breath –
I die within thy arms, my Kate, and feel no sting of death.
VWAP126 Cook book


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