This focuses on the writings of a group of important literary figures of the 18th century, primarily those of William Cowper (1731-1800).
Cowper is a particularly interesting figure to literary historians, as he stands at the juncture between the two great cultural movements of the period. His effortless control of metre, his didactic style, and his immersion in the writings of Ovid, Horace and others clearly connect him to Classicism. However, his works also inspired the first Romantic poets, particularly William Wordsworth.
All aspects of Cowper's writing are displayed here. There are numerous translations from the Greek such as The Iliad by Virgil, or Book Ten of Homer's Odyssey. His correspondence is also justly famous, and this collection contains hundreds of his letters. Direct, sincere and non-egotistical, they show much of the poet and his period, and capture many enchanting observations of nature and fellow man, while amplifying his personal philosophies.
An impressive display of 18th-century British writing is also assembled in the collection. There are letters, poems and prose pieces by Boswell, Burns, the Earl of Chesterfield, Congreve, Garrick, Hogarth, Hume, Johnson, "Monk" Lewis, Hanna H. More, Pope, Sheridan, and Horace Walpole. There are two fine poems--I asked a thie f and Genesis: the Seven Days of the Created World--by William Blake.
The most substantial collections alongside Cowper are those of Elizabeth Montagu and Hester Thrale-Piozzi. A large body of correspondence relates to each of them. The six-volume correspondence between Thrale-Piozzi and Penelope Pennington ties in with the major Thrale-Piozzi material included in Hester Thrale-Piozzi, Samuel Johnson and Literary Society, 1755-1821.