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HANNAH COWLEY (1743-1809)

ENGLISH dramatist and poet Hannah Cowley, daughter of Philip Parkhouse, a bookseller at Tiverton, Devonshire, was born in 1743. When about twenty-five years old she married Mr. Cowley, of the East India Company's service, who died in 1797. Some years after her marriage, being at the theatre with her husband, she expressed the opinion that she could write as good a piece as the one being performed, and within a fortnight she had written her first play, The Runaway. She sent it to Garrick, who produced it at Drury Lane in 1776. Between then and 1795 she wrote twelve more plays, all of which (with one exception) were produced at Drury Lane or Covent Garden. Among her pieces were The Belle's Stratagem, Albina, Countess Raimond, A Bold Stroke for a Husband, More Ways than One, and A School for Greybeards, or The Mourning Bride. Mrs. Cowley was the author of a number of indifferent poems, mainly historical, and under the name of "Anna Matilda," which has since become proverbial, she carried on a sentimental correspondence in the World with Robert Merry. She died at Tiverton on the 11th of March 1809.

This article was originally published in Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition. Cambridge: University Press, 1911.

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