‘He swam very strong’: Cowper’s ‘The Cast-away’ and the voyage account tradition of maritime suffering

Kinsley, Zoe and Unspecified (2018) ‘He swam very strong’: Cowper’s ‘The Cast-away’ and the voyage account tradition of maritime suffering. The Cowper and Newton Journal. ISSN 2046-8814 (Accepted for Publication)

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Abstract

The doubling at work in William Cowper’s shorter poems, through which he projects elements of his own emotional and indeed authorial self onto the characters (sometimes human, sometimes animal) of his verse, has long been noted. For example, Vincent Newey has pointed us to the way in which this doubling is at play in the poet’s final original poem ‘The Cast-away’ (begun in 1799, only published posthumously in The Life and Posthumous Writings, 1803-4). He argues that the suffering mariner of the poem serves as a ‘dark double’ for Cowper’s own ‘feelings of lifelong affliction and approaching death’, whilst simultaneously offering him a form of ‘immortality’. This article considers the relationship between Cowper’s exploration of his own life as an ordeal in which he has suffered the rejection of God as elaborated in ‘The Cast-away’, and the story of a mariner’s drowning at sea, told in A Voyage Round the World […] by George Anson (1748), which inspired it. It argues that there is another form of doubling that is at work in the poem, between Cowper’s verse and the tradition of voyage literature that serves as its catalyst and inter-text.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: William Cowper, Romantic poetry, eighteenth-century poetry, cast-away, George Anson
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > English
Depositing User: Zoe Kinsley
Date Deposited: 29 May 2018 10:08
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2018 09:11
URI: http://hira.hope.ac.uk/id/eprint/2503

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