Eliza Cook

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For the American physician, see Eliza Cook (physician).
Eliza Cook
Eliza Cook by William Etty.jpg
Portrait by William Etty, c.1845
Born (1818-12-24)24 December 1818
London Road, Southwark, England
Died 23 September 1889(1889-09-23) (aged 70)
Wimbledon, England
Nationality English
Period 1830s–1880s

Eliza Cook (24 December 1818 – 23 September 1889) was an English author, Chartist poet and writer born in London Road, Southwark.


Eliza Cook was the youngest of the eleven children of a brasier living in London Road, Southwark. When she was about nine years old her father retired from business, and the family went to live at a small farm in St. Leonard's Forest, near Horsham. Her mother encouraged Eliza's fondness for imaginative literature, but the child was almost entirely self-educated. She began to write verses before she was fifteen ; indeed, some of her most popular poems, such as 'I'm afloat' and the 'Star of Glengarry,' were composed in her girlhood. [1]

She was a regular columnist for the Weekly Dispatch,[2] a newspaper owned at the time by James Harmer, a London Alderman. She lived for a time at James Harmer's residence, Ingress Abbey, in Greenhithe, Kent,[3] and wrote certain of her works there.[4] She was a close friend of American actress Charlotte Cushman.[5][6]

Her work[edit]

Her first volume, 'Lays of a Wild Harp,' appeared as early as 1835, when she was but seventeen. Encouraged by its favourable reception, she began to send verses without revealing her name to the 'Weekly Dispatch,' the 'Metropolitan Magazine,' and the 'New Monthly Magazine;' and Jerdan sang her praises in the 'Literary Gazette.' After a time she confined herself to the 'Weekly Dispatch,' where her first contribution had appeared under the signature 'C.' on 27 Nov 1836.[1] In 1837 began to offer verse to the radical Weekly Dispatch, then edited by William Johnson Fox. She was a staple of its pages for the next ten years. She also offered material to The Literary Gazette, Metropolitan Magazine and New Monthly. [1]

Her work for the Dispatch and New Monthly was later pirated by George Julian Harney, the Chartist, for the Northern Star. Familiar with the London Chartist movement, in its various sects, she followed many of the older radicals in disagreeing with the O'Brienites and O'Connorites in their disregard for repeal of the Corn Laws. She also preferred the older Radicals' path of Friendly Societies and self-education.

In 1835, while only seventeen years of age she published her first volume titled Lays of a Wild Harp. In 1838, she published Melaia and other Poems, and from 1849 to 1854 wrote, edited, and published Eliza Cook's Journal, a weekly periodical she described as one of "utility and amusement." Cook also published Jottings from my Journal (1860), and New Echoes (1864); and in 1863 she was given a Civil List pension income of £100 a year.[7]

Her poem The Old Armchair (1838) made hers a household name for a generation, both in England and in America. Cook was a proponent of political and sexual freedom for women, and believed in the ideology of self-improvement through education, something she called "levelling up." This made her a great favourite with the working-class public. Her works became a staple of anthologies throughout the century. She died in Wimbledon.[7]


  • The Fair Rose of Killarney – A Ballad – By Miss Eliza Cook – Music by Stephen Glover (New-York Mirror Saturday 29 June 1839 pp 32 [1]
  • Her article "People Who Do Not Like Poetry" (May 1849) can be found in the book A Serious Occupation: Literary Criticism by Victorian Women Writers ISBN 1-55111-350-3.
  • Poems (1859, poems)


  1. ^ a b c Norgate 1901.
  2. ^ http://www.harmer.org/Alderman_James_Harmer.pdf harmer.org
  3. ^ http://www.garyvaughanpostcards.co.uk/ingress_abbey_20.html?frm_data1=32&frm_data1_type=large The Gary Vaughan Collection
  4. ^ http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-172722-ingress-abbey-swanscombe-and-greenhithe- British Listed Buildings
  5. ^ http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=NZH18801015.2.31 Recollections of Eliza Cook
  6. ^ William Flesch (2010). The Facts on File Companion to British Poetry: 19th Century(Companion to Literature Series). Infobase Publishing. ISBN 0816058962. 
  7. ^ a b Chisholm 1911.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cook, Eliza". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  •  Norgate, Gerald le Grys (1901). "Cook, Eliza". Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 53–54.  Endnotes:
    • Notable Women of our own Times, pp. 138–150, with portrait ;
    • Miles's Poets of the Century ; Times, 26 Sep 1889;
    • Daily News, 26 and 27 Sep ;
    • Illustr. London News, 5 Oct, with portrait ;
    • Academy and Athenæum, 28 Sep ;
    • Brit. Mus. Cat. ;
    • Allibone's Dict. Engl. Lit. vol. i. and Suppl.

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