Biography of Eliza Cook
Eliza Cook was an English author, Chartist poet and writer born in London Road, Southwark
She was the daughter of a local tradesman. She attended the local Sunday Schools and was encouraged by the son of the music master to produce her first volume of poetry. From this she took confidence and 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.
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.
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 great favourite with the working-class public. Her works became a staple of anthologies throughout the century. She died in Wimbledon.
Eliza Cook's Works:
The Fair Rose of Killarney - A Ballad - By Miss Eliza Cook - Music by Stephen Glover (New-York Mirror Saturday 29 June 1839 pp 32
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
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- The Old Arm-chair
- Song of the Worm
- The Sea-Child
- Don't Tell the World that You're Waiting...
- The Quiet Eye
- Buttercups and Daisies
- Winter the Season For the Exercise of Ch...
- Grey-eyed mabel
- I Leave Thee for Awhile
- Be Kind When You Can
- Black Bess
- Teddy O'Neale
- The Flag of the Free
- Song of the Sailor Boy
The Old Arm-chair
I LOVE it, I love it ; and who shall dare
To chide me for loving that old Arm-chair ?
I've treasured it long as a sainted prize ;
I've bedewed it with tears, and embalmed it with sighs.
' Tis bound by a thousand bands to my heart ;
Not a tie will break, not a link will start.
Would ye learn the spell ? -- a mother sat there ;
And a sacred thing is that old Arm-chair.