The Way We Were: The English language as a medium for literary style and elegance, innit?

William Cowper
William Cowper
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A word guaranteed to glaze the eyes of many a reader. Visions of stuffy rooms, crammed with things - and for the most part you’re not sure what you’re looking at.

But the right museum for the right person can be fascinating, and the Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney is a must for anyone who appreciates the English language as a medium for literary style and elegance.

William Cowper lived for many years at Orchard Side, in a house which now accommodates the museum. A poet and hymnodist plagued with depression, he often watched the world go by from his window.

And it was there that he first saw a noble lady who was to profoundly influence his life.

Lady Ann Austen was a widow shopping in Market Place, but when she was invited into Orchard Side she quickly became an admirer of Cowper’s literary work.

Today of course there are far more people interested in watching programmes like Eastenders rather than, say, a documentary about the joys of Georgian architecture - so perhaps the rest of this tale should be told in the style of Albert Square:

Looking out of his window, William copped an eyeful of some posh bird.

“That’s a bit of alright, methinks,” he said to himself, and after inviting her in her found she was quite the classy bird.

She was proper impressed by his writings too, but their relationship remained platonic and the only seeds planted were literary.

“Oi Bill,” she would shout, “Knock us out another one of yer scribbles, there’s a love.”

And William would reply:”Say no more duchess, what tickles yer fancy bits.”

“You are a smooth-tongued wordy-puss. ’Ere, write on this sofa,” she would answer.

After this command, William Cowper began a piece about his sofa, which formed the first of six books called ‘The Task’, one of his most acclaimed works.

So go online now and Google some of Cowper’s works, to discover that the English language is more than text abbreviations, Estuary speak and the glottal stop.

So hopefully that’s all sorted then, innit.