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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XII. The Georgian Drama

§ 10. Hannah Cowley

Few comedies of this group attracted so much attention as Mrs. Hannah Cowley’s. In 1776, she had produced the rather sentimental The Runaway, in which Emily, a fugitive from a distasteful marriage, takes refuge in the Hargraves’ house and is unscrupulously lured away from this retreat because her charms bid fair to seduce young Hargrave from his promised marriage with a wealthy old maid. Early in the eighties, Mrs. Cowley changed to the comedy of humour and episode. In The Belle’s Stratagem (1780), Laetitia Hardy, to be sure of winning the affections of her betrothed, first disgusts him by pretending to be a hoyden and then, while disguised at a masquerade, conquers his heart by her real charms. In A Bold Stroke for a Husband (1783), Olivia is plagued by her father’s desire to see her married; so, she adopts the expedient of scandalising all suitors, till Don Julio appears and she captures him by a series of complicated deceptions. Both compositions are akin to the classical school in that they give a laughable and optimistic turn to the domestic difficulties of youth; but neither, in the true spirit of old comedy, creates humour out of the clash or eccentricity of character.