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already possessed in them. With one slight exception I believe I secured that desirable point. My next employment was to make such a copious but careful selection from the unpublished Poetry of Cowper, which I happily possessed, and which I had only imparted to a few friends, as while it gratified his admirers, might in no instance detract from his poetical reputation. I should tremble for the hazard to which my partiality to the compositions of
beloved Relation exposed me in discharging this part of my office, if I did not hope to find in the reader a fondness of the same kind; and if I were not assured that a careless or slovenly habit, in the production of his verses, has never been imputed to the Author of the Task.
The materials of the Volume being thus provided, the ascertaining their dates was my remaining concern. In a few instances, I found them affixed to the Poems by their author; a few more I collected from intimations in his Letters: but in several the difficulty of discovering them pressed upon myself. This was especially the case with the very interesting additional Poem addressed by Cowper to an unknown Lady on reading “ the Prayer for Indifference.” Of the existence of these verses I had not even heard, till I was called on to superintend the Volume, in which they make their first public appearance. I am inclined to believe that during the ten years of my
intercourse with the poet, they had never occurred to his recollection. He appears to have imparted them only to his highly valued and affectionate relative, the Reverend Martin Madan, brother of the late Bishop of Peterborough, from whose Common-place Book they were transcribed by his daughter, and kindly communicated to me. There being nothing in Mr. Madan's copy of these verses, from which their date could be inferred, it was only by a minute comparison of the poem itself with the various local and mental circum. stances, which his Life exhibits, that I was enabled to discover the year of their production. The labour attending this and other instances of research, in which I have been obliged to engage for the purpose of ascertaining the dates of several minor poems, will be best understood by those who are practically acquainted with similar investigations. After all, there are some of which no diligence of mine could develope the exact time; but with the greater number I trust their proper order of succession has been carefully secured to them.
From this brief account of the Volume, before the reader, I pass on to the Memoir of its Author. · Had I not already embarked in a preparation of the Poems, when I was requested to prefix a sketch of the poet's life, an unaffected distrust of my ability to achieve it would have precluded me
from making such an attempt; but a peculiar interest in these relics of Cowper having been wrought into my feelings, while I was arranging them for the Press, I was unwilling to shrink from a proposed task, by which I might hope to contribute, in some degree, to the expanding renown of my revered relation. I therefore ventured to advance on the only path in the wide field of Biography, in which my humble steps could accompany Cowper, namely that, in which I could simply
Into this path it might seem presumptuous in me to invite those whom my kind and constant friend Mr. Hayley has made intimately acquainted with Cowper by his extensive and just Biography; but to such readers as happen not to have perused his more copious Work, I may venture to recommend the following “ Map of Cowper's Life," as possessing one of its prime characteristics, namely Fidelity of Delineation.
LIFE OF COWPER.
WILLIAM Cowper, the subject of the following brief Memoir, was born at Great Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, on the fifteenth of November, 1731. His father, the Rev. John Cowper, D. D. Rector of that place, and one of the chaplains of King George the Second, married Anne, daughter of Roger Donne, Esq. of Ludham-hall, in the county of Norfolk. She died in childbed on the thirteenth of November, 1737; and he, of a paralytic seizure on the tenth of July, 1756. Of five sons and two daughters, the issue of this marriage, William and John only survived their parents : the rest died in their infancy.
Such was his origin;—but it must be added, tliat the highest blood of the realm flowed in the veins of the modest and unassuming Cowper. It is perhaps already known that his grandfather, Spencer Cowper, was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and next brother to William, first Earl Cowper, and Lord High Chancellor of Eng
land: but his mother was descended through the families of Hippesley of Throughley, in Sussex, and Pellet, of Bolney in the same county, from the several noble houses of West, Knollys, Carey, Bullen, Howard, and Mowbray, and so hy four different lines from Henry the Third, King of England. Distinctions of this nature can shed no additional lustre on the memory of Cowper; but genius, however exalted, disdains not, while it boasts not, the splendour of ancestry; and royalty įtself may be flattered, and perhaps benefitted by discovering its kindred to such piety, such purity, such talents as his.
The simplicity of the times that witnessed the childhood of Cowper, assigned him his first instruction at a day-school in his native village. The reader may recollect an allusion to this circumstance in his beautiful Monody on the receipt of his mother's Picture,
-“ the gard'ner Robin, day by day,
os Iv scarlet mantle warm and velvet capt." On the death of the beloved parent, who is so tenderly commemorated in that exquisite poem, and who just lived to see him complete his sixth year, he was placed under the care of Dr. Pitman of Market-street, a few miles distant from the paternal roof. At this respectable academy he