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ART.I.--The Life, and posthumous Writings, of William Cowa
per, Esq. With an introductory Letter to the Right Honourable Earl Coveper. By ll'illiam Hayley, Esq. 2 Vols. 410. Large Paper 31. 135. 6d. Small Paper 21. 12s. 6d. Boards. Johnson. 1803.
DISTINGUISHED for a peculiar power to raise in the mind images of benevolence, patriotism, and piety, rather than for correct taste, unsullied diction, or enchanting numbers, the poems of Cowper have obtained a popularity honourable to the feelings of our countrymen.
• His virtuqş form:d the inagie of his song.' These virtues reundis widli'us no more :--to record their memory is the melancholy lov of Mr.Hayley, whose copious and interesting narrative will often delight and often agitate the sensibility of his readers..., :::
An introductory letter; adiressed to earl Cowper, explains the motives of this undertaking, and invites the noble earl to estimate a poem of his relative-The Task-as a jewel of preeminent lustre in the coronet of his own nobility. Poetical distinctions, worthily obtained, to the eye of Mr. Hayley, eclipse all cominon honours.'
With an amiable impatience-after he has enlarged on the poet's lively sweetness and sanctity of spirit, his tenderness and purity of heart—the biographer proceeds, in language not entirely unaffected, to characterise his own labours.
I have endeavoured to execute what I regard as a mournful duty, as if I were under the immediate and visible direction of the most pure, the most truly modest, and the most gracefully virtuous mind, that I had ever the happiness of knowing in the form of a manly friend.' Vol.i. p. vii.
In these applauses we checrfully unite ; but we cannot raise Cowper to the level of Spenser, without passing the boundary of just commendation *.
* The Poems of Cowper were reviewed in vols. 53 and 60; and the translation of Homer in the 4th vol. New Arr. · Crit. Rev, Vol. 33. May, 1803.
The events of the poet's life-his talents, his virtues, his singularities, and his misfortunes, related by a biographer of varied literarv attainments have a powerful claim on our attention, and induce us to epitomise an extended narration.
Mr. Havley divides the life of Cowper into three parts, of which the first ends with his fiftieth year, the period of his appearing before the public as an author: the second part concludes wit! thc publication of his Homer; and his death terminates the third.
Lads Ilesketh, related and attached to Cowper in infancy, and during his last illness, prerailed on Mr. Hayley to assume an office which she was herself well qualified to execute, and entrusted to him many private letters, poems, and posthumous papers, the prominent objects of this work.
The ancestors of Cowper were anciently of respectable rank among the merchants and gentry of Sussex. In the beginning of the last century, two brothers of this family, emiBent in the laur, obtained seats in the house of peers. WilHiam became, in 1707, lord-chancellor ; and Spencer Cowper, the immediate ancestor of the poet, a judge in the court of common pleas....Dr. Joelin. Couporn the judge's second son, married An dughter of Réger:Bonne, esq. of Ludham-hall in Norfolk;'aiial of tliisniatriaye two sons, Wilfiam the poet, and Jotis: wormthe offspring. Dr. Cowper was chapl.in to Georyetörre Sexvinil, and resided at the rectory of Great Berkhemistoaga, isi :Histfordshire, the scene of the poet's infancy;' Beaulile di dia.pithetic rerses on the portrait of his mother, who died in 1737, in chill-bed, at the age of thirty-four.
The early loss of a mother, so necessary to a break and sensitive child, was perhaps the source of that gloom which obscured his subsequent lite. Ilis constitution was naturally delicate; and diffidence and despondency, as he advanced in life, darkened into a periodical mental disorder. Among other corporeal ills, he was subject to inflammation of the eves.
In the year of his mother's death he was sent to school, under the care of Dr. Pitman, of Market-street, Hertfordshire, and afterwarıls to Westminster; where, esteemed as a scholar, and acquainted with persons since conspicuous in the world, his nioments were embittered by the persecution and puerile tyranny of his companions. To this circuinstance may be attributable his aversion to public schools,
In 1749 he left Westminster, and, at the age of eighteen, was articled to Mr. Chapinan, an attornerea situation pro. pitious neither to sensibility nor to literature.
He was doomed, at this time, to disappointinent in a