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In presenting to the reader a brief memoir of this gifted individual, we will endeavour, as much as possible, to refrain from indulging in any highly-coloured panegyrics upon his genius as a poet, or his piety as a Christian; yet we must be allowed to observe, that, in our opinion, lish poets, and as to his piety as a Christian, we feel confident that no one will have the presumption to call that in question.
Cowper was the descendant of an ancient and honorable family, which resided in Sussex, about the middle of the seventeenth century, when William Cowper was created a baronet, which title descended to his grandson, who left Sir William Cowper, who became Lord Chancellor of England, in the reign of Queen Anne, by whom he was raised to the peerage, being in the subsequent reign created Earl Cowper; and Spenser, who was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1727. Spenser Cowper had three sons, -William, John, and Ashley ; there was also a daughter called Judith, (who was married to Col. Madan), the author of “The Progress of Poetry,” and of some poetical compositions, one of which was a poem “ To Mr. Pope,” and another “To the Memory of Mr. Hughes,” author of "The Siege of Damascus, &c. William became Clerk to the House of Lords. Ashley, who was a barrister, and one of the clerks of Parliament, left two daughters, one of whom was married to Sir Thos. Hesketh. John, who was brought up for the church, and became chaplain in ordinary to the king, married Miss Anne Donne, daughter of Roger Donne, Esq., of Ludham Hall, Norfolk, who is said to have been of the family of the celebrated Dr. Donne,) by whom he had William (the poet,) and John, who survived their parents, and others, who died in their childhood. John entered into orders, and had a cheering prospect of advancement in the church, but his death took place in March 1770, and thus put an end to his ministerial labours, and all his hopes of preferment. A just and durable tribute was paid to the memory of John by his brother William in “ The Task,' book ii; but the prose efforts of William's pen pourtrayed in characters which cannot be misinterpreted, the worth of his beloved brother.
William Cowper, the poet, was born on the 15th of November, 1731, (old style), at Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, of which place his father, the Rev. Dr. John Cowper, was then rector. When our poet was in his sixth year, his mother died in childbed. The loss of his mother is supposed by many to have had a serious effect upon his mind, and produced that fatal aberration with which he was subsequently so painfully afflicted. The deep fervour of his affection for her memory was shown some years afterwards in the poem which he wrote “On the receipt of my Mother's picture out of Norfolk," wherein he alludes to his infantine days with heartsearching pleasure. In 1737-8 our poet was sent to a school of great celebrity in the country, but to the discipline of which, on account of his naturally delicate constitution, he was ill adapted. The severe treatment which he met with at this school was supposed by many to be the cause in a great measure of that painful malady with which he was afterwards afficted. His own account of what he suffered at this school is in these words: “I was singied out from all the other boys by a lad about fifteen years of age, as a proper object on whom he might let loose the cruelty of his temper, who, by his savage treatment tvwards me, impressed such a dread of his figure upon my mind, that I well remember being afraid to lift my eyes upon him higher than his knees, and that I knew him better by his shoe-buckles than by any other part of his dress." When he removed from this school, on account of his being visited with a painful complaint in his eyes, he was placed under the care of an eminent oculist in London; and receiving great benefit from his treatment, Cowper was, in the ninth year of his age, placed at West