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the lapse of a few centuries, they will shine only like very distant constellations, merely visible in the vast expanse of history! But, at that time, the poet of whom I speak, will continue to sparkle in the eyes of all men, like the radiant star of the evening, perpetually hailed by the voice of gratitude, affection, and delight. There is a principle of unperishable vitality (if I may use such an expression) in the compositions of Cowper, which must ensure to them in future ages, what we have seen them so happily acquire and maintain in the present-universal admiration and love! His poetry is to the heart and the fancy, what the moral essays of Bacon are to the understanding, a nevera cloying feast !
“ As if increase of appetite had grown
Like them it comes “ home to the business and bosom of every man;" by possessing the rare and double talent to familiarize and endear the most awful subjects, and to dignify the most familiar, the poet naturally becomes a favourite with readers of every description. His works must interest every nation under heaven, where his sentiments are understood, and where the feelings of humanity prevail. Yet their author is eminently an Englishman, in the noblest sense of that hoblest sense of that honourable appellation. He loved the constitution; he revered the religion of his country; he was tenderly, and generously alive to her real interest and honour; and perhaps of her many admirable poets, not one has touched her foibles, and celebrated her perfections, with a spirit so truly filial.But I perceive that I am in danger of going far beyond my design in this introductory letter, for it was my intention not to enter into the merits of his character here, but to inform you in what manner I wish to make that character display itself to my readers, as far as possible, in his own most interesting language.-Perhaps no man ever possessed the powers of description in a higher degree, both in verse and prose. By weaving into the texture of these Memoirs, an extensive selection of his private letters, and several of his posthumous poems, I trust that a faithful representation of hiin has been formed, where the most striking features will appear the work of his own inimitable hand. The result of the whole production will, I am confident, establish one most satisfactory truth, interesting to society in general, and to your Lordship in particular: the truth I mean is expressed in the final verse of an epitaph, which the hand of friendship inscribed to your excellent relation :
May the affectionate zeal with which I have endeavoured to render all the justice in my power to his variety of merit, atone for whatever deficiencies may be found in this imperfect attempt, and lead both your Lordship and our Country to honour with some degree of approbation,
Your very faithful servant,
LIFE OF COWPER.
PART THE FIRST.
INGENIUM PROBITAS, ARTEMQUE MODESTIA
THE family of CowPER appears to have held, for several centuries, a respectable rank among the merchants and gentry of England. We learn from the life of the first Earl Cowper, in the Biographia Britannica, that his ancestors were inhabitants of Sussex, in the reign of Edward the Fourth. The name is found repeatedly among the Sheriffs of London ; and John Cowper, who resided as a country gentleman in Kent, was created a Baronet by King Charles the First, in 1641. But the family rose to higher distinction in the beginning of the last century, by the remarkable circumstance of producing two brothers, who both obtained a seat in the house of peers by eminence in the profession of the law. William, the eldest, became Lord High Chancellor in 1707. Spencer Cowper, the youngest, was appointed Chief Justice of Chester in 1717, and afterwards a judge in the court of Common Pleas, being permitted, by the particular favour of the King, to
hold those two offices to the end of his life. He died in Lincoln's Inn, on the 10th of December, 1728, and has the higher claim to our notice as the immediate ancestor of the Poet. By Theodora, his second wife, the widow of George Stepney, Esq. Judge Cowper left several children; among them a daughter Judith, who, at the age of eighteen, discovered a striking talent for poetry, in the praise of her cotemporary poets Pope and Hughes. This lady, the wife of colonel Madan, transmitted her own poetical and devout spirit to her daughter Frances Maria, who was married to her cousin, Major Cowper, and whose amiable character will una fold itself in the course of this work, as the friend and correspondent of her more eminent relation, the second grandchild of the judge, destined to honour the name of Cowper, by displaying, with peculiar purity and fervour, the double enthusiasm of poetry and devotion. Thefather of the great author to whom I allude, was John Cowper, the judge's second son, who took his degrees in divinity, was chaplain to King George the Second, and resided at his Rectory of Great Berkhamstead, in Hertfordshire, the scene of the Poet's infancy, which he has thus commemorated in a singular beautiful and pathetic composition on the portrait of his mother.
Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more,