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I may be suspected of speaking with the fond partiality, the unperceived exaggerations of friendship; but the fear of such censure shall not deter me from bearing my most deliberate testimony to the excellence of him, whose memory I revere, and saying, that as a man, he made, of all men whom I have ever had opportunities to observe so minutely, the nearest approaches to moral perfection. Indeed a much more experienced judge of mankind, and Cowper's associate in early life, Lord Thurlow, has expressed the same idea of his character; for being once requested to describe him, he replied with that solemn energy of dignified elocution, by which he is accustomed to give a very forcible effect to a few simple words Cowper is truly a good man.”
His daily habits of study and exercise, his whole domestic life is so minutely and agreeably delineated in the series of his Letters that it is unnecessary for his biographer to expatiate upon them. I have little occasion indeed to dwell on this topic, but let me apply to my young readers a few expressive words of Louis Racine, in addressing to his own son the life and letters of his illustrious father. " Quand
rs vous l' aurez connu dans sa famille, vous le gouterem “ mieux, lorsque vous viendrez à le connoitre sur le “ Parnasse : vous scaurez, pourquoi ses vers sont tou“ jours pleins de sentimens.”—I might add, in alluding to a few of his most tender and pathetic letters: “ C'est une simplicitè de mæurs și admirable dans un • hoinme tout sentiment, et tout cæur, qui est cause, “ qu'en copiant pour vous ses lettres, je verse à tous “ momens des larmes, parcequ'il me communique la “ tendresse, dont it etoit rempli.” —Cowper greatly resembled his eminent and exemplary brothers of Parnassus, Racine and Metastasio, in the simplicity and tenderness of his domestic character.
His voice conspired with his features to announce to all who saw and heard him, the extreme sensibility of his heart; and in reading aloud he furnished the chief delight of those social, enchanting winter evenings, which he has described so happily in the fourth book of the Task. He had been taught by his parents at home to recite English verse, in the early years of his childhood; and acquired considerable applause, as a child, in the recital of Gay's popular fable—The Hare snd many Friends. -A circumstance, that probably had great influence in raising his passion for poetry, and in giving him a pecu
liar fondness for the wild persecuted animal that he converted into a very grateful domestic companion.
Secluded from the world, as Cowper had long been, he yet retained in advanced life uncommon talents for conversation; and his conversation was distinguished by mild and benevolent pleasantry, by delicate humour peculiar to himself, or by a higher tone of serious good-sense, and those united charms of a cultivated mind, which he has himself very happily described in drawing the colloquial character of a venerable divine.
Grave, without dullness, learned without pride ;
Men who withdraw themselves from the ordinary forms of society, whether delicacy of health, or a passion for study, or both united, occasion their retirement from the world, are generally obliged to pay a heavy tax for the privacy they enjoy, in having their habits of life, and their temper, very darkly misrepresented by the ignorant malice of offended pride. The sweetness and purity of Cowper’s real character did not perfectly preserve him from such misrepresentations. Many persors have been misled so far as to suppose him a severe, and sour sectary, though gentleness and good-nature were among his pre-eminent qualities, and though he was deliberately attached to the established religion of his country. The reader may recollect a Letter to his young kinsman, who was then on the point of taking orders, in which Cowper sufficiently proves his attachment to the Church of England; and he speaks so decidedly on the subject, that certainly none of the sectaries have a right to reckon him in their number. He was, however, as his poetry has most elegantly testified, a most ardent friend to liberty, both civil and religious; and his love of freedom induced him to animadvert with lively indignation on every officious and oppressive exercise of epis
copal authority. Few ministers of the gospel have searched the Scripture more diligently than Cowper; and in his days of health, with a happier effect; for a spirit of evangelical kindness and purity pervaded the whole tenor of his language, and all the conduct of his life.
His infinite good-nature, as a literary man, is strikingly displayed in the indulgent condescension with which he gratified two successive clerks of Northampton, in writing for them their annual copies of mortuary verses. He thought, like the amiable Plutarch, that the most ordinary office may be dignified by a benevolent spirit.
In describing himself to his amiable friend Mr. Park, the engraver, he spoke too slightingly of his own learning, for he was in truth a scholar, as any man may fairly be called who is master of four languages, besides his own. Cowper read Greek and Latin, French and Italian ; but the extraordinary incidents of his life precluded him from indulging himself in a multiplicity of books, and his reading was conformable to the rule of Pliny- "Non multa, sell multum.
He had devoted some time to the pencil, and he mentions his reason for quitting it in the folow