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WILLIAM COWPER was born at Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, November 26, 1731. His father was rector of that parish, and had been chaplain to George II. The poet's mother died in childbirth when he was six years old. The event made a deep impression upon him, which ultimately found expression in his wellknown lines on receipt of her picture. He was a sensitive and delicate child, disposed to melancholy, and had the misfortune to be sent to a school where he was somewhat harshly treated. This naturally aggravated his fits of despondency, and his unpleasant remembrance of those days appears in his poem "Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools." He finished his studies at Westminster School, and then was articled to an attorney in London. In 1752 he went to reside in the Middle Temple, and two years later was called to the bar; but he never practised.
According to his own story, Cowper was not a very devoted student of the law. He says he spent the greater part of his time with a relative, where he and the future chancellor (Lord Thurlow) amused themselves in "giggling and making giggle." Later, he read the classics attentively, began to write poetry, and with his brother translated a portion of Voltaire's "Henriade."
per, went to reside at Olney, in Buckinghamshire.
In December, 1763, he went to reside with Dr. Colton, at St. Albans, being considerably deranged, if not absolutely insane. It is said that his mind was agitated chiefly by religious questions, and that for seven months he was in momentary terror of being plunged into eternal misery. But this has been disputed by some of his biographers, who say that his religious belief and meditation were his sole consolation. In 1765 he removed to Huntingdon, where he lived in complete retirement for four months. Then he made the acquaintance of Mr. Unwin, son of the clergyman of the parish, and ere long was taken into the house of the Unwins as a boarder. The acquaintance was most congenial, and became a life-long friendship. The Mary of his poems is Mrs. Unwin. After the death of the elder Mr. Unwin, in 1767, the widow and her daughter, accompanied by Cow
While he was on a visit to Rev. Mr. Newton in 1773, he suffered a return of his malady, from which he recovered but slowly. When convalescent, he began writing hymns with Mr. Newton, and amused himself with domesticating hares and making bird-cages.
In December, 1780, he began work on a volume of poems, and finished it by the next March. It contained "Truth," "Table-Talk," "The Progress of Error," and "Expostulation," and was published in 1782.
In 1781 Cowper became acquainted with Lady Austen, who was visiting at Olney. She told him the story of "John Gilpin," which he versified in a single night, urged him to translate Homer, and suggested "The Task."
"John Gilpin " was published anonymously, and for three years failed to attract attention. Suddenly it became popular, and Henderson the actor read it to large audiences.
Lady Austen is described as a most accomplished, agreeable, and somewhat fascinating woman, and Cowper appreciated the charm of her conversation. But Mrs. Unwin looked upon the fair intruder in a different light altogether, and ere long gave the poet his choice of renouncing either Lady Austen's friendship or her own. He decided to retain the older attach
His father died in 1756, leaving him a small property, and soon afterward he was appointed a commissioner of bankrupts, but he never dis-ment, and wrote Lady Austen a formal letter charged the duties of the office. His friends of farewell. It was a matter of deep regret also procured him an appointment as reading with him, though there is little reason to supclerk, and clerk of private committees, in the pose that any romantic affection existed beHouse of Lords. But when he learned that he tween them. must undergo an examination before the House, he became so nervous that he was unable to appear, and resigned the office. At this time he became so despondent as to attempt suicide, but lacked the courage to carry out any such intention.
On the publication of "The Task," in 1784, Lady Hesketh, a cousin of Cowper's, whom he had not seen for thirty years, wrote him a congratulatory letter; and two years later she visited him at Olney, and then settled at Weston, near by. She gave Cowper and the Unwins a more commodious house, and lent him her carriage for longer excursions about the country than he had been accustomed to. As soon as "The Task" was sent to press, he wrote "Tirocinium," and began his translation of Homer, which was completed and published in 1791. The second edition of this translation was so thoroughly revised as to be almost a new one.
After this, Cowper undertook to edit Milton's works; but his faculties were rapidly giving way, and he was entirely unfitted for such work. In 1795 he and Mrs. Unwin removed to North Tuddenham, Norfolk, under the care of a relative, where Mrs. Unwin died the next year. His last original poem was "The Castaway," written in 1799, and he died at East Dereham on the 25th of April, 1800. Southey edited his complete works, with a biography, in fifteen volumes, 1838.
Her unctuous olives, and her purple vines.
It marches o'er the prostrate works of man,
Revolving seasons, fruitless as they pass,
O charming Paradise of short-liv'd sweets!
Again the mountain feels th' imprison'd foe.
Ye monarchs, whoin the lure of honor draws,
The mischiefs your ambitious pride inspires!
Fast by the stream, that bounds your just domain And tells you where ye have a right to reign, A nation d.vells, not envious of your throne, Studious of peace, their neighbors', and their own Ill-fated race! how deeply must they rue Their only crime, vicinity to you!
The trumpet sounds, your legions swarm abroad,
Yet man, laborious man, by slow degrees,
Increasing commerce and reviving art Renew the quarrel on the conqu'ror's part; And the sad lesson must be learn'd once more, That wealth within is ruin at the door.
What are ye, monarchs, laurel'd heroes, say,
O place me in some Heav'n-protected isle,
THE GIFT OF MY COUSIN ANN BODHAM.
O THAT those lips had language! Life has pass'd
But gladly, as the precept were her own.
Thy constant flow of love, that knew no fall,
ON THE RECEIPT OF MY MOTHER'S PICTURE That humor interpos'd too often makes;
OUT OF NORFOLK,
My mother! when I learn'd that thou wast dead,
I saw the hearse, that bore thee slow away,
Delighted with my bauble coach, and wrapp'd
The fragrant waters on my cheeks bestow'd
By thy own hand, till fresh they shone and glow'd All this, and more endearing still than all,
All this still legible in mem'ry's page,
Could Time, his flight revers'd, restore the hours When, playing with thy vesture's tissued flow'rs, The violet, the pink, and jessamine,
I prick'd them into paper with a pin,
Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast
So thou, with sails how swift! hast reach'd the shore
Where tempests never beat, nor billows roar,"*
And thy lov'd consort on the dang'rous tide