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WILLIAM COWPER, ESQ.
If there is one individual whose memoir it is less necessary to prefix to an edition of his works than another, it is the poet, Cowper; nor is it merely on the ground of the particulars of his life being so well known, but because his feelings, character, and situation, are so powerfully and correctly depicted in his poems, that to read them is to make you master of his whole history, character and conduct. It is true the dates of his birth and death, or the fact that he died a bachelor, may not be recorded in his works; but his character is there portrayed in colours the most vivid and the most correct.
William Cowper, the religious poet, as he has been correctly desig
mated, was the son of the Rev. John Cowper, chaplain to his majesty, George II., and rector of Berkhamstead, in Hertfordshire, where the poet was born, on the 26th of November, 1731. Mr. Cowper's father was the son of the Judge, and nephew of the Lord Chancellor of that name. His mother, in whose veins the blood of Henry III. flowed, was the daughter of Roger Donne, Esq., of Ludlam Hall, in the county of Norfolk; and a woman of the most amiable disposition, and of great mental endowments.
It was under this parent that Cowper first imbibed the rudiments of
education, and with them those moral feelings and principles which distinguished him through life. On her death, when in his sixth year, he was consigned to a village school, and afterwards he was sent to that of Westminster, where, in despite of a constitution remarkably delicate, he made great progress.