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MAY, 1801.



Enriched with a capital Portrait in Colours.


My native nook of earth! Thy clime is rude,
Replete with vapours, and disposes much
All hearts to sadness-and none more than mine!


N the course of our biographical labours, it has fallen to our lot to delineate a vast variety of characters. We have seen the statesman holding the reins of empire, the divine expatiating on subjects of the highest importance, and the literary man devising his schemes and executing his purposes for the instruction and entertainment of mankind. We are now, however, called to contemplate a very singular phenomenon. Mr. Cowper possessed excellent talents-was blessed with the most flattering connections-and yet was subject to the greatest evil that can afflict humanity. His history, indeed, imparts lessons of improve ment-it affords the strongest incentives for caution and humility.

WILLIAM COWPER, Esq. was born at Berkhamstead, in the county of Herts, about the year 1730 and his family had been long distinguished, both for

their talents and virtues, having attained to the g est respectability. Lord Chancellor Cowper was of his ancestors-by the remove of only three generations. His celebrity is well known to every intelligent lover of his country. The father of our poet held the living of Berkhamstead and appears to have been a man of amiable manners and strict integrity. The mother died at an early period-a circumstance which her son lamented in strains of affecting sensibility. Gray, the author of the Elegy in a Country ChurchYard, was similarly circumstanced-and displayed similar tokens of filial affection. These traits of feeling, on so tender an occasion, reflect great credit on their memory.


Mr. Cowper, at the usual age, was sent to Westminster school, where he made an astonishing progress in his classical studies. How long he continued at this famous seminary we cannot tell, but certain it is, that the bustle of a public-school was ill suited to the modesty of his disposition. Whether he was disgusted with the overbearing conduct of the elder scholars, or whether he thought such a situation injurious to moral improvement, it is not in our power to say→→ but he, from that period, conceived a dislike to almost every kind of publicity. In consequence of this prejudice, he never visited college-and in other ways supplied the defect of his education. His aversion to large schools, which he acquired during his stay at Westminster, is thus pointedly marked in the conclu sion of his Tirocinium, or Review of Schools,

Wouldst thou, possessor of a flock, employ
(Appris'd that he is such) a careless boy,
And feed him well, and give him handsome pay,
Merely to sleep, and let them run astray ?
Survey our schools and colleges, and all,
A sight not much unlike my simile.
From education, as the leading cause,
The public character its colour draws,
Thence do prevailing manners take their cast,
Extravagant or sober, loose or chaste;
And tho' I would not advertise them yet,
Nor write on each—This building to be let,

Unless the world were all prepar'd to embrace
A plan well worthy to supply their place,
Yet backwards as they are, and long have been,
To cultivate and keep the MORALS clean,
(Forgive the crime) I wish them, I confess,
Or better manag'd, or encourag'd less.

Mr. C. is by no means singular in his sentiments on this subject. Other writers on education, have expressed themselves equally strong respecting the tendency of large public seminaries-where the attention of the master cannot be great, and where exist the strongest temptations to the violation of morality.

When Mr. C. reached maturity-having previously entered himself at the Temple, by way of preparation -he was appointed clerk to the house of lords. With the particular duties of this office we are unacquainted. However, we are informed, that it requires at least an occasional appearance before the house-and this proved an insurmountable objection. Overpowered with this circumstance, he became extremely miserable, and, it is said, even attempted to put an end to his existence. So acute were his feelings-so violent his sensations on this occasion. From this time, having relinquished his situation, he sought and courted the shade of privacy. The melancholy, however, of his temper, was by no means removed. The same sombrous hue continued to darken his prospects of futurity.

About this period he became more particularly intimate with the late Mr. Madan, of the Lock Hospital, from whom he imbibed the principles of Methodism, and which were intended to soothe the perturbed state of his mind. For a time he was better-and gave way to emotions of joy. This cheerful interval was of short continuance-he relapsed into his usual state of melancholy-which remained, in a less or greater degree, through life. Indeed, his was a most pitiable case-it is impossible that we can read the particulars of his indisposition, without the sincerest commiseration. He cherished the idea that he was forsaken by his Creator-though he was admired for

the purity of his morals, and the steadiness of his integrity. In one of his poems, speaking of his mother and father having arrived at the mansions of glory, he pours forth the following lines :-

But me, scarce hoping to attain that rest,
Always from port withheld, always distrest;
Me, howling winds drive devious, tempest toss'd,
Sails ript, seams open'ing wide, and compass lost,
And day by day some current's thwarting force,
Sets me more distant from a prosperous course.
But oh! the thought that thou art safe, and he,
That thought is joy-arrive what may to me!

In another part of his poems, he draws an affecting picture of himself in these words-too remarkable not to be introduced to the notice of our readers:

Look, where he comes-in this embower'd alcove,
Stand close conceal'd, and see a statue move,
Lips busy and eyes fix'd, foot falling slow,
Arms hanging idly down, hands clasp❜d below,
Interpret to the marking eye distress,
Such as its symptoms can alone express!
That tongue is silent now; that silent tongue
Could argue once, could jest, or join the song,
Could give advice, could censure, or commend,
Or charm the sorrows of a drooping friend.
Renounc'd alike its office and its sport,
Its brisker and its graver strains fall short;
Both fail beneath a fever's secret sway,
And like a summer's brook, are past away.
This is a sight for pity to peruse,
Till she resemble faintly what she views,
Till sympathy contract a kindred pain,
Pierc'd with the woes that she laments in vain!

The reader, though he cannot fail of commiserating the condition of our poet, yet will be surprised to find that, amidst all this distress, he applied to his literary studies with uncommon avidity. In his lucid intervals he composed his Task, and other poems, with which the public has been so greatly and justly delighted. We forbear to enter into the merits of this charming

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