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A Tale, founded on a Fact, wbich happened in January,
LIFE OF WILLIAM COWPER.
The Life of the virtuous and the unhappy WILLIAM Cowper bas employed the pen of more than one of bis immediate friends; and the narrative has been enlarged by the minuteness of its details beyond the just claims and the proper interest of its subject. The days of Cowper were those of a melancholy recluse, suffering generally under the infliction of a disordered imagination; and the display of the smaller incidents of these days cannot surely be of any moment to the public either as instruction or entertainment. It is our purpose, therefore, to satisfy the reasonable curiosity of our readers with respect to the author of "The Task,' without making any exbausting demand upon their patience or their time.
The family of William Cowper was of distinguished eminence, for by his father (who was the son of Spencer Cowper, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and brother to the first Earl Cowper, the Chancellor of England) he was connected with the peerage of Britain, and from his mother (a descendant of the
celebrated Doctor Donne’s) he derived a still prouder pedigree, and the blood which had once flowed in the veins of our third Henry, and consequently in those of the first haughty Norman, who established himself on the throne of our old Saxon monarchs. Our poet was the eldest son of the Reverend Doctor John Cowper, and was born at Great Birkbampstead in Hertfordsbire, of which place his father was the rector, on the 15th of November, 1731. When he had just entered on his seventh year, he was deprived by death of his mother; and in his ninth he was placed by his father in the school of Westminster. To the roughness of a public school he was ill adapted by the delicate constitution of his mind; and it has been suggested that the first causes of that lamentable malady, which afflicted him through the several periods of bis maturer life, might be traced to his treatment by his hardier and less feeling schoolfellows in this distinguished seminary of learning. At the age of eighteen he was articled to an attorney; and, three years afterwards, he was entered at the Inner Temple. But to the study of the law he was strongly opposed by inclination; and for the active prosecution of it at the bar he was disqualified by the feebleness of his nerves. He indulged, therefore, in the fashionable dissipation of the town; and became the associate of his old schoolfellows, Colman, Bonnel Thornton, and Lloyd, in their pleasures and in some of their literary undertakings. At this season of his life also, it is said that he contemplated marriage: but that the lady, who was the object of his love, after a long encouragement of his addresses, finally disappointed them.
By the death of his father (in 1756) he came into the possession of very little, if of any fortune; and, as he could not hope for an income from the bar, it was necessary that bis friends' interest should be