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OF THE

POETS

OF

GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND;

WITH

PREFACES

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL.

VOLUME THE FIRST.

CONTAINING THE

LIVES.

BY DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON:

LONDON:

PRINTED FOR ANDREW MILLER, STRAND.

1800.

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HE Life of Cowley, notwithstanding the penury of English biography,

has been written by Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination and elegance of language has deservedlyset him high in the ranks of literature; but his zeal of friendship, or ambition of eloquence, has produced a funeral orariou rather tiran a history: he has given the character, not the life of Cowley; for he writes with so little detail, that scarcely any thing is distinctly known, but all is shewn confused and enlarged through the mist of panegyrick.

ABRAHAM COWLEY was born in the year one thousand six hundred and eighteen. His father was a grocer, whose condition Dr. Sprat conceals under the general appellation of a citizen), and, what woald probably not have been less carefully suppressed, the omission of his name in the register of St. Dunstan's parisla, gives reason to suspect that his father was a sectary. Whoever he was, he died before the birth of his son, and consequently left him to the care of his mothet; whom Wood represents as struggling carn stl, to procure hiin a literary education, and who, as she lived to the age of eighty, bad her solicitóde rewarded ty secing her son eminent, and, I hope, by seeing him fortunate, and partaking his prosperity. We kaow at least, from Sprat's account, tisat he always acknowledged her care, and jisily paid the dues of filial gratitude.

In the window of his mother's apartment lay Spenser's Fairy Queen; in mlich he'very early took delight to read, til, by feeling the charms of verse, he, became, as he relates, irrecoverably a poet Such are the accidents, wilich, sometites remembered, and perhaps sometimes forgotten, produce that particular designation of mind, and propenfity for some certain science or employment, which is commonly called Genius. The true Genius is a mind of larre general powers, accidentally determined to sumie particular direction. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the great Pairiter of the present age, liad the first fondness for his ait excited by the perosal of Richardson's ticutise. VOL. I. B

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