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THE LIFE AND WRITINGS
WILLIAM COWPER, ESQ.
It has frequently been observed, that the life of a man of genius is marked by few incidents. The mind which grows up amidst the privacies of study, and the character, which is framed by solitary meditation, belong in a great degree, to a world of their own, from which the passions and events of ordinary life are equally excluded. There is, therefore, nothing very remarkable in the life of the poet to whom these pages are devoted. But in the history of those who have done honor to their country, and added richness to their native language, no circumstance is triling, and no incident unworthy of record; especially as there is a sort of sanctity attached to these men, which diffuses itself to the minutest transaction in which they have been concerned.
Mr. Cowper was born at Berkhamsted, in Buckinghamshire, of amiable, and respectable parents, of noble affinity, and connected with persons of great worldly influence, his advancement in temporal atiluence and honor, seemed to demand no uncommon
mental endowments. His opening genius discovered, however, a capacity for elegant literature"; and he enjoyed the best advantages for improvement, in so pleasing a pursuit. With uncommon abilities, he possessed a most amiable temper; and he became, not only the darling of his relations, but beloved and admired by his associates in education. But the towering hopes that were naturally built on so flattering a ground, were undermined at an early period. From childhood, during which he lost a much loved parent, his spirits were always very tender, and often greatly dcjected. His natural diffidence, and depression of mind, were increased to a most distressing degrec, by the turbulence of his elder comrades, at the most celebrated public school in England. And, when at mature age, he was appointed to a lucrative and honorable station in the Law, he shrunk with the greatest terror, from the appearance which it required him to make before the upper house of Parlialiont. Several affecting circumstances concurred to increase the agony of his mind, while revolving the consequences of relinquishing the post to which he had been nominated; and he wished for a mental derangement, as the only apparent means by which his perplexity and distress could be terminated. A situation of mind, of which few among mankind can form a suitable conception, but which it may be hoped, many will regard with tender pity, drove him to desperation ; and the manner of his preservation in life, or rather his restoration to it, indicated an unusual interposition of the Providence of God. His friends no longer persisted in urging him to retain