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dains not, while it boasts not, the splendour of ancestry; and royalty itself may be pleased, and perhaps benefited, by discovering its kindred to such piety, such purity, and such talents as his."
Very little is known of the habits and disposition of Cowper's mother. From the following epitaph, however, inscribed on a monument, erected by her husband in the chancel of St. Peter's church, Great Berkhamstead, and composed by her niece, who afterwards became Lady Walsingham, she appears to have been a lady of the most amiable temper and agreeable manners:—
Here lies, in early years bereft of life,
The best of mothers, and the kindest wife,
Who neither knew nor practised any art,
Secure in all she wished—her husband's heart.
Her love to him still prevalent in death,
Pray'd Heaven to bless him with her latest breath.
Still was she studious never to offend,
And glad of an occasion to commend;
With ease would pardon injuries received,
Nor e'er was cheerful when another grieved.
Despising state, with her own lot content,
Enjoyed the comforts of a life well spent;
Resigned when Heaven demanded back her breath,
Her mind heroic 'midst the pangs of death.
Whoe'er thou art that dost this tomb draw near,
O, stay awhile, and shed a friendly tear;
These lines, though weak, are as herself sincere.
After giving birth to several children, this lady died in child-bed, in her thirty-seventh year; leaving only two sons, John the younger, and William the elder, who is the subject of this memoir. Cowper was only six years old when he lost his mother; and how deeply he was affected by her early death, may be inferred from the following exquisitely tender lines, composed more than fifty years afterwards, on the receipt of her portrait from a relation in Norfolk:—
"My mother! when I learned that thou wast dead,
And, turning from my nursery-window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!
But was it such? It was—Where thou art gone
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting sound shall pass my lips no more!
Thy maidens grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of a quick return.
What ardently I wished, 1 long believed,
And, disappointed still, was still deceived.
By disappointment every day beguiled,
Dupe of to-morrow, even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrow spent,
I learned at last submission to my lot,
But though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot.
Could Time, his flight reversed, restore the hours
When playing with thy vesture's tissued flowers,
The violet, the pink, and jessamine,
I pricked them into paper with a pin,
(And thou wast happier than myself the while,
Would softly speak, and stroke my head, and smile,)
Could these few pleasant hours again appear,
Might one wish bring them, would I wish them here?
I would not trust my heart, the dear delight
Seems so to be desired, perhaps I might;
But no—what here we call our life is such,
So little to be loved, and thou so much,
That I should ill requite thee to constrain
Thy unbound spirit into bonds again.
Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast
(The storm all weathered and the ocean crossed)
Shoots into port at some well-havened isle,
Where spices breathe, and brighter seasons smile,
There sits quiescent on the floods, that show
Her beauteous form reflected clear below,
While airs impregnated with incense play
Around her, fanning light her streamers gay:
So thou, with sails how swift! hast reached the shore
Where tempests never beat, nor billows roar.
And thy loved consort on the dangerous tide
Of life, long since, has anchored at thy side.
But me, scarce hoping to attain that rest.
Always from port withheld, always distressed—
Me, howling winds drive devious, tempest tost;
Sails ript, seams opening wide, and compass lost,
And day by day some current's thwarting force
Deprived thus early of his excellent and most affectionate parent, he was sent, at this tender age, to a large school at Market-street, Hertfordshire, under the care of Dr. Pitman. Here he had hardships of different kinds to conflict with, which he felt more sensibly, in consequence of the tender manner in which he had been treated at home. His chief sorrow, however, arose from the cruel treatment he met with from a boy in the same school, about fifteen years of age, who on all occasions persecuted him with the most unrelenting barbarity; and who never seemed pleased except when he was tormenting him. This savage treatment impressed such a dread upon Cowper's tender mind of this boy, that he was afraid to lift up his eyes upon him higher than his knees; and he knew him better by his shoe-buckles than by any other part of his dress.
It was at this school, and on one of these painful occasions, that the mind of Cowper, which was afterwards to become imbued with religious feelings of the highest order, received its first serious impressions—a circumstance which cannot fail to be interesting to every Christian reader, and the more so as detailed in his own words.
"One day, as I was sitting alone on a bench in the school, melancholy, and almost ready to weep at the recollection of what I had already suffered, and expecting at the same time my tormentor every moment, these words of the Psalmist came into my mind—' I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me.' I applied this to my own case, with a degree of trust and confidence in God, that would have been no disgrace to a much more experienced Christian. Instantly I perceived in myself a briskness and a cheerfulness of spirit which I had never before experienced, and took several paces up and down the room with joyful alacrity. Happy had it been for me, if this early effort towards a dependance on the blessed God, had been frequently repeated. But, alas! it was the first and the last, between infancy and manhood."
From this school he was removed in his eighth year; and
having at that time specks on both his eyes, which threatened to cover them, his father, alarmed for the consequences, placed him under the care of an eminent female oculist in London; in whose house he abode nearly two years. In this lady's family, religion was neither known nor practised; the slightest appearance of it, in any shape, was carefullj concealed, even its outward forms were entirely unobserved. In a situation like this, it was not to be expected that young Cowper would long retain those serious impressions he had experienced; nor is it surprising, that before his removal thence he should have lost them entirely.
In his ninth year, he was sent to Westminster School, then under the care of Dr. Nicholls; who, though an ingenious and learned man, was nevertheless a negligent tutor; and one that encouraged his pupils in habits of indolence, not a little injurious to their future welfare. Here he remained seven years, and had frequent reason to complain of the same unkind treatment from some of his school-fellows, which he had before experienced^ His timid, meek, and inoffensive spirit totally unfitted kim for the hardships of a public school; and in all probability, the treatment he there received, produced in him an insuperable aversion to this method of instruction. We know but little of the actual progress he made while under the care of Dr. Nicholls; his subsequent eminence, however, as a scholar,- proves that he must have been an attentive pupil, and must have made, at this period, a highly creditable proficiency in his studies.
While at this school, he was roused a second time to serious consideration. Crossing a churchyard late one evening, he saw a glimmering light in rather a remote part of it, which so excited his curiosity, as to induce him to approach it. Just as he arrived at the spot, a grave-digger, who was at work by the light of his lanthorn, threw up a skull-bone, which struck him on the leg. This little incident alarmed his conscience, and drew from him many painful reflections. The impression, however, was only temporary, and in a short time the event was entirely forgotten.
On another occasion, not long afterwards, he again at this early age, became the subject of religious impressions. It was the laudable practice of Dr. Nicholls to take great pains to prepare his pupils for confirmation. The Doctor acquitted himself of this duty like one who had a deep sense of its importance, and young Cowper was struck by his manner, and much affected by his exhortations. He now, for the first time in his life, attempted prayer in secret, hut being little accustomed to that exercise of the heart, and havingvery childish notions of religion, he found it a difficult and painful task, and was even then alarmed at his bwn insensibility. These impressions, however, like those made upon his mind before, soon wore off, and he relapsed into a total forgetfulness of God, with the usual disadvantage of being more hardened, for having been softened to no purpose. This was evidently the case with him, for on being afterwards seized with the small-pox, though he was in the most imminent danger, yet neither in the course of the disease, nor during his recovery from it, had he any sentiments of contrition, or any thoughts of God or eternity. He, however, derived one advantage from it—it removed, to a great degTee, if it did not entirely cure, the disease in his eyes, proving, as he afterwards observed in a letter to Mr. Hayley, ' a better oculist than the lady who had him under her care.'
Such was the character of young Cowper, in his eighteenth year, when he left Westminster school. He had made a respectable proficiency in all his studies; but notwithstanding his previous serious impressions, he seems not to have had any more knowledge of the nature of religion, nor even to have discovered any more concern about it, than many other individuals have been known to feel, at an early age, who have never afterwards given it any attention. After spending six months at home, he was articled to a solicitor, with whom he was engaged to remain three years. In this gentleman's family, he neither saw nor heard any thing that could remind him of a single Christian duty; and here he might have lived utterly ignorant of the God that made him, had he not been providentially situated near his uncle's, in Southampton-row. At this favourite retreat, he was permitted to spend all his leisure time, and so seldom was he employed, that this was by far the greater part of it. With his uncle's family he passed nearly all his Sundays, and with some part of it he regularly attended public worship, but for which, probably, he would otherwise, owing to the force of evil example, have entirely neglected.
The choice of a profession for a youth is ever of paramount importance; if injudiciously made, it not unfrequently lays the foundation for much future disappointment and sorrow. It would certainly have been difficult, and perhaps impossible, to have selected one more unsuitable to the mind of Cowper than that of the law. As Mr. Hayley justly observes, "the law is a kind of soldiership, and, like the pro