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Unsuccessful attempt to obtain from him original poetry .
Commencement of his intimacy with Mr. Hayley ...
63 His Majesty's grant of a pension to the poet ....
Removal into Norfolk in the care of his kinsman ...
Happy results of the Doctor's ingenuity. ..
His parentage — Loss of his mother — Poetic description of her cha
racter — First school — Cruelty he experienced there — First serious impressions — Is placed under the care of an eminent oculist Entrance upon Westminster School — Character while there Removal thence — Entrance upon an attorney's office — Want of employment there — Unfitness for his profession – Early melancholy impressions.
William Cowper was born at Great Berkhamstead, in Hertfordshire, November 15, 1731. His father, Dr. John Cowper, chaplain to King George the Second, was the second son of Spencer Cowper, who was Chief Justice of Cheshire, and afterwards a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas, and whose brother William, first Earl Cowper, was, at the same time, Lord High Chancellor of England. His mother was Anne, daughter of Roger Donne, Esq. of Ludham Hall, Norfolk, who had a common ancestry with the celebrated Dr. Donne, Dean of St. Paul's.
In reference to this lady, it has been justly observed, by one of the poet's best biographers, “ That the highest blood in the realm flowed in the veins of the modest and unassuming Cowper; his mother having descended through the families of Hippesley of Throughley, in Sussex, and Pellet, of Bolney, in the same county, from the several noble houses of West, Knollys, Carey, Bullen, Howard, and Mowbray, and so, by four different lines, from Henry the Third, king of England." Though, as the same writer properly remarks,“ distinctions of this nature can shed no additional lustre on the memory of Cowper, yet genius, however exalted, disdains 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,