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have suffered from some biographers of a very different description, we may wish that the extensive series of poetical biography had been frequently enriched by the memoirs of such remembrancers as feel only the influence of tenderness and truth. Some poets, indeed, of recent times, have been happy in this most desirable advantage. The Scottish favourite of nature, the tender and impetuous Burns, has found, in Dr. Currie, an ingenuous, eloquent, affectionate biographer; and in a lady also (whose memoir of her friend, the bard, is very properly annexed to his life) a zealous arid graceful advocate, singularly happy in vindicating his character from invidious detraction. We may observe, to the honour of Scotland, that her national enthusiasm has, for some years, been very laudably exerted in cherishing the memory of her departed poets.—But to return to the lady who gave rise to this remark. The natural diffidence of her sex, uniting with extreme delicacy of health, induced her, eager as she was to promote the celebrity of her deceased relation, to shrink from the idea of submitting herself, as an author, to the formidable eye of the public. Her knowledge of the very cordial regard with which Cowper has honoured ne, as one of his most confidential friends, led her to request that she might assign to me that arduous effice, which she candidly confessed she had not the resolution to assume. She confided to my care such materials for the work in question, as her affinity to the deceased had thrown into her hands. In receiving a collection of many private letters, and of several posthumous little poems, in the well-known characters of that beloved correspondent, at the sight of whose hand I have often exulted, I felt the blended emotions of melancholy regret, and of awful pleasure. Yes, I was pleased that these affecting papers were entrusted to my care, because some incidents induce me to believe that, if their revered author had been solicited to appoint a biographer for himself, he would have assigned to me this honourable task. Yet, honourable as I consider it, I was perfectly aware of the difficulties and the dangers attending it. One danger, indeed, appeared to me of such a nature as to require perpetual caution as I advanced : I mean the danger of being led, in writing as the biographer of my friend, to speak infinitely too much of myself. To avoid the offensive failing of egotism, I had resolved, at first, to make no inconsiderable sacrifice, and to suppress, in his letters, every particle of praise bestowed upon myself. I soon found it im. possible to do so without injuring the tender and gene. l'ous spirit of my friend. I have, therefore, suffered many expressions of his affectionate partiality towards me to appear, at the hazard of being censured for inordinate vanity. To obviate such a censure, I will only say, that I have endeavoured to excute what I regard as a mournful duty, as if I were under the immediate and visible direction of the most pure, the most truly modest, and the most gracefully virtuous mind, that I had ever the happiness of knowing in the form of a manly friend. It is certainly my wish that these volumes may obtain the entire approbation of the world; but it is infinitely more my desire and ambition to render them exactly such as I think most likely to gratify the conscious spirit of Cowper himself in a superior existence, The person who recommended it to his female relation to continue her examplary regard to the poet, by appearing as his biographer, advised her to relate the particulars of his life in the form of letters addressed to your Lordship. He cited, on the occasion, a striking passage from the memoirs of Gibbon, in which that great historian pays a just and a splendid compliment to one of the early English poets, who, in the tenderness and purity of his heart, and in the vivid powers of description, may be thought to resemble Cow

I allude to is this : “ The nobility of the Spencers has been illustrated and enriched by the trophies of Marlborough ; but I exhort them to consider the Fairy Queen as the most precious jewel of their coronet.” If this lively metaphor is just in every poitu of view, we may regard The Task as a jewel of pre-eminent lustre in the coronet belonging to the noble family of Cowper. Under the influence of this idea, allow me, my Lord, to address to you such memoirs of your admirable relation, as my own intimacy with him, and the kindness of those who knew and loved him most truly, have enabled me to compose. I will tell you, with perfect sincerity, all my motives for addressing them to your Lordship. First, I flatter myself it may be a pleasing, and, permit me to say, not an unuseful occupation to an ingenuous young nobleman, to trace the steps by which a retired man, of the most diffident modesty, whose private virtues did honour to his name, arose to peculiar celebrity. My second motive is, I own, of a more selfish nature; for I am persuaded, that, in addressing my work to you, I give the public a satisfactory pledge for the authenticity of my materials. I will not pretend to say that I hold it in the power of any title, or affinity, to reflect an additional lustre on the memory of the departed poet : for I think so highly of poetical distinction, when that distinction is pre-eminently obtained by genius, piety, and benevolence, that all common honours appear to be eclipsed by a splendour more forcible and extensive. Great poets, my Lord, and that I may speak of them as they deserve, let me say, in the words of Horace,


per. The

Primum me illorum, dederim quibus esse Poetas,

Excerpam numeroGreat poets have generally united in their destiny those extremes of good and evil, which Homer, their immortal president, assigns to the bard he describes, and which he exemplified himself in his own person. Their lives have been frequently chequered by the darkest shades of calamity ; but their personal infelicities are nobly compensated by the prevalence and the extent of their renown. To set this in the most striking point of view, allow me to compare poetical celebrity with the fame acquired by the exertion of different mental powers in the highest department of civil life. The Lord Chancellors of England may be justly regarded among the personages of the modern world, peculiarly exalted by intellectual endowments: with two of these illustrious characters, the poet, whose life I have endeavoured to delineate, was in some measure connected; being related to one, the immediate ancestor of your Lordship, and being intimate, in early life, with a Chancellor of the present reign, whose elevation to that dignity he has recorded in rhyme. Much respect is due to the legal names of Cowper, and of Thurlow. Knowledge, eloquence, and political importance, conspired to aggrandize the men who added those names to the list of English nobility : yet, after

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