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rectory garden at Berkhamsted; or at Catfield among the Norfolk Broads, the residence of his uncle, the Rev. Roger Donne, with whom he now and again spent a holiday. Of his cousin Harriet (afterwards Mrs. Balls) he says, "She and I have been many a time merry at Catfield, and have made the parsonage ring with laughter." Then there was Ann, whom he persisted in calling Rose" the Rose that used to sit smiling on my knee, I will not say how many years ago"-the same who became Mrs. Bodham, and long after presented the poet with his mother's picture ; Elizabeth (afterwards Mrs. Hewitt) was his "playfellow at Berkhamsted." Their brother Castres was equally a favourite with Cowper, who says, "He was an amiable boy, and I was very fond of him." The Norfolk cousins, in short, made up for what Cowper lacked in brothers and sisters-none of the seven children of Mrs. Cowper, as we before observed, having survived her, except William and John. To what particular period of his childhood these enjoyable hours belonged we cannot say, but cannot say, but probably there would be holidays of some kind upon leaving Mr. Disney's, which he did after a stay of about two years.

Even as a child Cowper was fond of reading. The Fables of Gay were special favourites with him, and he used to recite "The Hare and Many Friends" for the amusement of company. The child, too, was brought up in an atmosphere of poetry. Dr. Cowper, his father, wrote verses, and had caught the contagion of ballad writing, in which, says his son, he "succeeded well." The taste for this species of composition Cowper counted that he inherited from his father.

His uncle Ashley and his aunt Judith were also dabblers in rhyme. Some improvement having taken place in his eyes, Cowper was now, at the age of ten, placed at Westminster School.

CHAPTER II.

SCHOOL-DAYS.

(1741-49.)

4. Early Days at Westminster.

SE

EVERE as Cowper is, in his Tirocinuim and elsewhere, on public schools, his career at Westminster would seem to have been on the whole a not unhappy one; at any rate he speaks quite as much of the pleasures of his school-days as of his crosses and troubles. In after years he could say :

――――

"We love the playplace of our early days;
The scene is touching, and the heart is stone
That feels not at that sight, and feels at none.
The wall on which we tried our graving skill,
The very name we carved subsisting still;
The bench on which we sat while deep employed,
Though mangled, hacked, and hewed, not yet destroyed;
The little ones unbuttoned, glowing hot,

Playing our games, and on the very spot;
As happy as we once, to kneel and draw
The chalky ring, and knuckle down at taw;
To pitch the ball into the grounded hat,
Or drive it devious with a dextrous pat;
The pleasing spectacle at once excites
Such recollections of our own delights,
That, viewing it, we seem almost to obtain
Our innocent sweet simple years again."

Cowper, as he tells us himself, excelled at cricket and other games. To Unwin, in an undated letter of 1786, he says, "He who cannot look forward with comfort, must find what comfort he can in looking backward. Upon this principle I the other day sent my imagination upon a trip thirty years behind me. She was very obedient, and very swift of foot, presently performed her journey, and at last set me down in the sixth form at Westminster. I fancied myself once more a schoolboy-a period of life in which, if I had never tasted true happiness, I was at least equally unacquainted with its contrary. . . . Accordingly I was a schoolboy in high favour with the master, received a silver groat for my exercise, and had the pleasure of seeing it sent from form to form for the admiration of all who were able to understand it." As Southey says, the poet's aversion to public schools arose from what he saw and what he reflected on in after life, not from any ill-usage which he experienced at Westminster. In his "Memoir " Cowper refers to a singular incident in connection with his father that happened during one of his holidays. Some acquaintance having done away with himself, the mind of Dr. Cowper was greatly exercised upon the subject of self-destruction, and whilst in this mood he put into the hands of his son, who was only eleven years old, a treatise in favour of suicide, requesting him to give his opinions upon it. Dr. Cowper heard his son's reasons and was silent, neither approving nor disapproving- the true motive for his conduct probably being that he wanted, if possible, to think favourably of the state of the departed friend. To set a child such a task cannot be pro

nounced a very judicious action, and could the father have obtained glimpses of subsequent events, probably it would have been the last thing to enter his mind. As every one knows, the desire to commit suicide was always one of the earliest features of those terrible fits of despondency that in after years seized upon the afflicted poet. Four or five times, as we shall subsequently see, he attempted to destroy himself, whilst he would brood over the horrible subject for days, and even weeks.

Among the objects in Berkhamsted parsonage familiar to Cowper's childish eyes, one, his father's family Bible, has been preserved, being now in the possession of the Rev. J. Barham Johnson (son of "Johnny of Norfolk"). It is a thick volume in purple morocco-the Bible with Apocrypha (A.D. 1723) and the Book of Common Prayer (1726) bound up together-and contains the coat of arms of " John Cowper, A.M.," on the first page, and the entries of the births and deaths of Dr. Cowper's family.

In respect to Westminster, what Cowper in after years most regretted was that it afforded so little religious instruction. The duty of the schoolboy swallowed up every other; and he "acquired Latin and Greek at the expense of a knowledge much more important." To use the words of the Rev. Legh Richmond, "Jesus Christ was crucified between classics and mathematics," as in only too many other schools. Cowper, however, relates with gratification one mark of religious discipline which in his time was observed in Westminster-to wit, the pains which Dr. Nicholls took to prepare the lads for confirmation. The old

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