man acquitted himself of his duty like one who had a deep sense of its importance; and most of the boys were struck by his manner, and affected by his exhortation. Cowper's mind had only a short time previously been brought to serious thoughts by an incident of which he gives the relation. "As I was crossing St. Margaret's churchyard, late one evening, I saw a glimmering light in the midst of it, which excited my curiosity. Just as I arrived at the spot, a grave-digger, who was at work by the light of his lanthorn, threw up a skull which struck me upon the leg. This little accident was an alarm to my conscience; for that event may be numbered among the best religious documents which I received at Westminster." The impression, however, presently went off, and the boy, surveying his activity and strength, began to entertain the notion that he should never die. Soon after he was struck with a lowness of spirits, uncommon at his age, and at the same time he was troubled with the hallucination that he was consumptive, and consequently fated to an early death. The preparation for confirmation beginning not long after, Cowper was again led to serious thoughts, and "for the first time attempted prayer in


At the age of thirteen he was seized with the smallpox, which very providentially did for him what the oculists had been unable to do that is to say, it delivered his eyes from the spots; not, however, from great liableness to inflammation, to which they were in a degree subject all his life.

The usher of the fifth form when he passed through it was Vincent Bourne, whose Latin poems Cowper

many years after rendered into English, when (May 23, 1781) he wrote, "I love the memory of Vinny Bourne. I think him a better Latin poet than Tibullus, Propertius, Ausonius, or any of the writers in his way, except Ovid, and not at all inferior to him "-excessive praise, but excusable in Cowper's partiality for his old tutor. "He was so good-natured," continues the poet, " and so indolent, that I lost more than I got by him, for he made me as idle as himself. He was such a sloven, as if he had trusted to his genius as a cloak for everything that could disgust you in his person; and indeed in his writings he has almost made amends for all." Another usher was Dr. Pierson Lloyd, a man who, according to the lines to his memory long after translated by Cowper, "obtained the hearts of all."

On the various incidents of school life that tickled his fancy, Cowper was wont to dwell with great unction. He would refer, for example, to the greasy head of Mr. Bourne, and relate how the Duke of Richmond, having purposely set the schoolmaster's hair on fire, boxed his ears to put it out; and he often had in his eye the idle boys, who, when the usher asked what was the last word, were obliged to stare and say nothing. He admitted, too, having sometimes been naughty himself. He knew what it was to pass his bounds :

"To enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames,"

"I still remember," he tells us—

"nor without regret,

Of hours that sorrow since has much endeared,
How oft, my slice of pocket store consumed,
Still hungering, penniless, and far from home,

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I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,

On blushing crabs, or berries, that emboss
The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere."

It was while still at Westminster that Cowper first met his cousin Harriet (afterwards Lady Hesketh), daughter of Mr. Ashley Cowper. Cowper had one Sunday been dining at Mr. De Grey's, in Norfolk Street (the Mr. De Grey who was subsequently created Lord Walsingham), and was just going back to Westminster, when Mr. and Mrs. Ashley Cowper and their daughter Harriet arrived to drink tea there. This was among the incidents that were never eradicated from the poet's mind.

Like so many other boys, Cowper had a penchant for keeping live things. His choice in one instance fell upon a mouse, which he allowed the run of his bureau. "I kept it," he says, "till it produced six young ones, and my transports when I first discovered them cannot easily be conceived-any more than my mortification, when going again to visit my little family, I found that mouse herself had eaten them! I turned her loose in indignation, and vowed never to keep a mouse again." (To Hesketh, Jan. 16, 1786.) Some of the incidents of his boyhood, besides those connected with school life, were subsequently made use of. At one time he much frequented a flatting-mill, and what he saw suggested to him, forty years later, a poem on that subject. "I enclose a few lines," he tells Newton (Dec. 21, 1781), "on a thought which struck me yesterday. . . . A flatting-mill is not met with in every street, and my book (his first volume of poems) will, perhaps, fall into the hands of many who do not

know that such a mill was ever invented. It happened to me, however, to spend much of my time in one when I was a boy, when I frequently amused myself with watching the operation I describe."


Cowper, of course, visited the places of public resort. In those days Bedlam mad-house was open to the cruel curiosity of holiday ramblers, and he also was a visitor there. Though a boy," he says (July 19, 1784), "I was not altogether insensible of the misery of the poor captives, nor destitute of feeling for them. But the madness of some of them had such a humorous air, and displayed itself in so many whimsical freaks, that it was impossible not to be entertained, at the same time that I was angry with myself for being so."

Besides the mad-house, with Colley "Cibber's mad figures" upon its gate, which also struck him, Cowper visited another place of popular resort, "The Tower." He says, in "Charity" :

"So have I seen (and hastened to the sight
On all the wings of holiday delight),

Where stands that monument of ancient power,

Named with emphatic dignity, the Tower,

Guns, halberts, swords, and pistols, great and small,
In starry forms disposed upon the wall :

We wonder, as we gazing stand below,

That brass and steel should make so fine a show;
But, though we praise the exact designer's skill,
Account them implements of mischief still."

Of his faults at school it appears that his principal one was the sad practice of telling falsehoods. Unfortunately, to tell a lie was regarded at Westminster as

only a schoolboy's trick; Cowper seems, however, at an early age to have cured himself of his fault.

5. John Cowper and the Gipsy.

While Cowper was at Westminster his brother John was being educated at a preparatory school, then in considerable repute, at Felstead, in Essex, and here occurred an incident which throws a curious light on the history of the brothers, and shows what a similitude there was in their characters. John Cowper and a schoolfellow one day had the curiosity to inquire about their fortunes from a travelling gipsy tinker, or pedlar, who came to beg at the school, in an old soldier's red coat. The gipsy predicted to John Cowper "that he would only remain a short time at Felstead, and would, after leaving it, be sent to a larger school; that he would go to the University, and, before he left it, would form an attachment strong enough to give him much disappointment, as it would not be mutual; that he would not marry before he was thirty; but after that age his fate became obscure, and the lines of his hand showed no more prognostics of futurity." Sure enough within a short time, owing to some family accident, John was summoned home, and, instead of returning to Felstead, he was sent to Eton; and not only so, but the other predictions, as we shall subsequently see, one by one were verified; and instead of regarding the occurrences merely as curious coincidences, John took them for actual prophecy, and made a trouble of them. In short, though in another direc

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