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tion, he was almost as great an illusionist as was his more famous brother. The incident is referred to by the poet in his letter to Mrs. Cowper (his cousin), dated June 7, 1770.
6. Literary Beginnings.
Cowper began at an early age to take delight in the masterpieces of literature. Cowley and Milton especially pleased him. In respect to the latter, he tells us that he was quite unhappy because he had not become acquainted with him till he was fourteen, on which account he feared he had suffered a loss which could never be made up. In "Task," iv., he says :—
"New to my taste, his Paradise surpassed
With the "Allegro" and "Penseroso" he was so charmed that he was never weary of them. As for Homer, probably he could scarcely remember a time. when he had not taken pleasure in that author. With a schoolfellow named Sutton (afterwards Sir Richard) he went through the whole of both the Odyssey and the Iliad. When only fourteen years of age he translated an elegy of Tibullus-an achievement he always spoke of as the commencement of his poetical
Among his schoolfellows were Warren Hastings, Elijah Impey, Robert Lloyd (son of the Doctor), Charles Churchill, Richard Cumberland, Colman the
Elder, and Bonnell Thornton, all of whom rose to distinction and fame. Three of them, Lloyd, Churchill, and Colman, were his particular associates, and Cumberland boarded in the same house.
With Cowper at Westminster were also five brothers named Bagot: William, afterwards Lord Bagot; Charles, who subsequently took the name of Chester, and was one of Cowper's neighbours at Olney; Walter, in after life one of the poet's principal correspondents and friends; Richard, who subsequently assumed the name of Howard; and Lewis, the embryo bishop-my lord successively of Bristol, Norwich, and Asaph. Side by side with Cowper on the sixth form sat the young nobleman who subsequently became Lord Dartmouth. "We little thought," says Cowper (January 14, 1786), "that in process of time one of us was ordained to give a new translation of Homer. Yet at that very time, it seems, I was laying the foundation of this superstructure. Some two years after the time referred to, the young nobleman succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Dartmouth-the second of that title, and three years after that (in 1753), by his marriage with the only daughter and heiress of Sir Charles Gunter Nicholl, he acquired the Manor of Olney-for so many years the residence of the poet. His title, "the good Earl," which his contemporaries affectionately bestowed on him, he well deserved; but what principally interests us is the indirect influence he exerted on Cowper, influence which we shall allude to further on.
Cowper's favourite school friend was Sir William Russell, of "The Chequers," near Princes Risborough, Bucks. "Chequers Court, the splendid seat of the
Russell family, is situated almost midway between Princes Risboro' and Wendover. Its grounds are very beautiful, and one charming spot in particular, 'Velvet Lawn,' is famed through all the district round. One of the Russell family married Cromwell's youngest daughter; hence the various portraits and relics of the Protector that enriched the mansion."
In the Forster Library, South Kensington Museum, is preserved a very interesting relic of Cowper's schooldays, a manuscript treatise on Logic (in Latin), consisting of 150 leaves, and entitled " Compendiu Logica Conimbricensis Traditum a Sapientissimo et Reverendissimo P. Francisco de Amaral Societatis Iesu. Anno Domini 1625," of which Dawson Turner, the Norfolk antiquary, to whom it formerly belonged, says, in a note: "This singularly beautiful MS. was given me by Rev. Dr. Johnson, the cousin of Cowper, and he charged me to preserve and value it as a book which the poet had at college, and which he particularly prized. I suppose this is the same book as Heir. de Paiva. Compendium logices Conimbricensis, Lond. 1627. 8°.' See Watt's Bibl. Brit. 727."
Under this note is another by the late Sir Francis Palgrave, which runs as follows: "The calligraphy of the MS. is rather puzzling; for the black-letter is what is usually called church-text; and I have always considered it peculiar to England; at least, I have never seen examples of it in any Continental MSS. it is in this instance executed with remarkable ability. F. Palgrave, Dec., 1842."
'A mistake. Westminster School is, of course, meant.
It was before he had quitted Westminster that Cowper first tried his hand at writing verse in English. Several of his companions were versifiers, and one at least rose to very high fame as a poet in subsequent years, though that fame was but short-lived. Of Cowper's experiments one has been preserved, namely, Verses, written at Bath in his 17th year, on finding the heel of a shoe (1748), which was an imitation of John Phillips's "Splendid Shilling." To these juvenile effusions and his early love for the country there is the following reference in the "Task ” (bk iv.) :
66 My very dreams were rural, rural too
The first-born efforts of my youthful muse,
At the age of 18, with the reputation of scholarship, and the advantage of being known and esteemed by his principal schoolfellows, Cowper left Westminster, and, after a stay of nine months at Berkhamsted, he was sent to acquire the practice of the law with Mr. Chapman, an Attorney, of Ely Place, Holborn.
"THREE YEARS MISSPENT IN AN ATTORNEY'S OFFICE."
7. At Mr. Chapman's.
'HE next periods of Cowper's life are described by himself as "Three years misspent in an Attorney's Office"; followed by several more equally misspent in the Temple. In his "Memoir he asserts that at the time he left Westminster he was as ignorant of all kinds of religion as the satchel at his back. Reviewing this period elsewhere, and when in a calmer mood, he says, "At that time "At that time I valued a man according to his proficiency and taste in classical literature, and had the meanest opinion of all other accomplishments unaccompanied by that. I lived to see the vanity of what I had made my pride, and in a few years found that there were other attainments which would carry a man more handsomely through life than a mere knowledge of what Homer and Virgil had left behind them." (To Newton, February 18, 1781.)
To the profession of the law Cowper was never much