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judicious, and bring to the mind at the proper moment the passages in Cowper's letters most clearly relating to the work in hand. The typography is not very elegant, but it is plain and business-like. There is no affectation of cheap ornament.

The little book which stands second on our list belongs to a class of narratives written for a peculiar public, inculcating peculiar doctrines, and adapted, at least in part, to a peculiar

We dissent from a good deal of these tenets, and believe that they derive no_support, but rather the contrary, from the life of Cowper. In previous publications, written for the same persons, these opinions have been applied to that melancholy story in a manner which it requires strong writing to describe. In this little volume they are more rarely expressed, and when they are it is with diffidence, tact, and judgment.

It would be only a very pedantic critic who would attempt to separate the criticism on Cowper's works very widely from a narrative or outline of his life. Indeed, such an attempt would be scarcely intelligible. Cowper's poems are almost as much connected with his personal circumstances as his letters, and his letters are as purely autobiographical as those of any man well can be. If all other information as to Cowper had perished save what his poems contain, the attention of the critics would be diverted from the special examination of their interior characteristics to a conjectural dissertation on the personal fortunes of the author. The Germans would have much to say. It would be debated in Tübingen who were the three hares, why “ The Sofa” was written, why John Gilpin was not called William. Halle would show with great clearness that there was no reason why he should be called William; that it appeared by the bills of mortality that several other persons born about the same period had also been called John; and the ablest of all the professors would finish the subject with a monograph showing that there was a special fitness in the name John, and that any one with the æsthetic sense who like the professor) had devoted many years exclusively to the perusal of the poem, would be certain that any other name would be quite "paralogistic, and in every manner impossible and inappropriate.” It would take a German to write upon the hares.

William Cowper, the poet, was born on the 26th November, 1731, at his father's parsonage, at Berkhampstead. Of his father, who was chaplain to the king, we know nothing of importance. Of his mother, who had been named “Donne” and was a Norfolk lady, he has often made mention, and it appears that he regarded the faint recollection which he retained of her--for she died early-with peculiar tenderness. In later life, and when his sun was going down in gloom and


sorrow, he recurred eagerly to opportunities of intimacy with her most distant relatives, and clearly wished to keep alive the idea of her in his mind. That idea was not of course very definite; indeed, as described in his poems, it is rather the abstract idea of what a mother should be than anything else ; but he was able to recognize her picture, and there is a suggestion of cakes and sugar-plums, which gives a life and vividness to the rest. Soon after her death he was sent to a school, kept by a man named Pitman, at which he always described himself as having suffered exceedingly from the cruelty of one of the boys. He could never see him, or think of him, he has told us, without trembling. And there must have been some solid reason for this terror, since-even in those days, when TUTTW meant I strike, and boy denoted a thing to be beaten-this juvenile inflicter of secret stripes was actually expelled. Next, Cowper, having shown symptoms of a weakness in the eyes, which remained with him through life, was consigned to the care of an oculist,-a dreadful fate for even the most cheerful boy, and certainly not likely to cure one with any disposition to melancholy. Hardly, indeed, could the boldest mind, in its toughest hour of manly fortitude, endure to be domesticated with an operation chair. Thence he was transferred to Westminster, of which he has left us somewhat contradictory notices, according to the feeling for the time being uppermost in his mind. From several parts of the “ Tirocinium," or "Review of Schools,” it would certainly seem that he regarded the whole system of public school teaching, not only with speculative disapproval, but with the painful hatred of a painful experience. A thousand genial passages in his private letters, however, really prove the contrary; and in a changing mood of mind, the very poem which was avowedly written to “recommend private tuition at home" gives some idea of school happiness.

“ Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise,

We love the play-place 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.
This fond attachment to the well-known place
Whence first we started into life's long race,
Maintains its hold with such unfailing sway,
We feel it even in age, and at our latest day.”

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It is probably an insoluble problem to seek a suitable education for a morbidly melancholy mind. At first it seems a dreadful thing to place a gentle and sensitive nature in contact, in familiarity, and even under the rule of coarse and strong buoyant natures. Nor, in truth, should it be in general attempted. The certain result is present suffering, and the expected good is remote and disputable. Nevertheless, it is no artificial difficulty which we here encounter-none which we can hope by educational contrivances to meet or vanquish. The difficulty is in truth the existence of the world. It is the fact, that according to the constitution of the external world, the strong, the bold, the vigorous, and the buoyant, rise and rule; and that the weak, the shrinking, and the timid, fall and serve. In after-life, in the actual commerce of men, even too in those pursuits in which from their quiet and tranquil nature a still and gentle mind should seem to be under the least disadvantage, in philosophy and speculation, the strong and active, who have confidence in themselves and in their resolutions and their ideas, attain and retain dominion. It is idle to expect that this will not give great pain—that the shrinking and timid, who are often just as ambitious as others, will not repine—that the rough and strong will not often conscientiously inflict grievous oppression—will not still more often, without knowing it, cause to more tremulous minds a refined suffering which their coarser texture could never experience, which it does not sympathize with, or comprehend. Some time in life--it is but a question of a very few years at most--this trial must be undergone. There may be a short time, more or less, of gentle protection and affectionate care, but the leveret grows old—the world waits at the gate-the hounds are ready, and the huntsman too, and there is need of strength, and pluck, and speed. Cowper, indeed, himself, as we have remarked, on a more attentive examination, does not seem to have really suffered particularly. In after years, as has also been said, when a dark cloud had passed over him, he certainly did seem at times to exaggerate isolated days of melancholy and suffering, and fancy that the dislike which he

entertained for the system of schools, by way of speculative principle, was in fact the result of a personal and painful experience. But, as we shall have (though we shall not, in fact, perhaps use them all) a thousand occasions to observe, he had, side by side with a morbid and melancholy humour, an easy nature, which was easily satisfied with the world as he found it, had a pleasure in the gaiety of others, and liked the sight of, and sympathy with, the more active enjoyments which he did not care to engage in or to share. Besides, there is every evidence that cricket and marbles (though he sometimes in his narratives suppresses the fact in condescension to his Evangelical associates who believe them to be the idols of wood and stone which are spoken of in the prophets) really exercised a laudable and healthy supremacy over his mind. The animation of the scene—the gay alertness which Gray looked back on so fondly in long years of soothing and delicate musing, exerted, as the passage which we cited shows, a great influence over a mind superior to Gray's in facility and freedom, though inferior in the “little footsteps ” of the finest fancy,—in the rare and carefully-hoarded felicities which are only equalled in the immeasurable abundance of the greatest of all writers. Of course Cowper was unhappy at school as he was unhappy always; and of course too, we are speaking of Westminster only. For Dr. Pitman and the oculist there is nothing to say.

In scholarship Cowper seems to have succeeded. He was not, indeed, at all the sort of man to attain to that bold, strongbrained, confident scholarship which Bentley carried to such an extreme, and which, in almost every generation since, some Englishman has been found of hard head and stiff-clayed memory to keep up and perpetuate. His friend Thurlow was the man for this pursuit, and to prolong the just notion that those who attain early proficiency in it are likely men to become Lord Chancellors. Cowper's scholarship was simply the general and delicate impression which the early study of the classics insensibly leaves on a nice and susceptible mind. In point of information it was strictly of a common nature. It is clear that his real knowledge was mostly confined to the poets, especially the ordinary Latin poets and Homer, and that he never bestowed any regular attention on the historians, or orators, or philosophers of antiquity, either at school or in after years. Nor indeed would such a course of study have in reality been very beneficial to him. The strong analytic, comprehensive, reason-giving powers which are required in these dry and rational pursuits were utterly foreign to his mind. All that was congenial to him, he acquired in the


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easy intervals of apparent idleness. The friends whom he made at Westminster, and who continued for many years to be attached to him, preserved the probable tradition that he was a gentle and gradual, rather than a forcible or rigorous learner.

The last hundred years have doubtless seen a vast change in the common education of the common boy. The small and pomiverous animal which we so call is now subjected to a treatment very elaborate and careful,—that contrasts much with the simple alternation of classics and cuffs which was formerly so fashionable. But it may be doubted whether for a peculiar mind such as Cowper's, on the intellectual side at least, the tolerant and corporeal theory of the last century was not preferable to the intolerant and unresting moral influence that has succeeded to it. Some minds learn most when they seem to learn least. A certain, placid, unconscious, equable in

. taking of knowledge suits them, and alone suits them. To attempt to force such men to attain great learning is simply impossible. You cannot put the fawn into the “ Land Transport.” The only resource is to allow them to acquire gently and casually in their own way; and in that way they will often imbibe, as if by the mere force of existence, much pleasant and well-fancied knowledge.

From Westminster Cowper went at once into a solicitor's office. Of the next few years (he was then about eighteen) we do not know much. His attention to legal pursuits was, according to his own account, not very profound; yet it could not have been wholly contemptible, for his evangelical friend, Mr. Newton, who, whatever may be the worth of his religious theories, had certainly a sound, rough judgment on topics terrestrial, used in after years to have no mean opinion of the value of his legal counsel. In truth, though nothing could be

. more out of Cowper's way than abstract and recondite jurisprudence, an easy and sensible mind like his would find a great deal which was very congenial to it in the well known and perfectly settled maxims which regulate and rule the daily life of common men. No strain of capacity or stress of speculative intellect is necessary for the apprehension of these. A fair and easy mind, which is placed within their reach, will find it knows them, without knowing when or how.

After some years of legal instruction, Cowper chose to be called to the bar, and took chambers in the Temple accordingly. He never, however, even pretended to practise. He passed his time in literary society, in light study, in tranquil negligence. He was intimate with Colman, Lloyd, and other wits of those times. He wrote an essay in the Connoisseur, the kind of composition then most fashionable, especially with these literary

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