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CO W L E Y.
HE Life of Cowley, notwithstanding
the penury of English biography, has been written by Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination and elegance of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of literature; but his zeal of friend. Thip, or ambition of eloquence, has produced à funeral oration rather than a history: he has given the character, not the life of Cowley; for he writes with so little detail, that scarcely any thing is distinctly known, but all is shewn confused and enlarged through the mist of panegyrick.
ABRAHAM COWLEY was born in the year one thousand six hundred and eighteen. His father was a grocer, whose con
dition Dr. Sprat conceals under the general appellation of a citizen; and, what would probably not have been less carefully suppressed, the omission of his name in the register of St. Dunstan's parish, gives reason to suspect that his father was a sectary. Whoever he was, he died before the birth of his
, fon, and consequently icft him to the care of his mother; whom Wood represents as struggling earnestly to procure him a literary education, and who, as the lived to the
of eighty, had her folicitude rewarded by seeing her son eminent, and, I hope, by seeing him fortunate, and partaking his prosperity. We know at least, from Sprat's account, that he always acknowledged her care, and justly paid the dues of filial gratitude,
In the window of his mother's apartment lay. Spenfer's Fairy Queen ; in which he very early took delight to read, till, by feeling the charins of verse, he became, as he relates, irrecoverably a poet.
Such are the accidents, which, sometimes remembered, and perhaps sometimes forgotten, produce that particular designation of mind, and propensity for some certain science or employment, which is commonly called Genius. The true Genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some
particular direction. The great Painter of the present age had the first fondness for his art excited by the perusal of Richardson’s treatise.
By his mother's solicitation he was admitted into Westminster-school, where he was foon distinguished. He was wont, says Sprat, to relate, “ That he had this defect in his
memory at that time, that his teachers
never could bring it to retain the ordinary 66 s rules of grammar."
This is an instance of the natural defire of man to propagate a wonder. It is surely very difficult to tell any thing as it was heard, when Sprat could not refrain from amplifying a commodious incident, though the book to which he prefixed his narrative contained its confutation,
A memory admitting some things, and rejecting others, an intellectual digestion that concocted the pulp of learning, but refused the husks, had the appearance of an instinctive elegance, of a particular provifion made by Nature for literary politeness.