singing, learer and louder the delights a

life of luxury. Nay, to let you see what a portion of fire and spirit, I have still left within me, know that I have this very year written a comedy full of innocent mirth. In short, that no pleasure whatever may be wanting to my old age, I please myself daily, with contemplating that immortality, which I think I see in the succession of my posterity. For every time I return home, I meet eleven grandchildren, all the offspring of one father and mother, all in fine health; all, as far as I can discern, apt to learn, and of good behaviour. I am often amused with their singing, nay, I often sing with them, because my voice is clearer and louder now, than ever it was in my life before. These are the delights and comforts of my old age ; from which, I presume, it appears, that the life I spend, is not a dead and melancholy life, but a living and pleasant life, which I would not change with the most robust of these youths, who indulge and riot in all the luxury of the senses, because I know them to be exposed to a thousand diseases, and a thousand kinds of death. I, on the contrary, am free from all such apprehensions ; from the apprehension of disease, because I have nothing for a disease to feed upon ; from the apprehension of death, because I have spent a life of reason. Besides, death, I am persuaded, is not yet near me. I know, that (barring accidents) no violent disease can touch me. I must be dissolved by a gentle and gradual decay, when the radical humour is consumed like oil in a lamp, which affords no longer light to the dying taper. But such a death as this cannot happen of a sudden. To become unable to walk and reason, to become blind, draf and bent to the earth, from all which evils, I am far enough at present, must take a considerable portion of time; and I verily believe, that this immortal soul, which still inhabits my body, with so much harmony and complacency, will not yet easily depart from it. I verily believe that I have many years to live, many years to enjoy the world, and all the good that is in it, by virtue of that

strict sobriety and temperance, which I have so long .and so religiously observed.”

It appeared from the event, that this wise and contented philosopher, prophesied very truly concerning his future health and happiness; for he lived, as we have already observed, to be above an hundred years, old, and died at Padua, in 1566. One of the writers in the Spectator No. 195, confirms the story of Cornaro, from the authority of the Venetian ambassador, at that time, in England.

CORNEILLE, (PETER) a celebrated French po. et, was born at Rouen, in 1606. He was brought up to the bar, but becoming disgusted with that profession, he soon relinquished it. In the mean time, he had given the public no specimen of his talents for poetry, nor was he yet conscious to himself of possessing any such ; and we are told, that it was merely owing to a trifiing affair of gallantry, that he wrote his first comedy, called, “ Melite.” Corneille was astonished to find himself the author of a piece, entirely new, and with the prodigious success with which it was acted. The French theatre, which was at that time', extremely low, seemed to bé raised, and to flourish at once, and though deserted, in a manner, before, was filled on a sudden, with a new company of actors. Encouraged by the most unbounded applause, he wrote the “Medea,” the “ Cid," and a number of other tragedies, which have immortalized his name.

Coreille, in his dramatic works, discovers a majesty, a strength and elevation of genius, scarce to be found in any other of the French poets; and like the immortal Shakespeare, seems more acquainted with nature than with the rules of critics. In 16-17, he was chosen a member of the French Academy,

and was dean of that society at the time of his death, which happened in 1684, in his seventy-ninth year.

He was, it is said, a man of a devout and rather melancholy disposition, and having, in his latter years, conceived a dislike to the theatre, he betook himself to a religious life, and translated, in a very masterly manner, a famous book, entitled “ The Imitation of Jesus Christ.” His works have been often printed, and consist of above thirty plays, comedies and tragedies.

COWPER, (WILLIAM) a very ingenious writer and truly original poet, was born at Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, England; in 1731. His father was à respectable clergyman and nephew to the Great Earl Cooper, lord chancellor of England. Our author received his education at Westminster, from whence he was transferred to the university of Cambridge, which he left without taking any degree; for his plan being at that time to study the law, he quitted the university, and entered himself of the Inner-Temple.

At this period of his life, he was celebrated for the vivacity and sprightliness of his conversation and briliancy of his wit. He associated with those, who were most eminent in the world; and, though it is not known, that he employed the press in any work, he was well known to possess the powers of composition, and was not the least distinguished of the groupe, which then dictated the laws of taste. An office of considerable value, which had been secured for a term to his family, it is supposed he was intend. ed to fill, and, in the mean time, he engaged in the study of the law, with sonie application, but with little success. His temper and disposition of life, were not in unison with the bustle of business; his health became precarious, and some events alluded

to in his poems, but not sufficiently explained, com pelled him to seek retirement in the country.

The profound reflections, which frequent retirement occasioned him to indulge in, gave him a seriousness of manner and aspect, which alarmed his friends, and excited their united endeavours to avert the apprehended consequences : but notwithstanding their kind and affectionate precautions, he contracta ed a marked melancholy, which, at times, deprived him of the use of his reason. The retirement he chose was at Olney, in Buckinghamshire, at which village he wrote the principal part of his poems. Here the habitual gloominess, which had so long preyed upon his mind, was attempered, at least, if not wholJy eradicated, by an intercourse with the Reverend and pious Mr. John Newton, then minister of that place, who brought him acquainted with that system of religion, which, in England, is denominated Calvinistic Methodism. The mind of Mr. Cowper, long perplexed by scruples, of a religious nature, long bewildered on the subject of revelation itself, and harTassed by new dogmas and metaphysical objections, thus at last became settled and composed. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that the most endearing friendship should have been formed between him and that gentleman. .

When Mr. Newton published his volume of hymns, called the “ The Olney's collection," it was enriched with some compositions from the pen of Mr. Cowper, distinguished by the letter C. They bear internal evidence of a cultivated understanding, and an original genius. As Mr. Cowper had no relish for public concerns, it was not singular, that he should have neglected the study of the law, on which he had first entered. That knowledge of active life, which is so requisite for the legal profession, could hardly be acquired on the banks of the Ouse, and in silent contemplation on the beauties of nature. In this retreat he exchanged, for the society and converse of

d her volume of his 282, consists of he had

of the inuses, the ambition and tumult of a forensic occupation, dedicating his mind to the cultivation of poetry, and storing it with these images, which he derived from the inexhaustible treasury of a rich and varied scenery, in a most beautiful and romantic country. This situation he so far improved, that it may be safely asserted, no writer, with the exception of Thomson, ever studied nature with more diligence, or conied her with more fidelity.

The first volume of his poems, which was published by Mr. Newton, in 1782, consists of various pieces, on various subjects. It seems that he had been assiduous in cultivating a turn for grave and argumentative versification on moral and ethical subjects. Of this kind, is the Table Talk, and several other pieces in the collection. His lighter poems are well known. Of these, the verses supposed to be written by Robinson Crusoe, (Alexander Selkirk) on the Island of Juan Fernandez, are in the most popular estimation. There is great originality in the following Stanza:

“ I am out of humanity's reach,
I must finish my journey alone;
Never hear the sweet music of speech,
I start at the sound of my own.”

It would be absurd to give one general character of all the pieces, which were published in this volume; Yet this is true, concerning Mr. Cowper's productions, that, in all the varieties of style, there may still be discerned the likeness and impression of the same mind, the same unaffected modesty, which always rejects unseasonable and ambitious ornaments of language, the same easy vigour, and the same serene and chearful hope derived from a steady and unshaken faith in the christian religion.

The favourable reception which this first volume experienced, produced another of superior merit, entitled “ The Task," a poem in six books. The

Vol. II, No. 10,

« ElőzőTovább »