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WILLIAM COWPER, ESQR.
RIGHT HONOURABLE EARL COWPER.
By WILLIAM HAYLEY, Esgr.
" Observatur oculis ille vir, quo neminem ætas nostra graviorem, sanctiorem,
Plinii Epist. Lib. 4, Ep 176
FOR J. JOHNSON, ST. PAUL'S CHURCII-YARD, LONDON.
A New æra opens in the history of the poet, from an incident that gave fresh ardour and vivacity to his fertile imagination. In 1781, he became acquainted with a lady, highly accomplished herself, and singularly happy in animating and directing the fancy of her poetical friends. The world will perfectly agree with me in this eulogy, when I add, thạt to this lady we are primarily indebted for the poem of the Task, for the ballad of John Gilpin, and for the translation of Homer. But in my lively sense of her merit, I am almost forgetting my imme
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diate duty, as the biographer of the poet, to introduce her circumstantially to the acquaintance of my reader. "
A lady, whose name was Jones, was one of the few neighbours admitted in the residence of the retired poet. She was the wife of a clergyman, who resided at the village of Clifton, within a mile of Olney. Her sister, the widow of Sir Robert Austen, Baronet, came to pass some time with her in the summer of 1781; and as the two ladies chanced to call at a shop in Olney, opposite to the house of Mrs. Unwin, Cowper observed them from his window.Although naturally shy, and now rendered more so by his very long illness, he was so struck with the appearance of the stranger, that on hearing she was sister to Mrs. Jones, he requested Mrs. Unwin to invite them to tea. : So strong was his reluctance to admit the company of strangers, that after he had occasioned this invitation, he was for a long time unwilling to join the little party; but having forced himself at last to engage in conversation with Lady Austen, he was so reanimated by her colloquial talents, that he attended the ladies on their return to Clifton, and from that time continued to cultivate the regard of his new acquaintance with such assiduous attention,