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TO WHICH IS PREFIXED A
MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR
BY JOHN M'DIARMID.
FIFTH EDITION, REVISED AND ENLARGED.
The mind that feels indeed the fire
OLIVER & BOYD, TWEEDDALE COURT; AND
TO THE FIFTH EDITION.
VARIOUS biographers of Cowper have appeared since the Author sketched the following Life, now nearly eighteen years ago. By some, indeed, the subject has been literally exhausted, and volumes were drawn from materials so scanty, that they border on the celebrated migrations from the "blue bed to the brown," which constitute the personal history of the recluse of Olney. In the opinion of the Public, or at least of the critics, this was the only error that Mr Hayley committed; and in an age like the present, when the literature of the country is scooping for itself so many new and unwonted channels, and the cry is " economy of price as well as of time, the maximum of information in the minimum of space," it seems somewhat odd, that his example should have been followed rather than avoided. At the same time, it may be safely admitted, that brevity has its blemishes as well as bulkiness; and on this principle, the first biographer of Cowper in the wake of Mr Hayley, in re-addressing himself
to an early study, has been induced to extend the original Memoir very nearly a half. Change generally leads to extension; and as a man should learn something during eighteen years by research, reflection, and comparison of notes, he ventures to hope, that the Memoir now prefixed to the Poems of Cowper, with all its faults, will be found at least the most compact that has yet appeared.
DUMFRIES, June 1837.
TO THE SECOND EDITION.
ABOUT two years ago the Publishers of the present volume, having resolved to print a new edition of CowPER'S WORKS, applied to me to furnish them with a short account of the Author's life. This task, after considerable hesitation, I agreed to execute. I was not only aware of my own unfitness for the undertaking, humble and commonplace as it is, but I had many doubts as to the propriety of engaging in any thing that might seem to interfere with the labours of Mr Hayley, to whom the public are under so many obligations. On the other hand, it occurred to me, that the bulkiness and expense of that gentleman's work rendered it in a great measure inaccessible to ordinary readers; and that, instead of a condensed and connected view of the life and character of the poet, it is chiefly filled with a large selection from his private correspondence, which the biographer has