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LIFE OF JOHN GILBERT COOPER.
BY MR. CHALMERS.
Mr. Cooper was born in 1723. He descended, according to the account of his life in the Biographia Britannica, from an ancient family in Nottinghamshire, impoverished on account of its loyalty during the rebellion in Charles Ist's time. Thurgaton Priory, in that county, was granted to one of his ancestors by Henry VIII. and after some interruption became the residence of our poet's father, and still continues in the family. I know not, however, how to reconcile this pedigree' with a nemorandum now before
me, which states that the family name was Gilbert, and that in 1736 John Gilbert, esq. obtained leave to use the surname and arms of Cooper, pursuant to the will of John Cooper of Thurgaton, esq.
He was educated at Westminster-school under Dr. John Nichols, and in 1743 became a fellow-commoner of Trinity college, Cambridge, where he resided two or three years, without taking a degree, but not without a due attention to his studies. With some tincture of foppery, he was a young man of very lively parts, and attached to classical learning, which it is only to be regretted he did not pursue with judgment. He quitted the university on bis marriage with Susanna', the grand-daughter of sir Nathan Wright, lord keeper, a man whom party raised to that situation, and whose inferiority of talents might have escaped observation, if he had not been preceded by Somers, and followed by Cowper.
In 1745, our author published The Power of Harmony, in two books, in which he endeavoured to recommend a constant attention to what is perfect and beautiful in nature, as the means of harmonizing the soul to a responsive regularity and sympathetic order. This imitation of the language of the Shaftesbury school was not affectation. He had studied the works of that nobleman with enthusiasm, and seems entirely to have regulated his conduct by the maxims of the ancient and modern academics. The poem brought him into notice with the public, but he appears not at this time to bave courted the fame of authorship. When Dodsley began to publish his Museum, he invited the
1 Thoroton's Nottinghamshire, p. 305. and new edit. by Throsby. C.
aid of Mr. Cooper among others who were friendly to liim, and received a greater portion of assistance from our author's pen than from that of any other individual. His contributions, with only one or two exceptions, were prose essays on subjects of common life and manners, in which he discovers a very happy talent for chaste humour and sprightly observation. His papers were sigued, not Philalethes, as mentioned in the Biographia Britannica, but Philaretes.
In 1749, he exhibited a curious specimen of sentimental grief in a long Latin epitaph on his first son, who died the day after his birth. It is now added to his works, with a translation which appeared some years ago in the Gentleman's Magazine, and is precisely such a translation as so ridiculous an original deserves. He afterwards, although it does not appear at what period, gave another instance of that romantic feeling which is apart from truth and nature, and whicli yet is far more frequent than is generally supposed among the sons of imagination, who seldom remember that
Grief unaffected snits but ill with art,
Mr. Fitzherbert, the father of the late lord St. Helens, found Cooper one morning apparently in such violent agitation, on account of the indisposition of his second son, as to seem beyond the power of comfort. At length, however, he exclaimed, “I'll write an elegy." Mr. Fitzkerbert, being satisfied by this of the sincerity of liis emotions, slyly said, “ Had you not beiter take a post-chaise, and go and see him??"
In 1749, he published with his name The Life of Sociates, collected from all the ancient authorities; in this work he received many learned notes from the sturdy antagonist of Warburton, the reverend Jolin Jackson of Leicester, a controversial divine of considerable fame in his day. These notes were principally levelled at Warburton, and in language not very respectful. Warburton, who knew Jackson, but probably little of Cooper, retorted by a note, in his edition of Pope's works, on the Essay on Criticism, in which he accused the author of the Life of Socrates of impudent abuse and slander, the offspring of ignorauce joined with vanity. Cooper's vanity, it must be confessed, is amply displayed in this work, and it is impossible to justify his affected contempt for writers of established reputation. Warburton's rebuke, however, was very coarse, and appears to have alarmed him; for lie was not naturally of an abusive turn, but on the contrary rather prided himself on a mind superior to personal animosities. In his defence, therefore, he published Remarks on Warburton's Edition of Pope, in which he professes that lie had attacked him as an author and not as a man, and did not, as a fair antagonist, deserve to be called an impudent slanderer, He next examines a few of Warburton's notes on Pope, and endeavours to prove his incapacity as a commentator. He betrays, however, that the real cause of his introducing Warburton's name into the Life of Socrates was his want of veneration for Mr. Cooper's favourite philosophers, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, &c. The whole is written with much acrimony, but with a very considerable display of learning. In the former, at least, there is reason to think, he was assisted by Jackson: but the Life of Socrates brought very little reputation to its author; and after some years, Warburtou's angry note was omitted from the editions of Pope.
In 1754, he appeared to more advantage as the author of Letters on Taste, a small volume, which soon passed through three or four editions. Taste had not at this time
3 Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. iji. 164. C.