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This is an instance of the natural desire of man to propagate a wonder. It is furely 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 provision made by Nature for literary politeness. But in the author's own honest relation, the marvel vanishes : he was, he says, such “ an enemy to all conftraint, that his “ master never could prevail on him
“ to learn the rules without book.” He does not tell that he could not learn the rules, but that being able to perform his exercises without them, and being an “ enemy to constraint,” he spared himself the labour.
Among the English poets, Cowley, Milton, and Pope, might be said “ to “ lisp in numbers ;” and have given such early proofs, not only of powers of language, but of comprehension of things, as to more tardy minds seems scarcely credible. But of the learned puerilities of Cowley there is no doubt, since a volume of his poems was not only written but printed in his thirteenth year; containing, with other poetical compositions, “ The tragical
“ History of Pyramus and Thisbe,” written when he was ten years old; and “ Constantia and Philetus," written two years after.
While he was yet at school he produced a comedy called “Love's Riddle,” though it was not published till he had been some time at Cambridge. This comedy is of the pastoral kind, which requires no acquaintance with the living world, and therefore the time at which it was composed adds little to the wonders of Cowley's minority.
In 1636, he was removed to Cambridge, where he continued his studies with great intenseness; for he is said to have written, while he was yet a young student, the greater part of his Davideis;
a work of which the materials could not have been collected without the study of many years, but by a mind of the greatest vigour and activity,
Two years after his settlement at Cambridge he published “ Love’s Rid. 66 dle,” with a poetical dedication to Sir Kenelm Digby; of whose acquaintance all his contemporaries seem to have been ambitious; and “ Nau" fragium Joculare;” a comedy written in Latin, but without due attention to the ancient models; for it is not loose verse, but mere profe. It was printed, with a dedication in verse to Dr. Comber, master of the college; but having neither the facility of a popular nor the accuracy of a learned
work, it feems to be now universally neglected.
At the beginning of the civil war, as the Prince passed through Cambridge in his way to York, he was entertained with the representation of the “Guardian,” a comedy, which Cowley says was neither written nor acted, but roughdrawn by him, and repeated by the scholars. That this comedy was printed during his absence from his country, he appears to have considered as injurious to his reputation ; though, during the suppression of the theatres, it was sometimes privately acted with fufficient approbation.
In 1643, being now master, of arts, he was, by the prevalence of the par