1790 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Gilbert Cooper

Edmond Malone, 1790 ca.; Maloniana in Sir James Prior, Edmond Malone (1860) 427-28.



Mr. Gilbert Cooper was the last of the benevolists, or sentimentalists, who were much in vogue between 1750 and 1760, and dealt in general admiration of virtue. They were all tenderness in words; their finer feelings evaporated in the moment of expression, for they had no connection with their practice. He was the person whom, when lamenting most piteously that his son then absent might be ill or even dead, Mr. Fitzherbert so grievously disconcerted by saying, in a growling tone, "Can't you take a post chaise, and go and see him?" Mr. Boswell has recorded this anecdote, but did not know the name of the complainer. He was much in the world then, and used to depreciate Johnson as much as he could, by terming him "Nothing more than a literary Caliban." "Well then," said Johnson, when this was told him, "you must allow that he is the Punchinello of literature."

Cooper was round and fat. He was, as Mr. Burke, who knew him well, told me, a master of French and Italian, and a good classical scholar; but an insufferable coxcomb. Dr. Warton one day, when dining with Johnson and Burke, urged these circumstances in his favour: "He was at least very well-informed, and a good scholar." "Yes," said Johnson, "it cannot be denied that he has good materials for playing the fool; and he makes abundant use of them."