As Mr. John Gilbert Cooper's name frequently occurs in Dodsley's Collection of Poems, and other publications, perhaps the following anecdotes may not be inappropriate; for, though unboundedly presuming, he certainly was an extraordinary man. He possessed a fine person, was an excellent classic scholar, and no man was admitted into loftier society; he was bred at Westminster, was a gentleman by birth and fortune, by marriage related to the Earl of Stamford, and, as a great contemporary said of him, "had he printed what he said, and burnt chiefly what he printed, he had been immortal;" — adding, "he was a man of the most brilliant wit and ready conversation I ever knew."
Cooper published, in Dodsley's Collection, "The Tomb of Shakspeare," and introduced to the world that beautiful poem, "Away let nought to Love displeasing," &c. the last stanza of which has been much admired. And I will venture to quote the beginning of a Prologue of his own, the fourth line of which, I think, is entitled to praise:
When Athens bloom'd in scientific charms,
And the world conquer'd more by arts than arms,
Each rising genius was the public care,
And snake hung Envy form'd no factious there.
Cooper laid claim to the following Song, of which I have not seen a copy in print; I give it only from memory:
The lass that I lov'd was as cheerful as day,
And as sweet as the blossoming hawthorn in May;
Her temper was smooth as the down on the dove,
And her face was as fair as the Mother of Love.
Tho' wild as the pleasantest zephyr that sheds,
And receives gentle odours from violet beds;
Yet warm in affection as Phoebus at noon,
And as chaste as the silver-white beams of the moon.
Her mind was unsullied as new-fall'n snow,
Yet as lively as tints from young Iris's bow;
As clear as the stream, yet as smooth as the flood,
She, tho' witty, was wise; and tho' beautiful, good.
The charms which each virtue or grace had in store,
She cull'd, as the bee does the bloom of each flower,
Which treasur'd for me — Oh! how happy was I!
For tho' her's to collect, it was mine to enjoy.
Cooper's style was in general too flowery, but there cannot be a more just account of Garrick than he has given of him in one of his letters, printed by Dodsley in 1771, concerning Taste. Speaking of the deep-toned monotony of the former prevailing manner, he adds "This was the situation in which this great genius found the Stage about fourteen years ago; who, being blest with every internal and external qualification for representing human kind in all its subordinations, — having on the one hand a sound judgment, an elegant taste, a lively fancy, with the most penetrating discernment into the inmost of the heart, — and on the other, an expressive countenance, an eye full of lustre, a fine ear, a most musical and articulate voice, with an uncommon power to modulate it with ease to every transition of passion, — restored Nature to her lost empire upon the stage, and taught us by the conviction of our sympathizing souls, that kings themselves were men, and felt like the rest of their species."
It was to the credit of Cooper that he discovered the rising talents of [Richard] Farmer, and always gave him encouragement; though (to use a once fashionable phrase) Farmer was not a produceable young man.