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Cowper's Poems








Johnson, the publisher in St. Paul's Churchyard, obtained the copyright
of Cowper's Poems, which proved a great source of profit to him, in the
following manner:--One evening, a relation of Cowper's called upon
Johnson with a portion of the MS. poems, which he offered for
publication, provided Johnson would publish them at his own risk, and
allow the author to have a few copies to give to his friends. Johnson
read the poems, approved of them, and accordingly published them. Soon
after they had appeared, there was scarcely a reviewer who did not load
them with the most scurrilous abuse, and condemn them to the butter
shops; and the public taste being thus terrified or misled, these
charming effusions stood in the corner of the publisher's shop as an
unsaleable pile for a long time.

At length, Cowper's relation called upon Johnson with another bundle of
the poet's MS, which was offered and accepted upon the same terms as
before. In this fresh collection was the poem of the "Task." Not alarmed
at the fate of the former publication, but thoroughly assured of the
great merit of the poems, they were published. The tone of the reviewers
became changed, and Cowper was hailed as the first poet of the age. The
success of this second publication set the first in motion. Johnson
immediately reaped the fruits of his undaunted judgment; and Cowper's
poems enriched the publisher, when the poet was in languishing
circumstances. In October, 1812, the copyright of Cowper's poems was put
up to sale among the London booksellers, in thirty-two shares. Twenty of
the shares were sold at 212l. each. The work, consisting of two octavo
volumes, was satisfactorily proved at the sale to net 834l. per annum.
It had only two years of copyright; yet this same copyright produced the
sum of 6764l.

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