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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
oems, 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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