Cogan, Eliezer (DNB00)

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COGAN, ELIEZER (1762–1855), scholar and divine, born at Rothwell, Northamptonshire, in 1762, was the son of John Cogan, a surgeon, then sixty-four years old. The father, who survived until 1784, and was the author of ‘An Essay on the Epistle to the Romans’ and of other anonymous pieces, married twice; by his first wife he had a son, called Thomas [q. v.], the physician, and by the second he was the father of Eliezer. The boy had a wonderful memory, and mastered the Latin grammar before he was six years old. For six months he was placed at Market Harborough in the school of the Rev. Stephen Addington [q. v.], but his early life was mainly passed under his father's roof, and he was self-taught in the rudiments of Greek. To complete his education he was sent to the dissenting academy at Daventry, where for the space of six years, three as pupil and three as assistant tutor, he had the advantage of the society of Thomas Belsham [q. v.] There were at this time about fifty pupils in that institution, and nearly the whole of them became distinguished in after life as unitarians. When the Rev. John Kenrick moved from Daventry to Exeter in 1784, his place was taken by Cogan, who thus became Belsham's colleague in the work of instruction. In the autumn of 1787 Cogan was elected as minister of the ancient presbyterian congregation at Cirencester, and continued in that position until 1789. During this period of his life he printed for his friends, though he did not publish, a ‘Fragment on Philosophical Necessity.’ On 21 Sept. 1790 he married Mary, the daughter of David Atchison of Weedon, and in the following July he settled for a short time at Ware in Hertfordshire, but after a few months he removed first to Enfield and then to Cheshunt. Cogan was elected minister of the chapel in Crossbrook Street, Cheshunt, in 1800, and in January of the subsequent year he was appointed to a like position over the dissenting congregation at Walthamstow. During that year he preached alternately there and at Cheshunt, but at its close he transferred his school from Cheshunt to Higham Hill, Walthamstow, and confined his ministerial services to the congregation of the latter village. The school over which he presided soon reached to great fame, the secret of his success as a teacher lying in his zeal for his labours and his skill in laying the foundations of instruction. Among his pupils were Samuel Sharpe, the Egyptologist and translator of the Bible, Benjamin Disraeli, afterwards earl of Beaconsfield (of whom he used to say, ‘I don't like Disraeli; I never could get him to understand the subjunctive’), Mr. Milner Gibson, Mr. Russell Gurney, and Lord Overstone. He preached his farewell sermon at Walthamstow on the last Sunday of 1816, and in 1828, after thirty-six years of scholastic life, during which he had never been absent from his duties in pursuit of pleasure, he withdrew from the task of teaching into private life. His portrait in life-size was painted at the cost of his pupils by Thomas Phillips, R.A., and engraved by Samuel Cousins, and the picture was presented to him at a dinner at the Albion tavern on 20 Dec. 1828. Cogan lived many years after his retirement, his days being passed in incessant reading. Whether he walked in the streets of London or in the country lanes of Hertfordshire, a book was his companion, and at the time of his death he is supposed to have read more Greek than any of the students whom he left behind him. He died at Higham Hill on 21 Jan. 1855, and was buried on 27 Jan. in a vault in the burial-ground at the Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney, which contained his wife's remains. She died on 1 Dec. 1850, aged 81.

Cogan had a high reputation as a Greek scholar. In the section of 'Porsoniana' appended to Dyce's 'Table-talk of Samuel Rogers,' p. 302, occurs the anecdote that when Cogan was introduced to Porson with the remark that he was intensely devoted to Greek, the reply of Porson was, 'If Mr. Cogan is passionately fond of Greek, he must be content to dine on bread and cheese for the remainder of his life.' Dr. Parr highly praised Cogan's 'intellectual powers, his literary attainments, and candour,' and in 1821 stated that he had given directions that on his death a ring should be presented to Cogan. His works were numerous. To the 'Fragment on Philosophical Necessity,' already mentioned, must be added: 'An Address to the Dissenters on Classical Literature,' 1789, in which he strongly urged the study of the classics. 'Moschi Idyllia tria, Græce,' 1795, which he edited with notes for the use of his scholars, but afterwards suppressed. 'Reflections on the Evidences of Christianity,' 1796. 'Purity and Perfection of Christian Morality,' 1800. 'Christianity and Atheism compared,' 1800. To this an answer was issued by a Mr. Robinson, whereupon Cogan published: 'An Examination of Mr. Robinson's reply to Mr. Cogan on the Practical Influence of a belief in a Future State,' 1800. 'Sermons chiefly on Practical Subjects,' 1817, 2 vols. 'Contributions to the Monthly Magazine, Dr. Aikin's Athenæum, the Monthly Repository, and the Christian Reformer, by the late Rev. Eliezer Cogan, 2 parts, I. Classical; II. Theological, Metaphysical, and Biblical. Extracted and compiled by his son, Richard Cogan,' 1856. He was the author of several sermons on the deaths of members of his congregation at Cheshunt and Walthamstow, and he read in manuscript and suggested some alterations in Dr. Alexander Crombie's 'Natural Theology' (1829). Dr. Priestley was his guide in theology and metaphysics. A long memoir of Cogan appeared in the 'Christian Reformer,' xi. 237–59 (1855), and was printed at Hackney as a pamphlet the same year. His daughter, Mrs. Gibson of Tunbridge Wells, printed recently for private circulation twenty-five copies of a little work entitled 'Recollections of my Youth,' giving some pleasing particulars of school-life under Cogan.

[Murch's Presb. Churches in West of England, p. 26; Clayden's Samuel Sharpe, pp. 26–9; Crabb Robinson's Diary, ii. 60; Beaconsfield on the Constitution, ed. by F. Hitchman, p. xxv; Notes and Queries, 3 Jan. 1885, p. 16.]

W. P. C.