Cooper, John Gilbert (DNB00)

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COOPER, JOHN GILBERT (1723–1769), poet and miscellaneous writer, was descended from an ancient family of Notting- hamshire, which was impoverished on account of its loyalty during the time of Charles I. His father possessed Thurgarton Priory, granted to one of his ancestors by Henry VIII, and here the son was born in 1723. He was educated at Westminster School, and in 1743 entered Trinity College, Cambridge, but quitted it on his marriage to Miss Wright, daughter of Sir Nathan Wright, the recorder of Leicester, without taking a degree. In 1745 he published the ‘Power of Harmony,’ in two books, in which he promulgated that attention to what was beautiful and perfect in nature was the best means to harmonise the soul. The style is modelled on that of the author of the ‘Characteristics’ [see Cooper, Anthony Ashley, third earl of Shaftesbury], of whom he was an enthusiastic disciple. Under the name of ‘Philaretes’ Cooper became one of the chief contributors to Dodsley's ‘Museum,’ started in 1746. In 1749 he wrote a Latin epitaph on the death of his son, who expired the same day that he was born. The epitaph, a very affected piece of composition, appeared in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1778, p. 486, accompanied with a poetical English translation. In 1749 Cooper published a ‘Life of Socrates,’ with an edition of his writings collected from all the ancient authorities. For this work he received notes from John Jackson, an opponent of Warburton, who took care to handle the conclusions of Warburton with some severity. Warburton replied in a note to his edition of Pope (ed. 1751, i. 151), characterising the attack as ‘ignorant abuse, the offspring of ignorance.’ To this Cooper replied in ‘Cursory Remarks on Warburton's edition of Pope,’ asserting that he attacked him as an author and not as a man. In 1754 he published ‘Letters on Taste,’ which received a high encomium from Johnson. In 1755 he published ‘The Tomb of Shakespeare, a Vision,’ and in the following year, in the ‘Genius of Britain,’ denounced the proposal to bring Hessian troops to defend the kingdom. In 1758 he published ‘Epistles to the Great from Aristippus in retirement,’ which was soon afterwards followed by the ‘Call of Aristippus, Epistle IV. to Mark Akenside, M.D.’ In 1759 he published a translation of Gresset's ‘Vert-Vert,’ which was reprinted in the ‘Repository’ in 1777. In 1764 Dodsley published those of his poems which had appeared in the ‘Museum,’ and in Dodsley's collections, the title being ‘Poems on several subjects.’ He died at Mayfair, London, in April 1769.

[Biog. Brit. (Kippis), iv. 262–6; Chalmers's Biog. Dict. x. 226–30; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 130–1, ii. 294–7, 379, v. 602–3; Johnson's Lives of the Poets; Thoroton's Nottinghamshire.]

T. F. H.