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nations who have advanced some few degrees in civilisation and art. An epitaph is the germ of biography. A book is but a more extended epitaph, presented in a form that shall amplify the recital, increase the publicity, and lengthen the duration of the record, beyond what can be anticipated of the mouldering stones which form the tomb, or mark the place of sepulture. The introduction of Christianity has sanctified the feeling, and given point and precision to its promptings. Wherever this is known and professed, these memorials rise numerously around to arrest indifference, and, amidst the agitations of life, propel our thoughts forward to the great sphere of eternity, and the august assemblage of the excellent of earth and heaven. It is thus we gain a substantial victory over Death. While he rends from us the persons that we loved, we yet give a species of immortality to their character, embodying all that we admired in them while living, and exerting upon our own sensibilities, no small portion of that influence, which came from their presence and their conversation.
The uses of biography, when it is a true and natural portraiture, are too obvious to need illustration and enforcement. To enter upon any recital of them here, would but divert attention from the object immediately before us. They will be best discovered in the gradual development of our narrative.
In presenting to the public, however, the Memoirs of an individual, comparatively retired in his habits, and confined, in the sphere of his exertions, to a small section of the Christian church, it will not be expected that the author can produce any of that excitement which accompanies the lives of men, who have moved in the front of public affairs, or stood on the pinnacles of civil and religious life; yet, though we have no name to inscribe on these pages, which will act as a fascinating spell on the eye or the ear which it addresses, and attach an absorbing interest to the story to which it is prefixed, we may be allowed to hope, that all who engage in the perusal of the following narrative, will find it fraught with no small portion of that interest, which best subserves personal improvement, and awakens adoring admiration of that benignant arrangement of divine wisdom, which so often makes individuals of comparatively humble station, at once the recipients and administrators of the selectest and most imperishable benedictions.
THE REV. JOHN COOKE, was born in London, December the 16th, in the year 1760. His father resided in Virginia Street, St. George's in the East, and was engaged in a respectable line of business as a wine-cooper. His mother's family connexions appear to have been highly respectable, and, in one line, to have partaken of noble race and pedigree. Mrs. Cooke is known to have brought into the family, at her marriage, some valuable property, which it is not improbable contributed, with other circumstances, to unfit the mind of her husband for that sober and laborious application to business, which can alone secure the rewards of industry. Several estates to which she is known to have been heiress, and which ought to have descended to her children, were alienated before her death, although it is supposed no legal title was ever made to them, or, indeed, could be made, during the minority of her sons. One of these estates, a small copyhold of 60 acres at Latchinden, in the county of Essex, of which we shall have occasion to speak more particularly hereafter, was the only property of this kind, which remained to Mrs. Cooke's children at the time of her death; and this, by a singular interposition of Providence, was secured to John, the subject of this Memoir.
John Cooke had a sister older, and brother younger than himself, who both died at an early age--the one some time before, and the other soon after their mother. When John was about five, and his brother Thomas about four years of age, their mother was removed from them, under circumstances that made a deep impression upon the infant mind of her son John. These circumstances were among the earliest and the most vigorous of his recollections. They impressed upon the imagination of the child so clear an image, that all through life he could embody his loss, in a distinct and identical conception of the person, voice, and manner of a mother. In her last illness she was affected with delirium, and, during one of its paroxysms, having called her son John to come to her, for the purpose of handing something that she wanted, when he came within her reach, she suddenly stretched forth her hand, and knocked him to the ground.
There are incidents in human life which exert an influence upon the character, or the yet unformed embryo of the character, which no system of training or education can boast. In the season of childhood, trains of feeling and thought may
be awakened, which shall materially affect the habits of the mind for a length of time; and these may issue in a bias distinctly perceptible, and capable of being assigned to its undoubted origin. John Cooke's feelings were early excited, in a very high and unusual degree, towards his mother, and it would be no difficult task to point out certain traits of exquisite tenderness in his character, which it would hardly be reasonable to deny, had a close connexion with the very painful and exciting circumstances of his early life. The incident just mentioned was comparatively trivial; but it was altogether new, and strange to the child of five years old. It greatly distressed him, because he tenderly loved his mother, and he knew she was strongly attached to himself. He understood nothing about delirium, or the true cause of her conduct, but the impression wrought by it upon his mind was deep and lasting. Such an act from a mother, of whose love to himself he could not doubt, and when he had given her no offence, but with cheerful readiness obeyed her will, appeared so strange and cruel, that it required a length of time to calm his feelings. The painful impression upon his mind was increased by another incident, which occurred about the same period. A pair of scissars had been inadvertently left within reach of his mother, while she was under the influence of the same disease, and with them she made an attempt upon her own life. She lacerated her throat in a distressing manner, without effecting any material injury. But the distress experienced by John was extreme. He speaks many years after of the grief these scenes caused him, and of the difficulty with which he was pacified. Though the events themselves are by no means remarkable, yet it is remarkable that they should have so deeply and painfully affected so young a child. The probability, however, is, that his mind was, from very early life, predisposed to reflection, and that these events happened at an age adapted to give them both poignancy and perpetuity in his feelings; for had they happened at an earlier period, they would have excited only a momentary pang, and had they occurred a few years later, their explanation would have been so easy and obvious, that they would have produced no such impressions though they might possibly have lived as long in his memory. His mother's affliction, as it produced an entire change in the situation and prospects of her family, made this the first remarkable epoch in the life of her son John. The mental
tion which had caused the distressing incidents just
recorded, soon ceased, but worse symptoms succeeded; and it became evident, that a fatal issue of the disease was at hand. Reason, however, had resumed its seat, and she became perfectly sensible to her own situation, and that to which her two infants were soon to be exposed. Perfectly aware that their welfare was not likely to engage the attention of their father, she summoned to her bed-side a sister of the name of Stammers, who lived at Colchester. Mrs. Stammers appeared at the call of her dying sister; she heard the earnest and affectionate entreaties of a mother, who solemnly committed to her care these two sons-John, at the age of five, and Thomas, at the age of four years.
Mrs. Cooke died, her sister attended the funeral, and then returned to Colchester; but took no thought of the motherless, and all but fatherless babes who called her aunt, and to whom, in the affecting crisis of a sister's death, she had promised to be a mother. From this period, John Cooke and his brother were exposed to all the ills and dangers which await infants, when bereft, at that early age, of the parent on whose care Providence seems mainly to have cast them. To such young children, the loss of an affectionate and diligent mother, is but ill supplied by redoubled care and attention in the surviving parent. But when that survivor is disqualified and indisposed by evil habits to supply the loss, or even to discharge his own proper portion of parental duty, the case becomes doubly deplorable. Such was the unhappy situation of John and Thomas Cooke, after the calamitous stroke which deprived them of the tender and anxious care of a mother. Unheeded by their remaining parent, and left to the care of a servant, who most treacherously neglected them; their health and life were frequently in imminent danger, and had it not been for the occasional attentions of an aunt of the name of Merchant, who resided near them, and who does not appear to have felt any very deep interest in their welfare, they would probably both have perished in their infancy. Possibly this would have given little pain to the unnatural father, as their life was the only remaining obstacle to the total alienation of his wife's property. His habits had become profligate, and his companions" those that drink strong drink." The natural result was, the decline of his business, and a growing eagerness to possess himself of the little remaining property, which was the only hope for the sustenance, and education of his children. Providence, however, kept him from his purpose. Perhaps the peculiar cir
cumstances in which the property was placed, threw obstacles in his way, for it is certain he would have felt none in sacrificing the future interest and welfare of his offspring. The youngest boy, being of a more tender frame than John, soon began to suffer from the neglect and bad management of the unprincipled and hireling woman, who was employed in the capacity of servant in the family. The child's health rapidly failed, and in less than a year, he followed his mother to the silence and repose of the tomb.
John Cooke was now left quite alone, under the care of this servant, whose neglect had brought his brother to the grave, and frequently exposed himself to danger. These things influenced the mind of his aunt, who resided within daily view of all that passed, and she was at length touched with pity for the neglected child, and resolved to take him under her own care. He was accordingly introduced to her house, but was in frequent danger of his life, through the folly and drunkenness of his father, who would sometimes come home after midnight, and demand his son to be brought to him. Thus the child was sometimes dragged out of his bed in the middle of the night, and removed to his father's house, who would cruelly treat him, and act towards him with all the capricious folly and violence of a madman. His aunt, however, persevered to keep him in her house for about a year. During this period he suffered great distress from the death of a playfellow, for whom he had contracted a strong affection. He says, "the strength of my affection for a playfellow named Crawford, who lived in the house opposite to my uncle's, occasioned thousands of tears, sighs and pains, for years after I left London. He was between five and six years of age, engaged in play with me and other boys. By some misapprehension of his conduct in taking up his top, one boy knocked him down, and the others jumped upon him, and forced his breath from his body. At the age of twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty, I feel the pang-my heart aches, and my tears flow, as if I had just lost him."
During John Cooke's residence with his aunt Merchant, he suffered frequent afflictions; and this circumstance, probably, in connexion with the total disregard of his interests, or even of his life, manifested by his unhappy father, induced his uncle and aunt, to entertain the purpose of sending him into the country. This may be described as one of the most important events of his life, and as leading, under the wise arrangements of an inscrutable, but gracious Providence, to the