The meek and bashful boy will soon be taught
To be as bold and forward as he ought;
The rude will scuffle through with case enough,
Great schools suit best the sturdy and the rough.
'Tirocinium', ll, 338-41
WILLIAM'S school would be Westminster, of course. It had been his father's school and his grandfather Spencer Cowper's, and that of the grandfather's two namesakes: his nephew the Hon. Spencer, second son of the first Earl, and his grandson Spencer, whose elder brother William had preceded him there. This youngest Spencer was in his last year when his cousin, William Cowper of Berkhamsted, enrolled in April 1742.1 Three of the Madans, Martin, Spencer, and John, also his cousins, were there with him, and Spencer Madan's son and grandsons and great-grandsons would come hereafter, but 1742 was the last year in which a Cowper would matriculate at Westminster.
William's father was a steadfast Whig,2 closely allied to one of the families of the rising Whig aristocracy. Westminster, then ruling with Eton as one of the two schools high above all others, opposed its Tory rival as the seat of this ascendant oligarchy. The school could be relied upon to foster the political ideals which were important to the father, and would be to the son. The father, kindly and soft-spoken, was nevertheless ambitious. He had seen the glory of his uncle, the Lord Chancellor and Earl, and he had similar dreams of glory for his son. He 'intended to beget a chan-____________________