. . . I was just got into the middle of the London Geniuses. They were high-spirited and boisterous, but were very civil to me. . . .
BOSWELL, London Journal
THESE words of Boswell on 24 May 1763 might well have been written eight years earlier in a letter from William Cowper to some old friend in Berkhamsted. Boswell's 'Geniuses' were Bonnell Thornton, Robert Lloyd, Charles Churchill, and John Wilkes, and a few days earlier he had met another of their group, George Colman.1 All these men except Wilkes were Old Westminsters. Cowper had known Lloyd, Colman, and Churchill at the school, and would associate with them again, and with Thornton, after he moved into the Temple. By the middle of the 1750's these wits of his schooldays were drifting back to London from the universities. Thornton had taken his B.A. at Christ Church, Oxford, somewhat earlier (in 1747), but Colman did not take his first degree from this college until 1755. In the same year Robert Lloyd stood for his B.A. at Trinity College, Cambridge. And Churchill--after a few days in Cambridge, a Fleet marriage, and several years in the country--was moving closer and closer to the literary circles of the city: to Rainham (fifteen miles from London) in 1756, and to St John's, Westminster, in 1758.2 This was the time of the Connoisseur ( 1754-6), in which Thornton and Colman especially, and also Lloyd and Cowper, were involved. But in 1755 none of these young men was well-known, though they were all gaining reputations for cleverness and rakish living. Cowper was probably____________________