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but only assumes that its existence in his mind proved the truth of the impression which seemed to himself to cause it : in this he argued as all hypochondriacs and maniacs do. But, in fancying himself crippled, and made useless, and turned out of service, he argued not irrationally; he was only mistaken; and it is pleasing to reflect, (as it has long since been to him a source of the purest joy and gratitude to know,) how greatly he was mistaken. All the mystery has long ago been explained to him.
In the above letter, he evidently alludes to his belief in the doctrine of Final Perseverance (which, properly understood, is but the doctrine of Regeneration) as flatly opposed, in every case but his own, to his mournful conclusion, or rather delusion. He does not doubt his having been truly made a partaker of spiritual life, but, with his own peculiar force of expression, intimates that his soul had been slain by the hand of God. Mr. Newton appears to have seen the total unutility of combating this impression by argument, and to have attempted to dissuade his afflicted friend from suffering himself to dwell on the topic. Cowper's reply throws still further light on the true nature of his disorder, as well as on his social habits and amiable character. • MY DEAR FRIEND,
• I converse, you say, upon other subjects than that of despair, and may therefore write upon others. Indeed, my friend, I am a inan of very little conversation upon any subject. From that of despair I abstain as much as possible, for the sake of my oompany; but I will venture to say that it is never out of my mind one minute in the whole day. I do not mean to say that I am never cheerful. I am often so: always, indeed, when my nights have been undisturbed for a season. But the effect of such continual listening to the language of a heart hopeless and deserted is, that I can never give much more than half my attention to what is started by others, and very rarely start any thing myself. My silence, however, and my absence of mind make nie sometimes as entertaining as if I had wit. They furnish an occasion for friendly and good-natured raillery; they raise a laugh, and I partake of it. But you will easily perceive that a mind thus occupied is but indifferently qualified for the consideration of theological matters. The most useful and the most delightful topics of that kind are to me forbidden fruit ;-I tremble if I approach them. It has happened to me sometimes, that I have found myself imperceptibly drawn in, and made a party in such discourse. The consequence has been, dissatisfaction and self-reproach. You will tell me, perhaps, that I have written upon these subjects in verse, and may, therefore, if I please, in prose. But there is a difference. The search after poetical expression, the rhyme, and the numbers, are all affairs of some difficulty; they amuse, indeed, but are not to be attained
without study, and engross, perhaps, a larger share of the attention than the subject itself. Persons fond of music will sometimes find pleasure in the tune, when the words afford them none.
There are however, suhjects that do not always terrify me by their importance; such, I mean, as relate to Christian life and manners; and when such a one presents itself, and finds me in a frame of mind that does not absolutely forbid the employment, I shall most readily give i my attention, for the sake, however, of your request merely. Verse is my favourite occupation, and what I compose in that way, I reserve for my own use hereafter.'
One feature of Cowper's complaint, and one medium of suffering to him as to almost all patients labouring under nervous disorder, was dreams. He alludes, in the above letter, to the salutary influence on his spirits of unbroken slumbers. In another letter, he says: 'I have been lately more dejected • and more distressed than usual; more harassed by dreams
in the night, and more deeply poisoned by them in the
following day! There are many persons not labouring under any alienation of reason, who will feelingly understand this language. Poor Bloomfield used to complain of the unutterable horror of his dreams, dreams reiterated night after night, from which he awoke more exhausted than when be retired to rest, and the dread of which would pursue him through the day. The letter in which the description given by Cowper, occurs, closes with the following striking expres
" I now see a long winter before me, and am to get through it as
I know the ground, before I tread upon it. It is hollow; it is agitated; it suffers shocks in every direction ; it is like the soil of Calabria—all whirlpool and undulation. But I must reel through it; at least, if I be not swallowed up by the way.'
We have said enough to shew the nature of Cowper's malady; but, strange to say, the misunderstanding which has prevailed in consequence of the partial disclosure of his history, has, in some directions, extended to the Poet's character--we mean his religious character, which has been censoriously charged with apparent inconsistencies, for want, partly, of better information, and partly of more Christian charity. We find, indeed, from these Letters, that even in his life-time, Cowper's conduct was made the subject of much unfeeling and impertinent observation among the good people of Olney; and nothing can be more characteristic of the genuine humility of the Christian, or more decisively shew the Writer's tenderness of conscience, than the letter in which he vindicates himself to Mr. Newton from these ungenerous aspersions.
........' Your letter to Mrs. Vowin concerning our conduct and the offence taken at it in our neighbourhood, gave us both a great deal of concern; and she is still deeply affected by it. Of this you may assure yourself ; that, if our friends in London have been grieved, they have been misinformed; which is the more probable, because the bearers of intelligence hence to London are not always very scrupulous concerning the truth of their reports ; and that if any of our serious neighbours have been astonished, they have been so without the smallest real occasion. Poor people are never well employed even when they judge one another; but when they undertake to scan the motives and estimate the behaviour of those whom Providence has exalted a little above them, they are utterly out of their province and their depth. They often see us get into Lady Hesketh's carriage, and rather uncharitably suppose that it always carries us into a scene of dissipation, which, in fact, it never does. We visit, indeed, at Mr. Throckmorton's and at Gayhurst; rarely, however, at Gayhurst, on account of the greater distance; more frequently, though not very frequently, at Weston, both because it is nearer, and because our business in the house that is making ready for us often calls us that way. The rest of our journeys are to Beaujeat turnpike and back again ; or, perhaps, to the cabinet-maker's at New. port. As Othello says,
The very head and front of my offending
Hath this extent, no more. What good we can get or can do in these visits, is another question, which they, I am sure, are vot at all qualified to solve. Of this we are both sure, that under the guidance of Providence we have formed these connexions; that we should have hurt the Christian cause, rather than have served it, by a prudish abstinence from them; and that St. Paul himself, conducted to them as we have been, would have found it expedient to have done as we have done.......... I speak å strict truth, and as in the sight of God, when I say, that we are neither of as at all more addicted to gadding than heretofore. We borh naturally love seclusion froin company, and never go into it without putting a force upon our disposition. At the same time I will confess, and you will easily conceive, that the melancholy incident to such close confinement as we have so long endured, finds itself a little relieved by such amusements as a society so innocent affords. You may look round the Christian world, and find few, I believe, of our station, who have so little intercourse as we with the world that is not Christian.
• We place all the uneasiness that you have felt for us upon this subject, to the account of that cordial friendship of which you have long given us proof. But you may be assured, that, notwithstanding all rumours to the contrary, we are exactly what we were when you saw us last:-I miserable on account of God's departure from me, which I believe to be final, and she, seeking his return to me in the path of duty, and by continual prayer. Yours, my dear friend, W.C.'
Persons who could affect to be scandalized at an invalid's
taking an airing every day in a friend's carriage, and that friend his own cousin, would not be very likely to form either á competent or a charitable judgement of Cowper's conduct in other matters. One would have thought, if any human being could be safe from the busy malice of slander or the more specious detraction of professed friends, that this amiable recluse might have enjoyed such an exemption, to which his virtues, his affliction, and his retiring habits alike entitled him. But the good folks at Olney thought otherwise, and some individuals who ought to have known better, took part against the most unoffending of mortals. We have sufficiently disposed of one charge, that which related to his worldly connexions. The others may, we believe, be reduced to three; they relate to his non-attendance on public worship, his Homer, and his domestication with Mrs. Unwin. With respect to each of these, the disclosures contained in these Letters are amply satisfactory.
The first circumstance, unexplained, might seem a legitimate subject for surprise and regret; but it ceases to be so, when the truth is once told, that he considered himself as Die vinely excluded by an imaginary sentence from all his religious privileges. A single passage from a letter to Mr. Newton (June 1785), will sufficiently shew the nature of the cause which kept him from the house of prayer. Mr. Greatheed had been preaching at Olney.
• I should have been glad, writes Cowper, 'to have been a hearer ; but that privilege is not allowed me yet. Indeed, since I told you that I had hope, I have never ceased to despair, and have repented that I made my boast so soon, more than once. A king may forbid a man to appear before him, and it were strange if the King of kings might not do the same. I know it to be his will that I should not enter into his presence now: when the prohibition is taken off, I shall enter; but, in the mean time, I should neither please him, nor serve myself, by intruding.'
To this we need only add a reference to the letter addressed to Mr. Ball, which we gave to the public in a former article,* and which we regret not to find in the present collection, as it is one of the most singular and interesting of all Cowper's epistolary effusions. Hayley has printed it only in a mutilated form, and the present Editor knew where to apply for the original. Prove to me,' he says to his venerable friend in that letter,' that I have a right to pray, and I will pray without
* See Art. Memoirs of Cowper. E. R. Vol. vi. p. 337.
* ceasing, --yes, and praise too, even in the belly of this hell,
compared with which Jonah's was a palace, a temple of the • living God.' Yet, the sin by which he was excluded, he admits that his Correspondent would account no sin, would even consider as a duty. He goes on to tell him :'I have not even
asked a blessing on my food these ten years.' This was written in 1782. To have urged on a person labouring under such an imagination as this, an attendance upon public worship as a duty, would have been as injudicious as ineffectual ; and we can scarcely find words harsh enough to characterise the unfeeling pharisaism that would found a reproach or a surmise unfavourable to his piety, on his involuntary seclusion.
The next charge of inconsistency--we almost blush at repeating them,-founded itself on his giving, so much of his time to a translation of Homer, when he might, as his selfconstituted judges have been pleased to determine, have employed his talents so much more for the honour of God and the good of society. That he should select a heathen bard for his unremitting study, has been thought a sad proof of religious declension, a sign, if not a cause, of deteriorated spirituality. How unkindly he was wronged by such suspicions, shall be shewn from his own language. In the following letter, he tells Mr. Newton how he came to undertake the translation. Its date is Dec. 1785.
...... Employment, and with the pen, is, through habit, become essential to my well-being; and to produce always original poems, especially of considerable length, is not so easy. For some weeks after I had finished the Task, and sent away the last sheet corrected, I was through necessity idle, and sụffered not a little in my spirits for being so. One day, being in such distress of mind as was hardly supportable, I took up the Iliad; and merely to divert attention, and with no more preconception of what I was then entering upon, than I have at this moment of what I shall be doing this day twenty years hence, translated the first twelve lines of it. The same necessity pressing me again, I had recourse to the same expedient, and translated more. Every day bringing its occasion for employment with it, every day consequently added something to the work; till at last I began to reflect thus :-The Iliad and the Odyssey together consist of about forty thousand verses. To translate these forty thousand verses will furnish me with occupation for a considerable time. I have already made some progress, and I find it a most agreeable amusement. Homer, in point of purity, is a most blameless writer, and, though he was not an enlightened man, has interspersed many great and valuable truths throughout both his poems. In short, he is in all respects a most venerable old gentleman, by an acquaintance with wbom no man can disgrace himself. The literati are all agreed to a man, that although Pope has given us two pretty poems under Homer's