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Weston, where every object is embellished by
DEDICATION. TO THE DOWAGER LADY THROCKMORTON. Your Ladyship’s peculiar intimacy with the poet Cowper, and your former residence at
his muse, and clothed with a species of poetical verdure, give you a just title to have your name associated with his endeared memory.
But, independently of these considerations, you are recorded both in his poetry and prose, and have thus acquired a kind of double immortality. These reasons are sufficiently valid to
authorize the present dedication. But there are additional motives,—the recollection of the happy hours, formerly spent at Weston, in your society and in that of Sir George Throckmorton, enhanced by the presence of our common lamented friend, Dr. Johnson. A dispensation which spares neither rank, accomplishments, nor virtues, has unhappily terminated this enjoyment, but it has not extinguished those sentiments of esteem and regard, with which
I have the honor to be,
My dear Lady Throckmorton, Your very sincere and obliged friend,
T. S. GRIMSHAWE.
Biddenham, Feb. 28, 1835.
In presenting to the public this new and complete edition of the Life, Correspondence, and Poems of Cowper, it may be proper for me to state the grounds on which it claims to be the only complete edition that has been, or can be published.
After the decease of this justly admired author, Hayley received from my lamented brotherin-law, Dr. Johnson, (so endeared by his exemplary attention to his afflicted relative,) every facility for his intended biography. Aided also by valuable contributions from other quarters, he was thus furnished with rich materials for the execution of his interesting work. The reception with which his Life of Cowper was honoured, and the successive editions through which it passed,
afforded unequivocal testimony to the industry and talents of the biographer and to the epistolary merits of the Poet.
Still there were many, intimately acquainted with the character and principles of Cowper, who considered that, on the whole, a very erroneous impression was veyed to the public. On this subject no one was perhaps more competent to form a just estimate than the late Dr. Johnson. A long and familiar intercourse with his endeared relative had afforded him all the advantages of a daily and minute observation. His possession of documents, and intimate knowledge of facts, enabled him to discover the partial suppression of some letters, and the total omission of others, that, in his judgment, were essential to the developement of Cowper's real character. The cause of this procedure may be explained so as fully to exonerate Hayley from any charge injurious to his honour. His mind, however literary and elegant, was not precisely qualified to present a religious character to the view of the British public, without committing some important errors. Hence, in occasional parts of his work, his reflections are misplaced, sometimes injurious, and often injudicious; and in no portion of it is this defect more visible than
where he attributes the malady of Cowper to the operation of religious causes.
It would be difficult to express the painful feeling produced by these facts on the minds of Dr. Johnson and of his friends. Hayley indeed seems to be afraid of exhibiting Cowper too much in a religious garb, lest he should either lessen his estimation, alarm the reader, or compromise himself. To these circumstances may be attributed the defects that we have noticed, and which have rendered his otherwise excellent production an imperfect work. The consequence, as regards Cowper, has been unfortunate. People,” observes Dr. Johnson, 6 read the Letters with the Task' in their recollection, (and vice versa,) and are perplexed. They look for the Cowper of each in the other, and find him not; the correspondency is destroyed. The character of Cowper is thus undetermined; mystery hangs over it, and the opinions formed of him are as various as the minds of the inquirers.” It was to dissipate this illusion, that my lamented friend collected the “ Private Correspondence,” containing letters that had been previously suppressed, with the addition of others, then brought to light for the first time. Still there