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just as it used to do, and when Mr. P-goes up before I had ever tasted of spiritual trouble. The stairs, for aught I know, or ever shall know, the effect was, an abhorrence of the scene in which I fall of his foot can hardly, perhaps, be distinguished had suffered so much, and a weariness of those obfrom that of Mr. Newton. But Mr. Newton's footjects which I had so long looked at with an eye of will never be heard upon that staircase again. despondency and dejection. But it is otherwise with These reflections, and such as these, occurred to me now. The same cause subsisting, and in a much me on this occasion. If I were in a condition to more powerful degree, fails to produce its natural leave Olney, I certainly would not stay in it. It is effect. The very stones in the garden walls, are my no attachment to the place that binds me here, but intimate acquaintance. I should miss almost the an unfitness for every other. I lived in it once, but minutest object, and be disagreeably affected by ils now I am buried in it, and have no business with removal, and am persuaded, that were it possible I the world on the outside of my sepulchre; my ap- could leave this incommodious nook for a twelvepearance would startle them, and theirs would be month, I should return to it again with raptures, shocking to me.”
and be transported with the sight of objects, which, In a letter to Mr. Newton, 3d May, 1780, he thus to all the world beside, would be at least indifferwrites:—"You indulge me in such a variety of sub- ent; some of them, perhaps, such as the ragged jects, and allow me such a latitude of excursion, in thatch, and the toitering walls, disgusting. But so this scribbling employment, that I have no excuse it is, and it is so, because here is to be my abode, for silence. I am much obliged to you for swallow and because such is the appointment of Him who ing such boluses as I send you, for the sake of my placed me in it. It is the place of all the world I gilding, and verily believe, I am the only man love the most, not for any happiness it affords me, alive, from whom ihey would be welcome, to a pa- but because here I can be miserable with most conlate like yours. I wish I could make them more venience to myself, and with least disturbance to splendid than they are, more alluring to the eye, at others.". least, if not more pleasing to the taste, but my leaf In a letter to Mrs. Unwin's son, with whom he gold' is tarnished, and has received such a tinge had now commenced a correspondence, he thus from the vapors that are ever brooding over my describes his feelings :-"So long as I am pleased mind, that I think it no small proof of your partia- with an employment, I am capable of unwearied lity to me, that you will read my letters. If every application, because my feelings are all of the inhuman being upon earth could think for one quar- tense kind: I never received a little pleasure from ter of an hour, as I have thought for many years, any thing in my life; if I am delighted, it is in the there might perhaps be many miserable men among extreme. The unhappy consequence of this temthem, but not one unawakened one would be found, perature is, that my aitachment to my occupation from the Arctic to the Antarctic circle. At pre- seldom outlives the novelty of it. That nerve of sent, the difference between them and me is greatly my imagination that feels the touch of any particuto their advantage. I delight in baubles, and know | lar amusement, twangs under the energy of the them to be so, for, rested in, and viewed without a pressure with so much vehemence, that it soon bereference to their author, what is the earth, what comes sensible of weariness and fatigue.”. are the planets, what is the sun itself, but a bauble ? Writing to Mr. Newton, 12th July, 1780, he thus Better for a man never to have seen them, or to see again advenis to his own case :-"Such nights as I them with the eyes of a brute, stupid and uncon- frequently spend, are but a miserable prelude to the scious of what he beholds, than not to be able to say, sacceeding day, and indispose me, above all things,
The maker of these wonders is my friend! Their to the business of writing. Yet with a pen in my eyes have never been opened, to see that they are hand, if I am able to write at all, I find myself gra. trifles; mine have been, and will be, till they are dually relieved; and as I am glad of any employclosed for ever."
ment that may serve to engage my attention, so es"I live in a world abounding with incidents, upon pecially I am pleased with an opportunity of con. which many grave, and perhaps some profitable versing with you, though it be but upon paper. This observations, might be made; but these incidents occupation, above all others, assists me in that selfnever reaching my unfortunate ears, both the en- deception, to which I am indebted for all the linle tertaining narrative, and the reflections it might comfort I enjoy; things seem to be as they were, and suggest, are to be annihilated and lost. I look back ! almost forget that they can never be so again. If on the past week, and say, what did it produce ? ! I have strength of mind, I have not strength of body ask the same question of the week preceding, and for the task, which, you say, some would impose duly receive the same answer from both-nothing! upon me. I cannot bear much thinking. The A situation like this, in which I am as unknown to meshes of that fine nel-work, the brain, are comthe world, as I am ignorant of all that passes in it posed of such mere spinner's threads in me, that -in which I have nothing to do but to think, would when a long thought finds its way into them, it buzexactly suit me, were my subjects of meditation as zes, and twangs, and bustles about, at such a rate, agreeable as my leisure is uninterrupted: my pas- as seems to threaten the whole contexture." sion for retirement is not at all abated, after so ma To the same correspondent he writes on another ny years spent in the most sequestered state, but occasion : "Your sentiments, with respect to me, rather increased ; a circumstance I should esteem are exactly like Mrs. Unwin's. She, like you, is wonderful, to a degree not to be accounted for, con- perfectly sure of my deliverance, and often tells me sidering the condition of my mind, did I not know so; I make her but one answer, and sometimes none that we think as we are made to think, and of at all. That answer gives her no pleasure, and course, approve and prefer, as Providence, who would give you as little; therefore, at this time I appoints the bounds of our habitation, chooses for suppress it. It is better on every account that they us. Thus, I am both free, and a prisoner at the who interest themselves so deeply in that event, same time. The world is before me; I am not shut should believe the certainty of it, than that they up in the Bastile; there are no moats about my cas- should not. It is a comfort to them, at least, if it be tle, no locks upon my gates, of which I have not the one to me, and as I could not, if I would, so neither keys; but an invisible, uncontrollable agency, a would I, if I could, deprive them of it. If human local attachment, an inclination, more forcible than nature may be compared to a piece of tapestry, (and I ever felt, even to the place of my birth, serves me why not ?) then human nature, as it subsists in mo, for prison walls, and for bounds, which I cannot though it is sadly faded on the right side, retains all pass. In former years I have known sorrow, and its color on the wrong. At this season of the year,
and in this gloomy and uncomfortable climate, it is in their hands, and is of perpetual obligation, both no easy matter for the owner of a mind like miné, upon Jews and Christians; the commandment ento divert it from sad subjects, and fix it upon such joins it, and the prophets have enforced it; and, in as may administer to its amusement. Poetry, above many instances, the breach of it has been punished all things, is useful to me in this respect. While I with a providential severity, that has made bystandam held in pursuit of pretty images, or a pretty way ers tremble. Secondly, it may be considered as a of expressing them, I forget every thing that is irk- privilege, which you will know how to dilate upoz. some, and, like a boy that plays truant, determine better than I can tell you; thirdly, as a sign of that to avail himself of the present opportunity to be covenant by which believers are entitled to a rest amused, regardless of future consequences. It will that yet remaineth; fourtḥly, as the sine qua non of not be lung perhaps, before you will receive a poem, the Christian character, and upon this head, I should called the Progress of Error; that will be succeed- guard against being misunderstood to mean no more ed by another, in due time, called Truth. Don't be than two attendances upon public worship, which is alarmed. I ride Pegasus with a curb. He will a form observed by thousands who never kept a Sabnever run away with me again. I have even con- bath in. their lives. Consistence is necessary to give vinced Mrs. Unwin, that I can manage him, and substance and solidity to the whole. To sanctify make him stop, when I please.".
the day at church, and to trifle it away out of church, On another occasion he gives the following cu- is profanation, and vitiates all. After all, I should rious and playful description of himself:—“I can say to my catechumen, Do you love the day, or do compare this mind of mine to nothing that resem- you not? If you love it, you will never inquire how bles it more, than to a board, that is under the car- far you may safely deprive yourself of the enjoypenter's plane, (I mean while I am writing to you;) ment of it. If you do not love it, and you find yourthe shavings are my uppermost thoughts; after a self in conscience obliged to acknowledge it, that is few strokes of the tool, it acquires a new surface; an alarming symptom, and ought to make you tremthis again, upon a repetition of his task, he takes ble. If you do not love it, then it is a weariness to off, and a new surface still succeeds. Whether the you, and you wish it over. The ideas of labor and shavings of the present day, will be worth your ac- rest, are not more opposite to each other than the ceptance, I know not; I am, unfortunately, made idea of a Sabbath, and that dislike and disgust, with neither of cedar nor of mahogany, but Truncus which it fills the souls of thousands, to be obliged ficulnus, inutile lignum, consequently, though: I to keep it: it is worse than bodily labor." should be planed till I am as thin as a wafër, it will To his cousin, Mrs. Cowper, he again writes :be but rubbish at last.”'
“I know not what impressions time may have made To his cousin, Mrs. Cowper, he thus plaintively upon your person, for while his claws, (as our grandescribes his feelings :-"My days steal away silent-dams called them,) strike deep furrows in some ly, and march on, (as poor mad Lear would have faces, he seems to sheath them with much tendermade his soldiers march) as if they were shod with ness, as if fearful of doing injury to others. But; felt; not so silently but that I hear them, yet were though an enemy to the body, he is a friend to the it not that I am always listening to their flight, hav- mind, and you have doubtless found him so. Though, ing no infirmity that I had not when I was much even in this respect, his treatment of us depends younger, I should deceive myself with an imagina- upon what he meets with at our hands, if we use tion that I am still young. I am fond of writing, as him well, and listen to his admonitions, he is a an amusement, but do not always find it one. Being friend indeed; but otherwise, the worst of enemies, rather scantily furnished with subjects that are good who takes from us daily, something that we valued, for any thing, and corresponding only with those and gives us nothing betier in its stead. It is well who have no relish for such as are good for nothing, with them, who, like you, can stand a tip-toe on the I often find myself reduced to the necessity, the mountain-top of human life, look down with plea-disagreeable nécessity, of writing about myself. sure upon the valley they have passed, and someThis does not mend the matter much; for though, times stretch their wings in joyful hope of a happy in a description of my own condition, I discover flight into eternity. Yet a little while, and your abundant materials to employ my pen upon, yet as hope will be accomplished. The course of a rapid the task is not very agreeable to me, so, I am suffi- river is the justest of all emblems, to express the ciently aware, that is like to prove irksome to variableness of our scene below. Shakspeare says, others. A painter, who should confine himself, in none ever bathed himself-twice in the same stream; the exercise of his art, to the drawing of his own and it is equally true, that the world upon which we picture, must be a wonderful coxcomb indeed, if he close our eyes at night, is never the same as that did not soon grow sick of his occupation, and be upon which we open them in the morning." peculiarly fortunate if he did not make others as sick as himself.” Notwithstanding Cowper's depressive malady, yet
CHAPTER VIII. his views of religion, even at that period, remained unaltered, and were as much distinguished for their Makes preparations for publishing his first volum.. Reasons assigned
for it. Beneficial effects of composition on his mind. Hiscomparsexcellence as ever. Writing to his friend, Mr. Un
tive indifference to the success of his volume. Great care, neverthe win, the following judicious remarks occur, respect
less, with which he composed it. His readiness to avail himself of ing keeping the Sabbath:-"With respect to the the assistance and advice of his friends. The interest which Mr. advice you are required to give to a young lady, Newton took in his publication. Writes the preface for the volume. that she may be properly instructed in the manner Cowper's judicious reply to some objections that had been made to of keeping the Sabbath, I just subjoin a few hints it. Publication of the volume. Manner in which it wai received. that have occurred to me on the occasion. I think Continuance of Cowper's depression. State of his mind respecting the Sabbath may be considered, first, as a command religion. His warm attachment to the leading truths of the gospel ment, no less binding upon Christians than upon
Ardent desires to make his volume the means of conveying them to Jews. The spiritual people among them did not think it enough, merely to abstain from manuaboc More than seven years had now elapsed since the cupations on that day, but entering more deeply into commencement of Cowper's distressing malady; the meaning of the precept, allotted those hours, and though he was not yet perfectly recovered, he they took from the world, to the cultivation of holi- had, at length, gradually acquired the full exerness in their own souls; which ever was, and ever cise of those mental powers for which he was so will be, incumbent upon all who have the Scripture highly distinguished. Having now employed his
muse, with the happiest effect, for nearly two years, will make its appearance in the course of the winter. he had composed a sufficient number of lines to It is a bold undertaking at this time of day, when so form a respectable volume. Mrs. Unwin had wit- many writers of the greatest abilities have gone nessed with delight the productions of his pen, and before, who seem to have anticipated every valuashe now wisely urged him to make them public. ble subject, as well as all the graces of poetical emHe was, at first, exceedingly averse to the measure; bellishment, to step forth into the world in the but, after some consideration, he at length yielded character of a bard; especially when it is considered to her suggestions, and made preparations to appear that luxury, idleness, and vice, have debauched the as an author. His letters to his correspondents on public taste, and that scarcely any thing but childish the subject are highly interesting, and afford a full fiction, or what has a tendency to excite a laugh, is development of the design he had in view in ap- welcome. I thought, however, that I had stumbled pearing before the public. To Mr. Unwin he thus upon some subjects that had never been poetically writes : -"Your mother says I must write, and must treated, and upon some others, to which I imagined admits of no apology; I might otherwise plead it would not be difficult to give an air of novelty by that I have nothing to say, that I am weary, the manner of treating them. My sole drift is to that I am dull, that it would be more conve- be useful-a point which, however, I knew I should nient for you, as well as for myself, that I should let in vain aim at, unless I could be likewise entertainit alone. But all these pleas, and whatever pleas ing. I have therefore fixed these two strings to my besides, either disinclination, indolence, or necessity, bow; and by the help of both,
have done my best to might suggest, are overruled, as they ought to be, send my arrow to the mark. My readers will hardly the moment a lady adduces her irrefragable argu- have begun to laugh before they will be called upon ment, you must. Úrged by her entreaties, I have at to correct that levity, and peruse me with a more length sent a volume to the press: the greater part serious air. I cast a side-long glance at the goodof it is the produce of last winter. Two-thirds of liking of the world at large, more for the sake of the volume will be occupied by four pieces. It con- their advantage and instruction than their praise. tains, in all, about two thousand five hundred lines; They are children; if we give them physic, we and will be known, in due time, by the names of must sweeten the rim of the cup with honey. As to Table Talk, The Progress of Error, Truth, Expos- the effect, I'leave that in His hands, who alone can tulation, with an addition of some smaller poems, produce it: neither prose nor verse can reform the all of which, I believe, have passed under your no- manners of a dissolute age, much less can they intice. Altogether they will furnish a volume of spire a sense of religious obligation, unless assisted, tolerable bulk, that need not be indebted to an into- and made efficacious by the power who superintends lerable breadth of margin, for the importance of its the truth he has vouchsafed to impart.” figure."
To his warm friend, Mr. Hill, he thus amusingly In this undertaking he was encouraged by his adverts to his publication : "I am in the press, and friend, Mr. Newton, with whom he corresponded on it is in vain to deny it. My labors are principally the subject, and to whom he thus discloses his the production of the last winter; all, indeed, except mind:-“If a board of inquiry were to be establish- a few of the minor pieces. When I can find no ed, at which poets were to undergo an examination other occupation, I think, and when I think, I am respecting the motives that induced them to publish, very apt to do it in rhyme. Hence it comes to pass and I were to be summoned to attend, that I might that the season of the year which generally pinches give an account of mine, I think I could truly say, off the flowers of poetry, unfolds mine, such as they what perhaps few poets could, that though I have are, and crowns me with a winter garland. In this no objection to lucrative consequences, if any such respect therefore, I and my contemporary bards are should follow, they are not my aim; much less is it by no means apon a par. "They write when the demy ambition to exhibit myself to the world as a lightful influences of fine weather, fine prospects, genius. Wbat then, says Mr. President, can possi- and a brisk motion of the animal spirits
, make bly be your motive? I'answer, with a bow, amuse- poetry almost the language of nature; and I, when ment. There is no occupation within the compass icicles depend from all the Icaves of the Parnassian of my small sphere, poetry excepted, that can do laurel, and when a reasonable man would as little much towards diverting that train of melancholy expect to succeed in verse, as to hear a blackbird forebodings, which, when I am not thus employed, whistle. This must be my apology to you for whatare for ever pouring themselves in upon me. And ever want of fire and animation you may observe in if I did not publish what I write, I could not interest what you will shortly have the perusal of. As to myself sufficiently in my own success to make an the public, if they like me not, there is no remedy. amusement of it. My own amusement, however, A friend will weigh and consider all disadvantages, is not my sole motive. I am merry that I may de- and make as large a Howances as an author can wish, coy people into my company, and grave that they and larger, perhaps, than he has any right to expect, may be the better for it. Now and then I put on but not so the world at large; whatever they do not the garb of a philosopher, and take the opportunity like, they will not by an apology be persuaded to that disguise procures me, to drop a word in favor forgive: it would be in vain to tell them that I wrote of religion. In short, there is some froth, and here my verses in January, for they would immediately and there a bit of sweet-meat, which seems to entitle reply, Why did you not write them in May? A it justly to the name of a certain dish the ladies call question that might puzzle a wiser head than we a trifle. I did not choose to be more facetious, lest poets are generally blessed with.” I should consult the taste of my readers at the ex It might have been supposed that the vigorous expense of my own approbation; nor more serious ercise of the mental powers which the composition than I have been, Jest I should forfeit theirs. A of poetry like that of Cowper's required, would have poet in my circumstances has a difficult part to act; increased this depressive malady, instead of dimin, one minute obliged to bridle his humor, if he has ishing it. His, however, was a peculiar case, and any, the next, to clap a spur to the sides of it. Now he found it of great advantage, as we learn in a letready to weep, from a sense of the importance of ter to Mr. Newton, where he says:-"I have never his subject, and on a sudden constrained to laugh, found an amusement, among the many that I have lest his gravity should be mistaken for dullness." been obliged to have recourse to, that so well an
Writing to his amiable correspondent, Mrs. Cow. swered the purpose for which I used it, as compoper, 19th October, 1781, he says:"I am preparing sition. The quieting and composing effect of it was à volume of poems for the press, which I imagine such, and so totally absorbed have I sometimes been
in my rhyming occupation, that neither the past nor a line to pass till I have made it as good as I can; the future (those themes which to me are so fruitiul and though some may be offended ai my doctrines, in regret at other times) had any longer a share in I trust none will be disgusted by slovenly inaccuracy, my contemplation. For this reason I wish, and in the numbers, the rhymes, or the language. If, have often wished since the fit left me, that it would after all, I should be converted into waste paper, it seize me again, but hitherto I have wished in vain. may be my misfortune, but it will not be my fault; I see no want of subjects, but I feel a total disability and I shall bear it with perfect serenity." to discuss them. Whether it is thus with other In the character of Cowper there was nothing writers or not, I am ignorant, but I should suppose like an overweening confidence in his own powers. my case, in ihis respect, a little peculiar. The No person was ever more willing to avail himself voluminous writers at least, whose vein of fancy of the advice of his friends, nor did any one ever seems always to have been rich in proportion to receive advice more gratefully. Not satisfied with their occasions, cannot have been so unlike, and so bestowing upon his productions the greatest pains unequal to themselves. There is this difference himself, he occasionally submitted them to the corbetween my poetship and the generality of them ; rection of others, and his correspondence affords they appear to have been ignorant how much they many proofs of his readiness to profit by the slight. stood indebted to an Almighty power for the exer- est hint. To Mr. Newton he thus writes:—"I am cise of those talents they supposed to be their own. much obliged to you for the pains you have taken Whereas I know, and know most perfectly, that my with my poems, and for the manner in which you power to think, whatever it be, and consequently my have interested yourself in their appearance. Your power to compose, is, as much as my outward form, favorable opinion afförds me a comfortable presage afforded to me by the same hand that makes me, in with respect to that of the public; for though I make any respect, differ from a brute.”
allowance for your partiality to me, yet I am sure The commencement of authorship is generally a you would not suffer me, unadmonished, to add myperiod of much painful anxiety: few persons have self to the number of insipid rhymers with whose ventured on such an undertaking without expe- productions the world is already too much pestered. riencing considerable excitement; and in a mind I forgot to mention, that Johnson uses the discretion like Cowper's, it might have been supposed that such my poetship has allowed him, with much discernwould have been the case in a remarkable degree. ment. He has suggested several alterations, or rather No person, however, ever ventured before the pub- marked several defective passages, which I have lic, in the character of an author, with less anxiety. corrected, much to the advantage of the poems. In Writing to Mr. Unwin, he says :-"You ask me the last sheet he sent me, he noticed three such, how I feel on the occasion of my approaching pub- which I reduced to better order. In the foregoing lication ? Perfectly at ease. If I had not been sheet I assented to his criticisms in some instances, pretty well assured beforehand, that my tranquillity and chose to abide by the original expressions in would be but little endangered by such a measure, 1 others; whenever he has marked such lines as did would never have engaged in it
, for I cannot bear not please him, I have, as often as I could, paid all disturbance. I have had in view two principal possible respect to his animadversions. Thus we objects; first, to amuse myself, and then to compass jog on together comfortably enough; and perhaps that point in such a manner, that others might pos- it would be as well for authors in general, if their sibly be the better for my amusement. If I have booksellers, when men of some taste, are allowed, succeeded, it will give me pleasure; but if I have though not to tinker the work themselves, yet to failed, I shall not be mortified to the degree that point out the flaws, and humbly to recommend an immight perhaps be expected. The critics cannot provement. I have also to thank you, and ought to deprive me of the pleasure I have in reflecting, that have done it in the first place, for having recomso far as my leisure has been employed in writing mended to me the suppression of some lines, which for the public, it has been employed conscientiously, I am now more than ever convinced, would at least and with a view to their advantage. There is no- have done me no honor.". thing agreeable, to be sure, in being chronicled for The great interest Mr. Newton took in Cowper's a dunce; but I believe there lives not a man upon publication, induced the poet to request him to comearth who would be less affected by it than myselt." pose the preface; and his correspondence with Mr.
Indifferent as he was to the result of his publica- Newton on the subject is alike honorable to his tions, he was far from being careless in their com- judgment and his feelings; and affords a striking position. Perhaps no author ever took more pains display of the strong hold which religion had upon with his productions, or sought more carefully to his affections. He thus introduces the subject to make them worthy of public approbation. In one Mr. Newton:-"With respect to the poem called of his letters, adverting to this subject, he says:- Truth, it is so true that it can hardly fail of giving "To touch and retouch is, though some writers offence to an unenlightened reader. I think, thereboast of negligence, and others would be ashamed fore, that in order to obviate in some measure those to show their foul copies, the secret of almost all prejudices that will naturally erect their bristles good writing, especially in verse. I am never against it, an explanatory preface, such as you (and weary of it myself, and if you would take as much nobody else so well as you) can furnish me with, pains as I do, you would not need to ask for my cor- will have every grace of propriety to recommend rections. With the greatest indifference to fame, it; or if you are not averse to the task, and your which you know me too well to suppose me capable avocations will allow you to undertake it, and if of affecting, I have taken the utmost pains to deserve you think it will be still more proper, I should be it. This may appear a mystery, or a paradox, in glad to be indebted to you for a preface to the whole. practice, but it is true. I considered that the taste I admit that it will require much delicacy, but am of the day is refined and delicate to excess, and that far from apprehending that you will find it difficult to disgust that delicacy of the taste by a slovenly to succeed. You can draw a hair-stroke, where inattention to it, would be to forfeit at once all hope another man would make a blot as broad as a sixof being useful; and for this reason, though I have pence." written more verse this year than perhaps any man The preface composed by Mr. Newton, though it in England, I bave finished, and polished, and was in the highest degree satisfactory to Cowper, touched and retouched, with the utmost care. What- and was admiited by him to be every ihing that he ever faults I may be chargeable with as a poet, I could wish, was nevertheless thought by others to cannot accuse myself of negligence; I never suffer | be of too sombre a cast to introduce a volume of
poems pre-eminently distinguished for their viva- per's malady, that a train of melancholy thoughts city and eloquence. Adverting to this objection, seemed ever to be pouring themselves in upon his and to the suggestion of the publisher to suppress it, mind, which neither himself nor his friends were Cowper thus writes :"If the men of the world ever able to account for, satisfactorily. Writing to are so merrily disposed, in the midst of a thousand his friend, Mr. Newton, who had recently paid him calamities, that they will not deign to read a pre- a visit, he thus discloses the state of his mind: face, of three or four pages, because the purport of "My sensations at your departure were far from it is serious, they are far gone, indeed, in the last pleasant. When we shall meet again, and in what stage of a frenzy. I am, however, willing to hope, circumstances, or whether we shall meet or not, i3 that such is not the case: curiosity is an universal an article to be found nowhere but in that provipassion. There are few persons who think a book dence which belongs to the current year, and will worth reading, but feel a desire to know something not be understood till it is accomplished. This I ahout the writer of it. This desire will naturally know, that your visit was most agreeable to me, lead them to peep into the preface, where they will who, though I live in the midst of many agreeables, soon find, that a little perseverance will furnish am but little sensible of their charms. But when them with some information on the subject. If, you caine, I determined, as much as possible, to be therefore, your preface finds no readers, 1 shall take deaf to the suggestions of despair; that if I could it for granted that it is because the book itself is contribute but little to the pleasure of the opportuaccounted not worth their notice. Be that as it may, nity, I might not dash it with unseasonable melanit is quite sufficient that I have played the antic iny- choly, and like an instrument with a broken string, self for their diversion; and that, in a state of de- interrupt the harmony of the concert." jection such as they are absolute strangers to, I have It is gratifying to observe, that neither the atten. sometimes put on an air of cheerfuiness and viva- tion which Cowper paid to his publication, nor the city, to which I myself am in reality a stranger, for depressive malady with which he was atbicted, the sake of winning their attention to more useful could divert his attention from the all-important matter. I cannot endure the thought, for a moment, concerns of religion. A tone of deep seriousness, that you should descend to my level on the occasion, and genuine Christian feeling, pervades many of -and court their favor in a style not more unsuitable his letters written about this time. To Mr. Newton to your function, than to the constant and consistent he thus writes:-"You wish you could employ your strain of your whole character and conduct. Though time to better purpose, yet are never idle, in all that your preface is of a serious cast, it is free from all you do; whether you are alone, or pay visits, or offensive peculiarities, and contains none of those receive them; whether you think, or write, or walk, obnoxious doctrines at which the world is too apt to or sit still, the state of your mind is such as disco be angry. It asserted nothing more than every ra vers even to yourself, in spite of all its wanderings, tional creature must admit to be true—that divine that there is a principle at the bottom, whose deterand earthly things can no longer stand in competi- mined tendency is towards the best things. I do not tion with each other, in the judgment of any man, at all doubt the truth of what you say, when you than while he continues ignorant of their respective complain of that crowd of trifling thoughts that value; and that the moment the eyes are opened, pesters you without ceasing; but then you always the laiter are always cheerfully relinquished for the have a serious thought standing at the door of your former. It is impossible for me, however, to be so imagination, like a justice of the peace, with the insensible to your kindness in writing the preface, Riot Act in his hand, ready to read it and disperse as not to be desirous of defying all contingencies, the mob. Here lies the difference between you and rather than entertain a wish to suppress it. It will me. You wish for more attention, I for less. Dis. do me honor, indeed, in the eyes of those whose sipation itself would be welcome to me, so it were good opinion is worth having, and if it hurts me in not a vicious one; but however earnestly invited, it the estimation of others, I cannot help it; the fault is coy, and keeps at a distance. . Yet with all this is neither yours nor mine, but theirs. If a minis- distressing gloom upon my mind, I experience, as ter's is a more splendid character than a poet's, and you do, the slipperiness of the present hour, and the I think nobody that understands their value can he- rapidity with which time escapes me. Every thing sitate in deciding that question, then; undoubtedly, around us, and every thing that befalls us, constithe advantage of having our names united in the tutes a variety, which, whether agreeable or othersame volume is all on my side."
wise, has still a thievish propensity; and steals from Cowper's first volume was published in the spring us days, months, and years, with such unparalleled of 1782. Its success, at first, fell far short of what suddenness, that even while we say they are here, might have been anticipated from its extraordinary they are gone. From infancy to manhood, is rather merit. It was not long, however, before the more a tedious period, chiefly, I suppose, because at that intelligent part of the reading public appreciated its time we act under the control of others, and are not value. It soon found its way into the hands of all suffered to have a will of our own. But thence lovers of literature. Abounding with some of the downward into the vale of years is such a declivity, finest passages that are to be met with, either in an- that we have just an opportunity to reflect upon the cient or modern poetry, it was impossible that it steepness of it, and then find ourselves at the botshould remain long unnoticed. By mere readers tom.” of taste, it was read for the beauty and elegance of The following extracts from his correspondence its composition; by many, it was eagerly sought with Mr. Unwin, who at that time was on a visit at after for the sprightliness, vivacity, and wit, with Brightelmstone, will show the deep tone of seriouswhich it abounded; by Christians, of all denomina- ness that pervaded his mind:-"I think with you, tions, it was read with unfeigned pleasure for the that the most magnificent object under heaven is striking and beautiful descriptions it contained of the great deep; and cannot but feel an unpolite doctrinal, practical, and experimental Christianity. species of astonishment, when I consider the multi
It would scarcely be supposed that the author of a tudes that view it without emotion, and even withvolume of poems like this, exhibiting such a diver- out reflection. In all its varied forms, it is an obsity of powers as could not fail to charm the mind, ject, of all others, the most suitable to affect us with delight the imagination, and improve the heart, lasting impressions of the awful power that created could have remained, during the whole time he was and controls it. I am the less inclined to think this composing it, in a state of great and painful depres- negligence excusable, because at a time of life sion. Such, however, was the peculiarity of Cow. I when I gave as little attention to religion as any