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man, I yet remeinber that the waves would preach I call it solecism, because mercy deserved ceases to to me, and that in the midst of worldly dissipation be mercy, and must take the name of justice. This I had an ear to hear them. In the fashionable is the opinion which I said, in my last, the world amusements which you will probably witness for a would not acquiesce in, but except this, I do not time, you will discern no signs of sobriety, or true recollect that I have introduced a syllable into any wisdom. But it is impossible for a man who has a of my pieces that they can possibly object to; and mind like yours, capable of reflection, to observe even this I have endeavored to deliver from docthe manners of a multitude without learning some- trinal dryness, by as many pretty things, in the way thing. If he sees nothing to imitate, he is sure to of trinket and plaything, as I could muster upon see something to avoid. If nothing to congratulate the subject. So that if I have rubbed their gums, his fellow-creatures upon, at least much to excite I have taken care to do it with a coral, and even his compassion. There is not, I think, so melan- that coral embellished by the ribbon to which it is choly a sight in the world, (an hospital is not to be attached, and recommended by the tinkling of all compared to it,) as that of a multitude of persons, the bells I could contrive to annex to it." distinguished by the name of gentry, who, gentle The following beautiful lines convey sentiments perhaps by nature, and made more gentle by edu- so much in unison with this extract, that we cancation, have the appearance of being innocent and not forbear to insert them at the close of this chap inoffensive, yet being destitute of all religion, or not ter :at all governed by the religion they profess, are none of them at any great distance from an eternal state,
am no preacher: let this hint soffice,
The cross once seen is death to every vice; where self-deception will be impossible, and where
Else he that hung there suffered all his pain, amusements cannot enter. Some of them we may hope will be reclaimed; it is most probable that
Bled, groaned, and agonized, and died in vain.
There, and there only, (though the deist rave, many will, because mercy, if one may be allowed
And atheist, if earth bear so base a slave,) the expression, is fond of distinguishing itself by
There, aud there only, is the power to save : seeking its objects among the most desperate class; but the Scripture gives no encouragement to the
There no delusive hope invites despair warmest charity, to expect deliverance for them all.
No mockery meets you, no deception there; When I see an afficted and unhappy man, I say to
The spells and charms that blinded you before,
All vanish there, and fascinate no more." myself, there is perhaps a man whom the world would envy, if they knew the value of his sorrows,
Progress of Error. which are possibly intended only to soften his heart, and to turn his affections towards their proper cen
CHAPTER IX. tre. But when I see or hear of a.crowd of voluptuaries, who have no ears but for music, no eyes bút Commencement of Cowper's acquaintance with Lady Austin. Pleafor splendor, and no tongues but for impertinence
sure it affords him. Poetic epistle to her. Her removal to Olney
Beneficial influence of her conversational powers ou Cowper's and folly-1 say, or at least I sec occasion to say,
mind. Occasion of his writing John Gilpin. Lines composed at this is madness-this, persisted in, must have a tra
Lady Austin's request. Induced by her to commence writing The gical conclusion. It will condenin lou, not only as Task. Principal ohject he had in view in composing it. Suddea Christians, unworthy of the name, bui as intelligent and final separation from Lady Austin. Occasional sererity of his creatures-you know by the light of Nature, if you
depressive malady. Hopes entertained by his friends of his ultihave no! quenched it, that there is a God, and that mate recovery. His own opinion upon it. Pleasing proofs of the a life like yours cannot be according to his will. I power of religion on his mind. Tenderness of his conscience. Se ask no pardon of you for the gravity and gloomi rious reflections. Aversion to religious deception and pretended ness of these reflections, which, with others of a piety. Bigotry and intolerance, with their opposite vices, levity similar complexion, are sure to occur to me when I and indifference, deplored. Sympathy with the sufferings of the think of a scene of public diversion like that you
poor. Enviable condition of such of them as are pious, compared have witnessed."
with the rich who disregard religion. The following remarks, extracted from a letter In the autumn of 1781, Cowper became acquaintto the same correspondent, while they serve to dis- ed with Lady Austin, whose brilliant wit and unriplay the state of his mind respecting religion, ex- valled conversational powers, were admirably adapthibit at the same time the high value which he seted to afford relief to a mind like his. This lady upon the leading truths of the gospel :-"When I was introduced to the retired poet by her sister, the wrote this poem on Truth, it was indispensably ne- wife of a clergyman, who resided at Clifton, a mile cessary that I should set forth that doctrine which I distant from Olney, and who occasionally called know to be true; and that I should pass, what I un- upon Mrs. Unwin. Lady Austin came to pass some derstood to be a just censure, upon opinions and time with her sister, in the summer of 1781, and Mrs. persuasions that stand in direct opposition to it; Unwin, at Cowper's request, invited the ladies to because, though some errors may be innocent, and tea. So much, however, was he averse to the comeven religious errors are not always dangerous, yet pany of strangers, that after he had occasioned the in a case where the faith and hope of a Christian invitation, it was with considerable reluctance he are concerned, they must necessarily be destructive; was persuaded to join the party ; but having at and because neglecting this, I should have betrayed length overcome his feelings, he entered freely into my subject; either suppressing what in my judgment conversation with Lady Austin, and derived so is of the last importance, or giving countenance, by much benefit from her sprightly and animating disa timid silence, to the very evils it was my design course, that he from that time cultivated her acto combat. That you may understand me better, 1 quaintance with the greatest attention. The opinion will subjoin, that I wrote that poem on purpose to Cowper formed of this accomplished and talented inculcate the eleemosynary character of the gospel, lady, may be ascertained by the following extracts as a dispensation of mercy, in the most absolute from his letters:-" Lady Austin has paid us her sense of the word, to the exclusion of all claims of first visit, and not content with showing us that proof merit on the part of the receiver; consequently to of her respect, made handsome apologies for her inset the brand of invalidity upon the plea of works, trusion. She is a lively, agreeable woman; has and to discover, upon scriptural ground, the absur- seen much of the ways of the world, and accounts dity of that notion, which includes a solecism in it a great simpleton, as it is. She laughs, and makes the very terms of it, that man by repentance and laugh without seeming to labor at it. She has good works may deserve the mercy of his Maker. many features in her character which you must ad
reception of Lady Austin, and she took possession
'Tis sufficient, if peace be the scope of it towards the close of 1782. Both Cowper and
And the summit of all our desires. Mrs. Unwin were so charmed with her society, and she was so delighted with theirs, that it became their
Peace may be the lot of the mind custom to dine together, at each other's houses, eve
That seeks it in meekness and love, ry alternate day. The effect of Lady Austin's al.
But rapture and bliss are confined must irresistible conversational powers proved high
To the glorified spirits above !" ly beneficial to the poet's mind, and contributed to During the winter of 1783-4, Cowper spent the remove that painful depression of which he still evenings in reading to these ladies, taking the liberty continued to be the subject, and which would some himself, and affording the same to them, of making times seize him when he was in her company: even remarks on what came under their notice. On these with her unrivalled talents, she was scarcely able, interesting occasions, Lady Austin displayed her at times, to remove the deep and melancholy gloom enchanting, and almost magical powers, with singuwhich still shed its darkening influence over his lar effect. The conversation happened one evening to mind. On one occasion, when she observed him to turn on blank verse, of which she had always express be sinking into rather an unusual depression, she ed herself to be passionately fond. Persuaded that exerted, as she was invariably accustomed to do, her Cowper was able to produce, in this measure, a utmost ability to afford him immediate relief. It poem that would eclipse any thing he had hitherto occurred to her she might then probably accomplish written, she urged him to try his powers in that speit, by telling him a story of John Gilpin, which she cies of composition. He had hitherto written only had treasured up in her memory from her child in rhyme, and he felt considerable reluctance to hood. The amusing incidents of the story itself, make the attempt. After repeated solicitations, and the bappy manner in which it was related, had however, he promised her, if she would furnish the the desired effect; it dissipated the gloom of the subject, he would comply with her request. "0!" passing hour, and he informed Lady Austin the she replied, “ you can never be in want of a subject next morning, that convulsions of laughter, brought you can write upon any thing: write upon this sofa." on by the recollection of her story, had kept him The poet obeyed her command, and the world is awake during the greater part of the night, and that thus indebted to this lady for the Task, a pnem of he had composed a poem on the subject. Hence matchless beauty and excellence, embracing almost arose the fascinating and amusing ballad of John every variety of style, and every description of sub Gilpin, which rapidly found its way into all the pe-ject, combining elegance and ease, with sublimity riodical publications of the day, and was admired and grandeur, adapted to impress the heart with by readers of every description.
sentiments of the most exalted piety and to make its Its happy influence on his own mind on subse- readers happy in the present life, while it excites in quent occasions, is adverted to in the following let them earnest and longing desires after the felicity ter to Mr. Unwin: "You tell me that John Gilpin and glory of heaven. made you laugh tears, and that the ladies at court In composing this exquisite poem, however, it are delighted with my poems. Much good may ought to be observed that Cowper had a higher obthey do thein: may they become as wise as the wri-jeci in view than merely to please Lady Austie. ver wishes them, and ihey will then be much hap- | His great aim was to be useful; and, indeed, thi pier than he! I know ihere is, in the greater part was his leading motive in all his productions, as is of the poems which make up the volume, that wis- evident from the following extract from a letter to dom which coineth from above, because it was from Mr. Unwin:-" In some passages of the inclosed above that I received it. May they receive it too! poem, which I send for your inspection, you will obfor whether they drink it out of the cistern, or whe- serve me very satirical, especially in my second tier it falls upon them immediately from the clouds, book. Writing on such subjects I could not be otheras it did on me, it is all one. It is the water of life, wise. I can write nothing without aiming, at least, which whosoever drinketh, shall thirst no more. As at usefulness. It were beneath my years to do it, to the famous horseman above mentioned, he and and still more dishonorable to my religion. I krov his feats are an inexhaustible source of amuse- that a reformation of such abuses as I have censured ment. At least we find them so; and seldom meet is not to be expected from the efforts of a poet; but without refreshing ourselves with the recollection to contemplate the world, its follies, its vices, its inof them. You are perfectly at liberty to do with difference to duty, and its strenuous attachment to them as you please, and when printed, send me a what is evil, and not to reprehend it, were in approve
it. From this charge at least I shall be clear, for I Lady Austin's intercourse with Mrs. Unwin and have neither tacitly nor expressly flattered either its Cowper continued, uninterupted, till near the close characters or its customs. My principal purpose has of 1784; and during all this time, by her sprightly, been to allure the reader by character, by scenery, judicious, and captivating conversation, she was by imagery, and such poetical embellishments, to often the means of rousing him from his melancho- the reading of what may profit him. Subordinately ly depression. To console him, she would often ex- to this, to combat that predilection in favor of a meeit her musical talents on the hapsichord; and at tropolis, that beggars and exhausts the country, by her request, he composed, among others, the follow- evacuating it of all its principal inhabitants; and ing beautiful song, suited to airs she was accustom collaterally, and as far as is consistent with this ed to play:
double intention, to have a stroke at vice, vánity, and “No longer I follow a sound,
folly, wherever I find them. What there is of a No longer a dream I pursue;
religious cast in the volume I have thrown towards
the end of it, for two reasons: first, that I might nos O, happiness! not to be found, Unattainable treasure, adieu !
revolt the reader at his entrance; and, secondly, that
my best impressions might be made last. Were I I have sought thee in splendor and dress,
to write as many volumes as Lopez de Vega, or In dhe regions of pleasure and taste; Voltaire, not one of them would be without this tincI have sought thee and seemed to possess,
ture. If the world like it not, so much the worse for But have proved thee a vision at last.
them. I make all the concessions I ean that I may An humble ambition and hope
please them, but I will not do this at the expense of
my conscience. My descriptions are all from naThe voice of true wisdom inspires; ture; not one of them second-handed. My delin
eations of the heart are from my own experience; yet rejoicing, pierced with thorns, yet wreathed not one of them borrowed from books, or in the least about with roses: I have the thorn without the degree conjectural."
My brier is a wintry one; the flowers are The close of the year 1784, witnessed the comple- withered, but the thorn remains. My days are tion of this extensive performance, and the com- spent in vanity, and it is impossible for me to mencement of another of greater magnitude, though spend them otherwise. No man upon earth is of a different description, and less adapted for gene- more sensible of the unprofitableness of such a life ral usefulness-the translation of Homer; under- as mine than I am, or groans more heavily under taken at the nnited request of Mrs. Unwin and La- the burden; but this too is vanity: my groans will dy Austin. This was a remarkable period in Cow- not bring the remedy, because there is no remeper's life. Circumstances arose, altogether unfore- dy for me. I have been lately more dejected and seen by him, and over which he had no control, more depressed than usual; more harassed by which led to the removal of Lady Austin from Ol- dreams in the night, and more deeply poisoned by ney. He had so often been benefited by her com- them in the following day. I know not what is porpapy, had in so many instances been cheered by her tended by an alteration for the worse after eleven vivacity when suffering under the influence of his years of misery, but firmly believe that it is not dedepressive malady, and had received such repeated signed as the introduction of a change for the better. proofs of affability and kindness, that he could not You know not what I suffered while you were here, entertain the thought of parting with her without nor was there any need you should. Your friendconsiderable disquietude.“ Immediately, however, ship for me would have made you in some degree a on perceiving that separation became requisite for partaker of my woes, and your share in them would the maintenance of his own peace, as well as to in- have been increased by your inability to help me. sure the tranquillity of his faithful and long-tried in- Perhaps, indeed, they took a keener edge, from the mate, Mrs. Unwin, he wisely and firmly took such consideration of your presence. The friend of my steps as were necessary to promote it, though it was heart, the person with whom I had formerly taken at the expense of much mental anguish.
sweet counsel, no longer useful to me as a minister, Some of Cowper's biographers have unjustly, and no longer pleasant to me as a Christian, was a specwithout the slightest foundation, attempted to cast tacle which must necessarily add the bitterness of considerable odium upon the character of Mrs. Un- mortification to the sadness of despair. I now see a win, for her conduct in this affair, as if all the blame long winter before me, and am to get through it as of Cowper's separation froin Lady Austin were to I can: I know the ground before I tread upon it. It be laid at her door. One has even gone so far as is hollow; it is agitated; it suffers shocks in every to state, that her mind was of such a sombre hue, direction: it is like the soil of Calabria-all whirlthat it rather tended to foster than to dissipate Cow- pool and undulation : but I must reel through it, at per's melancholy: an assertion utterly incapable of least if I be not swallowed up by the way. I have taken proof, and which, were the poet living, he would be leave of the old year, and parted with it just when the first to deny. The fact is, Cowper never felt you did, but with very different sentiments and feelany other attachment to either of these ladies than ings upon the occasion. I looked back upon all the that of pure friendship, and much as he valued the passages and occurrences of it as a traveller looks society of Lady Austin, when he found it necessa- back upon a wilderness, through which he has passry for his own peace, to choose which he shoulded with weariness and sorrow of heart, reaping no please to retain, he could not hesitate for a moment other fruit of his labor than the poor consolation, io prefer the individual who had watched over him that, dreary as the desert was, he left it all behind with so much tenderness, and probably to the inju- him. The traveller would find even this comfort ry of her own health. The whole of his conduct in considerably lessened, if as soon as he passed one this affair, and indeed the manner in which he has wilderness, he had to traverse another of equal every where spoken of his faithful inmate, proves length, and equally desolate. In this particular, his this indubitably.
experience and mine would exactly tally. I should Aware of the benefit he had received from Lady rejoice indeed that the old year is over and gone, if Austin's company, many of his friends were appre- I had not every reason to expect a new one similar hensive that her removal would be attended with to it. Even the new year is already old in my acconsequences seriously injurious to the poet. Deep, count. I am not, indeed, sufficiently second-sighted however, as was the impression which it made upon to be able to boast, by anticipation, an acquaintance his mind, he bore it with much more fortitude than with the events of it yet unborn, but rest assured could have been expected, as will be seen by the that, be they what they may, not one of them comes manner in which he adverted to it in a letter to Mr. a messenger of good to me. If even death itself Hill:-"We have, as you say, lost a lively and sen- should be of the number, he is no friend of mine: it sible neighbor in Lady Austin, but we have been so is an alleviation of the woes, even of an unenlightlong accustomed to a state of retirement, within one ened man, that he can wish for death, and indulge degree of solitude, and being naturally lovers of still a hope, at least, that in death he shall find deliverlife, we can relapse into our former duality without ance. But, loaded as my life is with despair, I have being unhappy in the change. To me, indeed, a no such comfort as would result from a probability third individual is not necessary, while I can have of better things to come were it once ended. I am the faithfül companion. I have had these twenty far more unhappy than the traveller I have just reyears.”
.ferred to; pass through whatever difficulties, danIt might be imagined, from the production of Cow- gers, or afflictions, I may, I am not a whit nearer per's pen at this period, that he was entirely recov: home, unless a dungeon be called so. This is no ered from his depressive malady; such, however, very agreeable theme, but in so great a dearth of was far from the case. His letters to his correspon-subjects to write upon, and especially impressed as dents prove, that whatever gaiety and vivacity there I am at this moment with a sense of my own condiwas in his writings, there was nothing in his own tion, I could choose no other. The weather is an state of mind that bore any resemblance to such exact emblem of my mind in its present staie. A emotions; but that, on the contrary, his fits of me- thick fog envelops every thing, and at the same time lancholy were frequent, and often painfully acute. it freezes intensely. You will tell me, that this cold To his friend, Mr. Newton, he thus feelingly dis- gloom will be succeeded by a cheerful spring, and closes his peculiarly painful sensations:-"My heart endeavor to encourage me to hope for a spiritual resembles not the heart of a Christian, mourning and change resembling it; but it will be lost labor. Nam
ture revives again; but a soul once slain lives no to the language of a heart hopeless and deserted, is more. The hedge that has been apparently dead, is that I can never give much more than half my attennot so: it will burst into leaf, and blossom at the ap- tion to what is started by others, and very rarely pointed time; but no such time is appointed for the start any thing myself. You will easily perceive stake that stands in it. It is as dead as it seems, and that a mind thus occupied, is but indifferently qualiwill prove itself no dissembler. The latter end of fied for the consideration of theological matters. next month will complete a period of eleven years, The most useful, and the most delightful topics of in which I have spoken no other language. It is a that kind, are to me forbidden fruit: I tremble as I long time for a man, whose eyes were once opened, approach them. It has happened to me sometimes to spend in darkness-long enough to make despair that I have found myself imperceptibly drawn in an inveterate habit; and such it is to me. My friends, and made a party in such discoạrse. The consequence I know, expect that I shall yet enjoy health again. has been dissatisfaction and self-reproach. You will They think it necessary to the existence of divine tell me, perhaps, that I have written upon those subtruth, that he who once had possession of it should jects in verse, and may therefore in prose. But there never finally lose it. I admit the solidity of this is a difference. The search after poetical expresthis reasoning in every case but my own, and why sion, the rhymes and the numbers, are all affairs of not in my own? For causes which to them it ap- some difficulty: they amuse, indeed, but are not to pears madness to allege, but which rest upon my be attained without study, and engross, perhaps, a mind with a weight of immovable conviction. If I larger share of the attention than the subject itself." am recoverable, why am I thus? wly crippled and In the spring of 1785, his friends became more made useless in the church, just at the time of life sanguine in their expectations of his ultimate recolife when my judgment and experience being ma- very, and they felt persuaded it would take place at tured, I might be most useful? Why cashiered and no very distant period. It appears also, by the folturned out of service, till, according to the course of lowing extract, that Cowper was not himself wholly years, there is not life enough left in me to make destitute of hope on the subject. Writing to Mr. amends for the years I have lost; till there is no Newton, he says:-"I am sensible of the tenderness reasonable hope left that the fruit can ever pay the and affectionate kindness with which you recollect expense of the fallow? I forestall the answer-God's our past intercourse, and express your hopes of my ways are mysterious, and he giveth no account of furnre restoration. I, too, within the last eight month's his matters-an answer that would serve my pur- have had my hopes, though they have been of short pose as well as theirs that use it. There is a mis- duration, cut off, like the foam upon the waters. tery in my destruction, and in time it will be ex- Some previous adjustments, indeed, are necessary plained.
before a lasting expectation of comfort can take place "I could easily, were it not a subject that would in me. There are those persuasions in my mind, make us melancholy, point out to you some essential which either entirely forbid the entrance of ňope, or difference between the state of the person you if it enter, immediately eject it. They are incompatimentioned and my own, which would prove mine ble with any such inmate, and must be turned out to be by far the most deplorable of the two. I sup- themselves before so desirable à guest can possibly pose nó man would despair if he did not appre- have secure possession. This, you say, will be done. hend something singular in the circumstances of his It may be, but it is not done yet; nor has a single step own story, something that discriminates it from that in the course of God's dealings with me been taken of every other man, and that induces despair as an towards it. If I mend, no creature ever mended so inevitable consequence. You may encounter his un- slowly, that recovered at last. I am like a slug, or happy persuasion with as many instances as you a snail, that has fallen into a deep well; slug as he please, of persons who, like him, having renounced is, he performs his descent with a velocity proporall hope, were yet restored, and may thence infertioned to his weight; but he does not crawl up agais that he, like them, shall meet with a season of resto- quite so fast. Mine was a rapid plunge; but my reration—but it is in vain. Every such individual turn to daylight, if I am indeed returning, is leisureaccounts himself an exception to all rules, and, there- ly enough. Were I such as I once was, I should say fore, the blessed reverse that others have experienced that I have a claim upon your particular notice, affords no ground of comfortable expectation to him. which nothing ought to supersede. Most of your But you will say, it is reasonable to conclude that as connections you may fuirly be said to have formed all your predecessors in this vale of miscry and hor- by your pwn act; but your connection with me was ror have found themselves delightfully disappointed, the work of God. The kine that went up with the so may you. Igrant the reasonableness of it—it would ark from Bathshemesh, left what they loved behind De sinful, perhaps, as well as uncharitable to reason them, in obedience to an impression which to them otherwise-but an argument hypothetical in its nature, was perfectly dark and unintelligible. Your jourhowever rationally conducted, may lead to a false ney to Huntingdoi was not less wonderful. He, inconclusion; and in this instance so will yours. But deed, who sent you, knew well wherefore, but you I forbear, and will say no more, though it is a sub- knew not. That dispensation, therefore, would furject on which I could write more than the mail could nish me as long as we can both remember it, with a carry: I must deal with you as I deal with poor Mrs. plea for some distinction at your hands, had I occaUnwin, in all our disputes about it-cutting all con- sion to use and urge it, which I have not. But I troversy short by the event."
am altered since that time; and f your affection for To a request from Mr. Newton that Cowper would me had ceased, you might' very reasonably justify favor the editor of the Theological Magazine with your change by mine. I can say nothing for myself an occasional essay, he thus writes:-“I converse, at present; but this I can venture to foretell, that you say, upon other subjects than that of despair, should the-restoration of which my friends assure and may therefore write upon others. Indeed, my me obtain, I shall undoubtedly love those who haye friend, I am a man of very little conversation upon continued to love me, even in a state of transformaany subject. From that of despair, I abstain as tion from my former self, much more than ever.". much as possible, for the sake of my company; þut It is gratifying to know, that, while such was the I will venture to say that it is never out of my mind melancholy state of Cowper's mind, and while he one minute in the whole day. I do not mean to say steadily refused all religious comfort, come whence that I am never cheerful. I am often so; always, it might, he nevertheless afforded the most pleasing indeed, when my nights have been undisturbed for proofs, by his amiable and consistent conduct, of the a season. But the effect of such continual listening | firm hold which religion still had of his affections.