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fortunately the courser is hard-mouthed, and car. ries the traveller much quicker than he bargained for. The crowd stand aside; the turnpikes are thrown open ; there is general applause; it is concluded that the worthy cit is riding for a wager; his hat and wig are left behind, &c. &c. The style, as may be easily imagined, is the chief circumstance which imparts value to this trifle. Cowper was indebted to Lady Austen for the happiest moments of his secluded life. He attributed to the special bounty of heaven the circumstance of her arrival at Olney, and called her his sister Anne. But who is unaware that even friendship has its jealousies, and especially the always tenderer friendship of a devotee 2 Old Mrs. Unwin could not behold without pique the ascendancy which a more seducing woman was assuming over Cowper's mind. She appealed to his gratitude, and gave him his choice of either renouncing Lady Austen or herself. The sacrifices of a Platonic friendship are as bitter as others; and Cowper must be admired for having decided in favour of the friend, whose cares, it was true, had been everything to him during his long sufferings. He had not the spirit to pronounce the word adieu ; but he wrote to Lady Austen a pathetic letter, expressive of his grief, which ended their connection. It is said that an attachment of his youth had left on the poet’s mind ineffaceable impressions, which were his antidote against every other passion. Some time after having renounced Lady Austen,
he entered into correspondence with one of his cousins, of whom Mrs. Unwin might have been justly jealous, if she had read the following letter, which would have at least demonstrated to her that Cowper stood in need of something at her house; but it would be unjust to make a too rigorous analysis of the tender expressions of a religious poet, who had translated Con Amore the mystical works of Madame Guyon.
TO LADY HESKETH,
“I shall see you again. I shall hear your voice. We shall take walks together. I will shew you my prospects, the hovel, the alcove, the Ouse, and its banks, every thing I have described. I anticipate the pleasure of those days not very far distant, and feel a part of it at this moment. Talk not of an inn Mention it not for your life! We never had so many visitors but we could easily accommodate them all, though we have received Unwin and his wife, and his sister and his son, all at once. My dear, I will not let you come till the end of May, or beginning of June, because before that time my green-house will not be ready to receive us, and it is the only pleasant room belonging to us. When the plants go out, we go in. I line it with mats, and spread the floor with mats; and there you shall sit with a bed of mignionette at your side, and a hedge of honey-suckles, rose, and jessamine ; and I will make you a bouquet of myrtle every day. Sooner than the time I mention the country will not be in complete beauty. And I will tell you what you shall find at your first entrance. Imprimis, as soon as you have entered the vestibule, if you cast a look on either side of you, you shall see on the right hand a box of my making. It is the box in which had been lodged all my hares, and in which lodges Puss at present. But he, poor fellow, is worn out with age, and promises to die before you can see him. On the right hand stands a cupboard, the work of the same author; it was once a dove cage, but I transformed it. Opposite to you stands a table, which I also made; but a merciless servant having scrubbed it until it became paralytic, it serves no purpose now but of ornament; and all my clean shoes stand under it. On the left hand, at the farther end of this superb vestibule, you will find the door of the parlour, into which I will conduct you, and where I will introduce you to Mrs. Unwin, unless we should meet her before, and where we shall be as happy as the day is long. Order yourself, my cousin, to the Swan, at Newport, and there you shall find me ready to conduct you to Olney.” Lady Hesketh came, and afterwards established herself in the neighbourhood. Her consolations soon became of importance to Cowper, who had the mortification to see Mrs. Unwin attacked by a stroke of the palsy. From that moment the life of the poet was no more than a painful struggle against a terrible disorder, from which perhaps he had never been completely emancipated. The attentions which he endeavoured to pay to his suffering friend, could not avoid contributing to his own oppression. In December 1796, Mrs. Unwin died. Cowper, who had seen her half an hour before she expired, wished to sit up with her remains during the night; but he had scarcely surveyed her for a few moments when he shuddered and withdrew with a groan of agony. From that time he never pronounced her name; whether it was that he dared not trust himself to pronounce it, or that he had forgotten it in the aberration of his intellect. In 1799, Cowper appeared to have recovered his reason, and even composed the poem of the Reprobate; but it was the dying flame of his genius, which could no longer kindle a ray of joy in his heart. Lady Hesketh continued faithful to her unfortunate friendship, and received his last sigh in 1800. Cowper is doubly indebted for the greater part of the interest which he inspires to that species of revelation of his most secret thoughts, which is equally discoverable in his poetry and his letters. Who is there that is not pleased with fathoming the internal workings of a man of genius 2 Who would not share his solitude, and rejoice in the domestic confidence of his weaknesses, combined with that of his most noble inspirations? Such a personage awakens a still greater attachment, if he has never lavished himself on the applauses of the crowd; if he has shunned the brilliant circles of the world, and the academies of the Beaua Esprits. Cowper was certainly not without ambition ; but the seclusion to which he had trained himself had become an agreeable habit. He loved the country before he sung its delights. A critic," whose opinions are sometimes amusing, as a consequence of their eccentricities, finds nothing but affectation in the simplicity of Cowper. He only sees the fields, he says, but through the window; if he goes out a moment, he quickly returns, as if he were afraid of being caught in a shower. He touches the hand of nature with perfumed gloves, (it is not Hazlitt who puts this line into italics), and he shows his Vashti to all the world with all the precautions of etiquette, like a petit maitre, who gives his hand to a lady to dance a minuet. It is not with this style, which reminds one of the Precieuses Redicules that the master spirits, and among others Campbell, have judged the poet of Olney. “Ah, how willingly would I pass my days and nights in contemplating a beautiful prospect!” says Cowper, in one of his letters. With what a charm he describes his love for the Bee, and for the smallest insect which animates with its presence the lowliest landscape —It is true that his rural pictures exhibit less variety and less extent than those of Thomson, who studied nature more in the gross than in her details. Thomson, who possessed a more vast and prolific genius with less taste, never knew when to stop, but went beyond the mark. “Cowper,” says Campbell, “surveyed