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of the Odysse)'.


should my translation speed according to my wishes,
and the pains I have taken with it ; but shall never
receive any that I shall esteem so highly. She is
indeed worthy to whom I should dedicate, and, may
but my Odyssey prove as worthy of her, I shall have
nothing to fear from the critics.

Yours, my dear Johnny,

With much affection,

W. C.


The Lodge, Nov. 29, 1790.
My dear Madam — I value highly, as I ought and
hope that I always shall, the favourable opinion of
such men as Mr. Martyn : though, to say the truth,
their commendations, instead of making me proud,
have rather a tendency to humble me, conscious as
I am that I am over-rated. There is an old piece
of advice, given by an ancient poet and satirist,
which it behoves every man who stands well in the
opinion of others to lay up in his bosom: — Take
care to he what you are reported to he. By due at-
tention to this wise counsel, it is possible to turn
the praises of our friends to good account, and to
convert that which might prove an incentive to
vanity into a lesson of wisdom. I will keep your
good and respectable friend's letter very safely, and
restore it to you the first opportunity. I beg, my
dear madam, that you will present my best compli-
* Private Correspondence.


ments to Mr. Martyn, when you shall either see him
next or write to him.

To that gentleman's inquiries I am, doubtless,
obliged for the recovery of no small proportion of
my subscription-list : for, in consequence of his ap-
plication to Johnson, and very soon after it, I re-
ceived from him no fewer than forty-five names,
that had been omitted in the list he sent me, and
that would probably never have been thought of
more. No author, I believe, has a more inattentive
or indolent bookseller : but he has every body's good
word for liberality and honesty ; therefore I must
be content.

The press proceeds at present as well as I can
reasonably wish. A month has passed since we
began, and I revised this morning the first sheet of
the sixth Iliad. Mrs. Unwin begs to add a line
from herself, so that I have only room to subjoin
my best respects to Mr. King, and to say that I
am truly.

My dear Madam, yours,

W. C.


The Lodge, Nov. 30, 1790.

My dear Friend — I will confess that I thought
your letter somewhat tardy, though, at the same
time, I made every excuse for you, except, as it
seems, the right. That indeed was out of the reach
of all possible conjecture. I could not guess that


your silence was occasioned by your being occupied
with either thieves or thief-takers. Since, however,
the cause was such, I rejoice that your labours were
not in vain, and that the freebooters who had plun-
dered your friend are safe in limbo. I admire, too,
as much as I rejoice in your success, the indefati-
gable spirit that prompted you to pursue, with such
unremitting perseverance, an object not to be reached
but at the expense of infinite trouble, and that must
have led you into an acquaintance with scenes and
characters the most horrible to a mind like yours.
I see in this conduct the zeal and firmness of your
friendship, to whomsoever professed, and, though I
wanted not a proof of it myself, contemplate so
unequivocal an indication of what you really are,
and of what I always believed you to be, with much
pleasure. May you rise from the condition of an
humble prosecutor, or witness, to the bench of
judgment !

When your letter arrived, it found me with the
worst and most obstinate cold that I ever caught.
This was one reason why it had not a speedier an-
swer. Another is, that, except Tuesday morning,
there is none in the week in which I am not en-
gaged in the last revisal of my translation ; the
revisal I mean of my proof-sheets. To this business
I give myself with an assiduity and attention truly
admirable, and set an example, which, if other poets
could be apprised of, they would do well to follow.
Miscarriages in authorship (I am persuaded) are as
often to be ascribed to want of pains-taliing as to
want of ability.


Lady Hesketh, Mrs. Unwin, and myself, often
mention you, and always in terms that, though you
would blush to hear them, you need not be ashamed
of; at the same time wishing much that you could
change our trio into a quartetto.

W. C.


Weston, Dec. 1, 1790.

My dear Friend — It is plain that you understand
trap, as we used to say at school : for you begin
with accusing me of long silence, conscious yourself,
at the same time, that you have been half a year in
my debt, or thereabout. But I will answer your
accusations with a boast — with a boast of having
intended many a day to write to you again, notwith-
standing your long insolvency. Your brother and
sister of Chicheley can both witness for me, that,
weeks since, I testified such an intention, and, if I
did not execute it, it was not for want of good-will,
but for want of leisure. When will you be able to
glory of such designs, so liberal and magnificent,
you who have nothing to do, by your own confession,
but to grow fat and saucy ? Add to all this, that I
have had a violent cold, such as I never have but
at the first approach of winter, and such as at that
time I seldom escape. A fever accompanied it, and
an incessant cough.

You measure the speed of printers, of my printer
at least, rather by your own wishes than by any just


Standard. Mine (I believe) is as nimble a one as
falls to the share of poets in general, though not
laimble enough to satisfy either the author or his
friends. I told you that my work would go to press
in autumn, and so it did. But it had been six
weeks in London ere the press began to work upon
it. About a month since we began to print, and,
at the rate of nine sheets in a fortnight, have pro-
ceeded to about the middle of the sixth Iliad. " No
further ?" — you say. I answer — " No, nor even so
far, without much scolding on my part, both at the
bookseller and the printer." But courage, m}'
friend ! Fair and softly, as we proceed, we shall
find our way through at last ; and, in confirmation
of this hope, while I write this, another sheet arrives.
I expect to publish in the spring.

I love and thank you for the ardent desire you
express to hear me bruited abroad, et per ora virum
voUtantem. For your encouragement, I will tell you
that I read, myself at least, with wonderful compla-
cence what I have done ; and if the world, when it
shall appear, do not like it as well as I, we will both
say and swear with Fluellin, that " it is an ass and
a fool (look you !) and a prating coxcomb."

1 felt no ambition of the laurel.* Else, though
vainly, perhaps, I had friends who would have made
a stir on my behalf on that occasion. I confess
that, when I learned the new condition of the office,
that odes were no longer required, and that the
salary was increased, I felt not the same dislike of
it. But I could neither go to court, nor could I kiss

* The office of Poet Laureat, mentioned in a former letter.


hands, were it for a much more valuable consi-
deration. Therefore never expect to hear that royal
favours find out me !

Adieu, my dear old friend ! I will send you a
mortuary copy soon, and in the mean time remain

Ever yours,

w. c.


The Lodge, Dec. 5, 1790.

My dear Friend — Sometimes I am too sad, and
sometimes too busy to write. Both these causes
have concurred lately to keep me silent. But more
than by either of these I have been hindered, since
I received your last, by a violent cold, which op-
pressed me during almost the whole month of No-

Your letter affects us with both joy and sorrow :
with sorrow and sympathy resj^ecting poor Mrs.
Newton, whose feeble and dying state suggests a
wish for her release rather than for her continuance ;
and joy on your account, who are enabled to bear, with
so much resignation and cheerful acquiescence in the
will of God, the prospect of a loss, which even they who
know you best apprehended might prove too much for
you. As to Mrs. Newton's interest in the best things,
none, intimately acquainted with her as we Iiave
been, could doubt it. She doubted it indeed herself;
but though it is not our duty to doubt, any more

* Private Correspondence.


than it is our privilege, I have always considered
the self-condemning spirit, to which such doubts are
principally owing, as one of the most favourable
symptoms of a nature spiritually renewed, and have
many a time heard you make the same observa-

[ Torn off.-\

We believe that the best Christian is occasionally
subject to doubts and fears ; and that they form a
part of the great warfare. That it is our privilege
and duty to cultivate an habitual sense of peace in
the conscience, and that this peace will be enjoyed
in proportion as faith is in exercise, and the soul is
in communion with God, we fully agree. But who
that is acquainted with the inward experiences of
the Christian, does not know that there are alterna-
tions of joy and fear, of triumph, and of depression ?
The Psalms of David furnish many instances of this
fact, as well as the history of the most eminent saints
recorded in Scripture. " Though I am sometime
afraid, yet put I my trust in thee." We conceive
these words to be an exemplification of the truth of
the case. When, therefore, we hear persons speak
of the entire absence of sin and infirmity, and ex-
emption from doubts and fears, we are strongly
disposed to believe that they labour under great
self-deception, and know little of their own hearts,
in thus arguing against the general testimony of the
Church of Christ in all ages. A plain and pious
Christian once told us of an appropriate remark that


he addressed to an individual who professed to be
wholly free from any fears on this subject. " If," ob-
served this excellent man, " you have no fears for your-
self, you must allow me to entertain some for you."


Weston Dec. 18, 1790.
I perceive myself so flattered by the instances of
illustrious success mentioned in your letter, that I
feel all the amiable modesty, for which I was once
so famous, sensibly giving way to a spirit of vain-

The King's college subscription makes me proud
— the effect that my verses have had on your two
young friends, the mathematicians, makes me proud,
and I am, if possible, prouder still of the contents of
the letter that you inclosed.

You complained of being stupid, and sent me one
of the cleverest letters. I have not complained of
being stupid, and sent you one of the dullest. But
it is no matter. I never aim at any thing above the
pitch of every day's scribble, when I write to those
I love-
Homer proceeds, my boy ! We shall get through
it in time, and (I hope) by the time appointed. We
are now in the tenth Iliad. I expect the ladies
every minute to breakfast. You have their best
love. Mine attends the whole army of Donnes at
Mattishall Green* assembled. How happy should
I find myself, were I but one of the party ! My
* In Norfolk.



capering days are over. But do you caper for me,
that you may give them some idea of the happiness
I should feel were I in the midst of them !

W. C.


The Lodge, Dec. 31, 1790.

My dear Madam — Returning from my walk at
half-past three, I found your welcome messenger in
the kitchen ; and, entering the study, found also the
beautiful present with which you had charged him.f
We have all admired it (for Lady He^keth was here
to assist us in doing so ;) and for my own particular,
I return you my sincerest thanks, a very inadequate
compensation. Mrs. Unwin, not satisfied to send
you thanks only, begs your acceptance likewise of a
turkey, which, though the figure of it might not
much embellish a counterpane, may possibly serve
hereafter to swell the dimensions of a feather-bed.

I have lately been visited with an indisposition
much more formidable than that which I mentioned
to you in my last — a nervous fever ; a disorder to
which I am subject, and which I dread above all
others, because it comes attended by a melan-
choly perfectly insupportable. This is the first day

* Private Correspondence.

t This counterpane is mentioned in a previous letter, dated
Oct. 5th, in this year : so that, unless it was taken baok and
hen returned in an improved state, there seems to be some
error, that we do not profess to explain.


of my complete recovery, the first in which I have
perceived no symptoms of my terrible malady ; and
the only drawback on this comfort that I feel is the
intelligence contained in yours, that neither Mr.
King nor yourself are well. I dread always, both
for my own health and for that of my friends, the
unhappy influences of a year worn out. But, my
dear madam, this is the last day of it ; and I resolve
to hope that the new year shall obliterate all th^ dis-
agreeables of the old one. I can wish nothing more
warmly than that it may prove a propitious year to

My poetical operations, I mean of the occasional
kind, have lately been pretty much at a stand. I
told you, I believe, in my last, that Homer, in the
present stage of the process, occupied me more in-
tensely than ever. He still continues to do so, and
threatens, till he shall be completely finished, to make
all other composition impracticable. I have, how-
ever, written the mortuary verses as usual ; but the
wicked clerk tor whom I write them has not yet sent
me the impression. I transmit to you the long-pro-
mised Catharina ; and, were it possible that I could
transcribe the others, would send them also. There
is a way, however, by which I can procure a frank,
and you shall not want them long.

I remain, dearest Madam,

Ever yours,

W. C.


We have now tlie pleasure of introducing to the
reader a lady, of whom we should say much, if a
sense of propriety did not impose silence upon our
pen. The Catharina, recorded by the muse of
Cowper, was Miss Stapleton at that time, subse-
quently married to Mr. George Throckmorton
Courtney, and finally Lady Throckmorton, by the
decease of the elder brother, Sir John. As we
cannot impose on the poet the restraint which we
are compelled to practise in our own case, we shall
beg leave to insert the following verses, written
on the occasion of her visit to Weston.

She came — she is gone — we have met —
And meet perhaps never again ;
The sun of that moment is set.
And seems to have risen in vain.
Catharina* has fled like a dream —
(So vanishes pleasure, alas!)
But has left a regret and esteem,
That will not so suddenly pass.

The last ev'ning ramble we made,
Catharina, Maria, t and I,
Our progress was often delay'd
By the nightingale warbling nigh.
"We paus'd under many a tree,
And much she was charm'd with a tone,
• Less sweet to Maria and me.

Who so lately had witness'd her own.

* Miss Stapleton, afterwards Lady Throckmorton, and the
person to whom the present undertaking is dedicated,
t The wife of Sir John Throckmorton.


My numbers that day she had sung,
And gave them a grace so divine,
As only her musical tongue
Could infuse into numbers of mine.
The longer I heard, I esteem'd
The work of my fancy the more.
And e'en to myself never seem'd
So tuneful a poet before.

Though the pleasures of London exceed
In number the days of the year,
Catharina, did nothing impede.
Would feel herself happier here ;
For the close-woven arches of limes
On the banks of our river, I know,
Are sweeter to her many times
Than aught that the city can show.

So it is, when the mind is imbued

With a well-judging taste from above.

Then, whether embellish'd or rude,

'Tis nature alone that we love.

The achievements of art may amuse,

May even our wonder excite,

But groves, hills, and valleys, diffuse

A lasting, a sacred delight.

Since then in the rural recess

Catharina alone can rejoice.

May it still be her lot to possess

The scene of her sensible choice !

To inhabit a mansion remote

From the clatter of street-pacing steeds.

And by Philomel's annual note

To measure the life that she leads.

With her book, and her voice, and her lyre,
To wing all her moments at home,
And with scenes that new rapture inspire,
As oft as it suits her to roam.


She will have just the life she prefers,
With little to hope or to fear,
And ours would be pleasant as hers,
Might we view her enjoying it here.


Weston, Jan. 4, 1791.

My dear Friend — You would long since have re-
ceived an answer to your last, had not the wicked
clerk of Northampton delayed to send me the printed
copy of my annual dirge, which I waited to enclose.
Here it is at last, and much good may it do the
readers !*

I have regretted that I could not write sooner,
especially because it well became me to reply as soon
as possible to your kind inquiries after my health,
which has been both better and worse since I wrote
last. The cough was cured, or nearly so, when I
received your letter, but I have lately been afflicted
with a nervous fever, a malady formidable to me
above all others, on account of the terror and dejec-
tion of spirits that in my case always accompany it.
I even look forward, for this reason, to the month
now current, with the most miserable apprehensions ;
for in this month the distemper has twice seized me.
I wish to be thankful, however, to the sovereign Dis-
penser both of health and sickness, that, though I
have felt cause enough to tremble, he gives me
now encouragement to hope that I may dismiss

* See ii.ortuary versps composed on this occasion.


my fears, and expect, for this January at least, to
escape it.

The mention of quantity reminds me of a remark
that I have seen somewhere, possibly in Johnson, to
this purport, that, the syllables in our language
being neither long nor short, our verse accordingly
is less beautiful than the verse of the Greeks or
Romans, because requiring less artifice in its con-
struction. But I deny the fact, and am ready to
depose on oath, that I find every syllable as dis-
tinguishably and clearly, either long or short, in
our language, as in any other. I know also, that
without an attention to the quantity of our syllables
good verse cannot possibly be written, and that
ignorance of this matter is one reason why we see
so much that is good for nothing. The movement
of a verse is always either shuffling or graceful,
according to our management in this particular, and
Milton gives almost as many proofs of it in his
Paradise Lost as there are lines in the poem.
Away, therefore, with all such unfounded observa-
tions ! I would not give a farthing for many bushels
of them— nor you perhaps for this letter. Yet,
upon recollection, forasmuch as I know you to be a
dear lover of literary gossip, I think it possible you
may esteem it highly.

Believe me, my dear friend, most truly yours,

w. c.


The following letter records the death of Mrs-
Newton, the object of so early and lasting an attach-
ment on the part of the Rev. John Newton.


Weston, Jan. 20, 1791.
My dear Friend — Had you been a man of this
world, 1 should have held myself bound by the law
of ceremonies to have sent you long since my tri-
bute of condolence. I have sincerely mourned
with you ; and though you have lost a wife, and I
only a friend, yet do I understand too well the
value of such a friend as Mrs. Newton not to have
sympathised with you very nearly. But you are
not a man of this world ; neither can you, who
have both the Scripture and the Giver of Scripture
to console you, have any need of aid from others,
or expect it from such spiritual imbecility as mine.
I considered, likewise, that receiving a letter from
Mrs. Unwin, you, in fact, received one from myself,
with this difference only, — that hers could not fail
to be better adapted to the occasion and to your
own frame of mind than any that I could send you.
[ Torn off.]


Weston, Jan. 21, 1791.
1 know that you have already been catechized

* Private Correspondence.


by Lady Hesketh on the subject of your return
hither, before the winter shall be over, and shall
therefore only say, that, if you can come, we shall
be happy to receive you. Remember also, that
nothing can excuse the non-performance of a pro-
mise but absolute necessity! In the mean time,
my faith in your veracity is such that I am per-
suaded you will suffer nothing less than necessity
to prevent it. Were you not extremely pleasant to
us, and just the sort of youth that suits us, we
should neither of us have said half so much, or
perhaps a word on the subject.

Yours, my dear Johnny, are vagaries that I shall
never see practised by any other, and, whether you
slap your ancle, or reel as if you were fuddled, or
dance in the path before me, all is characteristic of
yourself, and therefore to me delightful.* I have
hinted to you indeed sometimes, that you should be
cautious of indulging antic habits and singularities
of all sorts, and young men in general have need
enough of such admonition. But yours are a sort
of fairy habits, such as might belong to Puck or
Robin Goodfellow, and therefore, good as the ad-
vice is, I should be half sorry should you take it.

This allowance at least I give you. Continue to
take your walks, if walks they may be called, ex-
actly in their present fashion, till you have taken
orders! Then indeed, forasmuch as a skipping,
curvetting, bounding divine might be a spectacle

* These innocent peculiarities were in a less degree re-
tained to the end of life bj this truly amiable and interesting


not altogether seemly, I shall consent to your adop-
tion of a more grave demeanour.

w. c.


The Lodge, Feb. 5, 1791.
My dear Friend — My letters to you are all either
petitionary, or in the style of acknowledgments and
thanks, and such nearly in an alternate order. In
my last, I loaded you with commissions, for the due
discharge of which I am now to say, and say truly,
how much I feel myself obliged to you ; neither
can I stop there, but must thank you likewise for
new honours from Scotland, which have left me
nothing to wish for from that country; for my list
is now, I believe, graced with the subscription of
all its learned bodies. I regret only that some of
them arrived too late to do honour to my present
publication of names. But there are those among
them, and from Scotland too, that may give a
useful hint perhaps to our own universities. Your
very handsome present of Pope's Homer has
arrived safe, notwithstanding an accident that befel
him by the way. The Hall-servant brought the
parcel from Olney, resting it on the pommel of the
saddle, and his horse fell with him. Pope was in
consequence rolled in the dirt, but being well
coated got no damage. If augurs and soothsayers
were not out of fashion, I should have consulted one
or two of that order, in hope of learning from chem


that this fall was ominous. I have found a place
for him in the parlour, where he makes a splendid
appearance, and where he shall not long want a
neighbour, one, who, if less popular than himself,
shall at least look as big as he. How has it hap-
pened that, since Pope did certainly dedicate both
Iliad and Odyssey, no dedication is found in this
first edition of them ?

W. C.


AVeston, Feb.. 13, 1791.

I now send you a full and true account of this
business. Having learned that your inn at Woburn
was the George, we sent Samuel thither yesterday.

Mr. Martin, master of the George, told him-j-

* * * *


P.S. I cannot help adding a circumstance that
will divert you. Martin, having learned from Sam
whose servant he was, told him, that he had never
seen Mr. Cowper, but he had heard him frequently
spoken of by the companies that had called at his
house ; and therefore, when Sam would have paid
for his breakfast, would take nothing from him.

t This letter contained the history of a servant's cruelty to
a post-horse, which a reader of humanitv could not wish to see
in print. But the postscript describes so pleasantly the sio -

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Online LibraryWilliam CowperThe life and works of William Cowper (Volume 4) → online text (page 15 of 23)