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neglect. They must concede the liberty which is
the great inherent right of all mankind, or expect
to behold it MTcsted from them amidst scenes of
carnage and blood. Policy, justice, and humanity,
therefore, require the concession. We have said
that the repeal of the curse had begun in part : it
will be completed when civil privileges shall be con-
sidered to be only the precursors of that more glo-
rious liberty flowing from the communication of the
gospel of peace. Then will Africa be raised up from
her state of moral degradation, and be elevated to
the rank and order of civilized nations. Then will
she once more boast of her Cyprians, her Tertul-
lians, and her Augustines; and the voice of the
Lord, speaking from his high and holy place, will
proclaim to her sable and afflicted sons, " Arise,
shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the
Lord hath arisen upon thee." " Tliere is neither
Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor tmcircumcision, bar-
barian, Sci/tJiian, bond, nor free : but Christ is all,
and in all." Col. iii. IL

How sweetly does the muse of Cowper proclaim
the blessings of this spiritual liberty !

But there is yet a liberty, unsung;

By poets, and by senators unprais'd,

Which monarchs cannot grant, nor all the pow'rs

Of earth and hell confed'rate take away :


A liberty which persecution, fraud,
Oppression, prisons, have no power to bioH :
Which whoso tastes can be enslav'd no more.
'Tis liberty of heart, deriv'd from heav'n.
Bought with His blood, who gave it to mankind.
And seal'd with the same token. It is held
By charter, and that charter sanction'd sure
By th' unimpeachable and awful oath
And promise of a God. His other gifts
All bear the royal stamp, that speaks them his.
They are august; but this transcends them all.

He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,

And all are slaves beside. There's not a chain

That hellish foes, confed'rate for his harm.

Can wind around him, but he casts it off

With as much ease as Samson his green withes.

He looks abroad into the varied field

Of nature, and, though poor perhaps, compar'd

With those whose mansions glitter in his sight.

Calls the delightful scen'ry all his own.

His are the mountains, and the valleys his,

And the resplendent rivers. His t' enjoy

With a propriety that none can feel

But who, with filial confidence inspir'd.

Can lift to heav'n an unpresumptuous eye,

And smiling say — " My Father made them all ! "

Winter Morning Walk.

The interesting nature of the subject and its po-
pularity at the present moment must plead our ex-
cuse for these lengthened remarks and extract.s.
But we were anxious to prove how much this great
cause of humanity was indebted, in the earlier stages
of its progress, to the powerful appeals and repre-
sentations of Cowper.

We now resume the Correspondence.



Weston Lodge, March 17, 1788.

My dear Madam — A thousand thanks to you for
your obhging and most acceptable present, which I
received safe this evening. Had you known my
occasions, you could not possibly liave timed it
more exactly. The Throckmorton family, who
live in our neighbourhood, and who sometimes take
a dinner with us, were, by engagement made with
them two or three days ago, appointed to dine with
us just at the time when your turkey will be in per-
fection. A turkey from Wargrave, the residence
of my friend, and a turkey, as I conclude, of your
breeding, stands a fair chance, in my account, to
excel all other turkeys; and the ham, its com-
panion, will be no less welcome.

I shall be happy to hear that my friend Joseph
has recovered entirely from his late indisposition,
which I was informed was gout ; a distemper which,
however painful in itself, brings at least some com-
fort with it, both for the patient and those who love
him, the hope of length of days, and an exemption
from numerous other evils. I wish him just so
much of it as may serve for a confirmation of this
hope, and not one twinge more.

Your husband, my dear madam, told me, some
time since, that a certain library of mine, concern-
ing which I have heard no other tidings these five-

* Private Correspondence.


and twenty years, is still in being.f Hue and cry
have been made after it in Old Palace Yard, but
hitherto in vain. If he can inform a bookless stu-
dent in what region, or in what nook, his long-lost
volumes may be found, he will render me an impor-
tant service.

I am likely to be furnished soon with shelves,
which my cousin of New Norfolk-street is about to
send me ; but furniture for these shelves I shall not
presently procure, unless by recovering my stray
authors. I am not young enough to think of mak-
ing a new collection, and shall probably possess
myself of few books hereafter but such as I may put
forth myself, which cost me nothing but what I can
better spare than money — time and consideration.

I beg, my dear madam, that you will give my
love to my friend, and believe me, with the warm-
est sense of his and your kindness.

Your most obliged and affectionate

w. c.


Weston Lodge, March 17, 1788.
My dear Friend — The evening is almost worn
away while I have been writing a letter, to which I
was obliged to give immediate attention. An ap-
plication from a lady, and backed by you, could not

t Cowper's books had been lost, owing to liis original ill-
ness, and his sudden removal to St. Alban's.
* Private Correspondence.


be less than irresistible. That lady, too, a daughter
of Mr. Thornton's.* Neither are these words of
course : since I returned to Homer in good earnest,
I turn out of my way for no consideration that I can
possibly put aside.

With modern tunes I am unacquainted, and have
therefore accommodated my verse to an old one ;
not so old, however, but that there will be songsters
found old enough to remember it. The song is an
admirable one for which it was made, and, though
political, nearly, if not quite, as serious as mine. On
such a subject as I had before me, it seems impos-
sible not to be serious. I shall be happy if it meet
with your and Lady Balgonie's approbation.

Of Mr. Bean I could say much ; but have only
time at present to say that I esteem and love him.
On some future occasion I shall speak of him more
at large.

We rejoice that Mrs. Newton is better, and wish
nothing more than her complete recovery. Dr. Ford
is to be pitied. -f- His wife, I suppose, is going to
heaven ; a journey which she can better afford to
take than he to part with her.

I am, my dear friend, with our united love to you
all three, most truly yours,

w. c.

* Lady Balgonie.

t Dr. Ford was Vicar of Melton Mowbray, well known and
respected, and a particular friend of Mr. Newton's.



March 19, 1788.

My dear Friend — The spring is come, but not I
suppose that spring which our poets have cele-
brated. So I judge at least by the extreme severity
of the season, sunless skies and freezing blasts, sur-
passing all that we experienced in the depth of
winter. How do you dispose of yourself in this
howling month of March ? As for me, I walk daily,
be the weather what it may, take bark, and write
verses. By the aid of such means as these I com-
bat the north-east wind with some measure of suc-
cess, and look forward, with the hope of enjoying it,
to the warmth of summer.

Have you seen a little volume, lately published,
entitled, " The Manners of the Great ?" It is said
to have been written by Mr. Wilberforce, but whe-
ther actually written by him or not, is undoubtedly
the work of some man intimately acquainted with
the subject, a gentleman, and a man of letters.* If
it makes the impression on those to whom it is ad-
dressed, that may be in some degree expected from
his arguments, and from his manner of pressing
them, it will be well. But you and I have lived
long enough in the world to know that the hope of
a general reformation in any class of men whatever,
or of women either, may easily be too sanguine.

I have now given the last revisal to as much of

* The author of this work proved to he Miss Hannah More.



my translation as was ready for it, and do not know
that I shall bestow another single stroke of my pen
on that part of it before I send it to the press. My
business at present is with the sixteenth book, in
which I have made some progress, but have not yet
actually sent forth Patroclus to the battle. My first
translation lies always before me ; line by line I
examine it as I proceed, and line by line reject it.
I do not, however, hold myself altogether indebted
to my Critics for the better judgment that I seem to
exercise in this matter now than in the first in-
stance. By long study of him, I am in fact become
much more familiar with Homer than at any time
heretofore, and have possessed myself of such a taste
of his manner, as is not to be attained by mere
cursory reading for amusement. But, alas ! tis after
all a mortifying consideration that the majority of my
judges hereafter, will be no judges of this. GrcEcum
est, non potest legi, is a motto that Avould suit nine
in ten of those who will give themselves airs about
it, and pretend to like or to dislike. No matter.
I know I shall please you, because I know what
pleases you, and am sure that I have done it.
Adieu ! my good friend,

Ever affectionately yours,


Cowper alludes in the following letters to tlie
progress of his version, and the obstructions to th.e
negro cause.



Weston, March 29, 1788.

My dear Friend — I rejoice that you have so suc-
cessfully performed so long a journey without the
aid of hoofs or wheels. I do not know that a
journey on foot exposes a man to more disasters
than a carriage or a horse ; perhaps it may be the
safer way of travelling, but the novelty of it im-
pressed me with some anxiety on your account.

It seems almost incredible to myself that my com-
».iany should be at all desirable to you, or to any man.
J know so little of the world as it goes at present,
and labour generally under such a depression of
spirits, especially at those times when I could wish
to be most cheerful, that my own share in every
conversation appears to me to be the most insipid
thing imaginable. But you say you found it other-
wise, and I will not for my own sake doubt your
sincerity : de gustibus non est clisputandum, and since
such is yours, I shall leave you in quiet possession
of it, wishing indeed both its continuance and in-
crease. I shall not find a properer place in which
to say, accept of Mrs. Unwin's acknowledgements,
as well as mine, for the kindness of your expressions
on this subject, and be assured of an undissembling
welcome at all times, when it shall suit you to give
us your company at Weston. As to her, she is one
of the sincerest of the human race, and if she re-
ceives you with the appearance of pleasure, it is
because she feels it. Her behaviour on such occa-
sions is with her an affair of conscience, and she
dares no more look a falsehood than utter one.


It is almost time to tell you, that I have re-
ceived the books safe ; they have not suffered the
least detriment by the way, and I am much obliged
to you for them. If my translation should be a lit-
tle delayed in consequence of this favour of yours,
you must take the blame on yourself. It is im-
possible not to read the notes of a commentator so
learned, so judicious, and of so fine a taste as Dr.
Clarke,* having him at one's elbovi^. Though he has
been but few hours under my roof. I have already
peeped at him, and find that he will be instar
omnium to me. They are such notes exactly as I
wanted A translator of Homer should ever have
somebody at hand to say, " that's a beauty," lest he
should slumber where his author does not, not only
depreciating, by such inadvertency, the work of his
original, but depriving perhaps his own of an em-
bellishment, which wanted only to be noticed.

If you hear ballads sung in the streets on the
hardships of the negroes in the islands they are pro-
bably mine.-]- It must be an honour to any man to
have given a stroke to that chain, however feeble. I
fear however that the attempt will fail. The tidings
which have lately reached me from London concern-
ing it are not the most encouraging. While the
matter slept, or was but slightly adverted to, the
English only had their share of shame in common
with other nations on account of it. But, since it has

* Well known for his celebrated works, on the " Being and
Attributes of God," and the " Evidences of Natural and Re-
vealed Religion."

t They were, after all, never appropriated to that purpose.


been canvassed and searched to the bottom, since
the pubHc attention has been rivetted to the horri-
ble scheme, ^ve can no longer plead either that we
did not know it, or did not think of it. Woe be
to us if we refuse the poor captives the redress to
which they have so clear a right, and prove our-
selves in the sight of God and men, indifferent to
all considerations but those of gain i *


W. C.


The Lodge. March 31, 1788.
My dearest Cousin — Mrs. Throckmorton has pro-
mised to write to me. I beg that, as often as you shall
see her, you will give her a smart pinch, and say, " Have
you written to my Cousin?" I build all my hopes
of her performance on this expedient, and for so
doing these my letters, not patent, shall be your
sufficient warrant. You are thus to give her the
question till she shall answer, " Yes." I have writ-
ten one more song, and sent it. It is called the
" Morning Dream," and may be sung to the tune of
Tweed-Side, or any other tune that will suit it, for
I am not nice on that subject. I would have copied
it for you, had I not almost filled my sheet without

* The interests of commerce were too much at variance with
this great cause of humanity not to oppose a long and per-
severing resistance to its progress in parliament. Though
Mr. Pitt supported the measure, it was not made a govern-
ment question.


it ; but now, my dear, you must stay till the sweet
sirens of London shall bring it to you, or, if that
happy day should never arrive, I hereby acknow-
ledge myself your debtor to that amount. I shall
now probably cease to sing of tortured negroes, a
theme which never pleased me, but which, in the
hope of doing them some little service, I was not
unwilling to handle.

If any thing could have raised Miss More to a
higher place in my opinion than she possessed before,
it could only be your information that, after all, she,
and not Mr. Wilberforce, is author of that volume.
How comes it to pass, that she, being a woman,
writes with a force and energy, and a correctness
hitherto arrogated by the men, and not very fre-
quently displayed even by the men themselves ?


W. C.

The object of this valuable treatise is not to attack
gross delinquencies, but to show the danger of resting
for acceptance on mere outward decorum and general
respectability of character, while the internal prin-
ciple, which can alone elevate the affections of the
heart and influence the life, is wanting. We select the
following passage as powerfully illustrating this view.
Speaking of the rich man, who is represented by
our Lord as lifting up his eyes in torments, Mrs.
More observes, " He committed no enormities, that
have been transmitted to us ; for that he dined well
and dressed well could hardly incur the bitter pe-
nalty of eternal misery. That his expenses were


suitable to his station, and his splendour proportioned
to his opulence, does not exhibit any objection to
his character. Nor are we told that he refused the
crumbs which Lazarus solicited : and yet this man,
on an authority we are not permitted to question, is
represented in a future state as lifting vp his eyes,
being in torments. His punishment seems to have
been the consequence of an irreligious, a worldly
spirit ; a heart corrupted by the softnesses and de-
lights of life. It was not because he was rich, but
because he trusted in riches; or, if even he was cha-
ritable, his charity wanted that principle which alone
could sanctify it. His views terminated here ; this
world's good, and this world's applause, loere tlie mo-
Hvesand the end of his actions. He forgot God ; he
was destitute of piety ; and the absence of this great
and first principle of human actions rendered his
shining deeds, hoivever they might be admired among
men, of no value in the sight of God."

Admonitory statements like these are invaluable,
and demand the earnest attention of those to whom
they apply.

Nor is the next passage less important on the
subject of sins of omission.

" It is not less against negative than against ac-
tual evil that affectionate exhortation, lively remon-
strance, and pointed parable, are exhausted. It is
against the tree which bore no fruit, the lamp which
had no oil, the unprofitable servant who made no
use of his talent, that the severe sentence is de-
nounced, as well as against corrupt fruit, bad oil,
and talents ill employed. We are led to believe,


from the same high authority, that omitted duties and
neglected opportunities will furnish no inconsiderable
portion of our future condemnation. A very awful
part of the decision, in the great day of account,
seems to be reserved merely for carelessness, omis-
sions, and negatives. Ye gave me no meat, ye
gave me no drink ; ye took me not in, ye visited
me not. On the punishment attending positive
crimes, as being more naturally obvious, it was not,
perhaps, thought so necessary to insist." f

This work was the first important appeal in those
days, addressed to the fashionable world, and Miss
More's previous intercourse with it admirably qua-
lified her to write with judgment and effect.


Weston Lodge, April 11, 1788.
Dear Madam — The melancholy that I have men-
tioned, and concerning which you are so kind as to
inquire, is of a kind, so far as I know, peculiar to
myself. It does not at all affect the operations of
my mind on any subject to which I can attach it,
whether serious or ludicrous, or whatsoever it may
be ; for which reason I am almost always employed
either in reading or writing when I am not engaged
in conversation. A vacant hour is my abhorrence,
because when I am not occupied I suffer under the

t Tlioughts on the Manners of the Great.
♦ Private Correspondence.


whole influence of my unhappy temperament. I
thank you for your recommendation of a medicine
from which you have received benefit yourself; but
there is hardly any thing that I have not proved,
however beneficial it may have been found by others,
in my own case utterly useless. I have, therefore,
long since bid adieu to all hope from human means,
— the means excepted of perpetual employment.

I will not say that we shall never meet, because
it is not for a creature who knows not what shall be
to-morrow to assert any thing positively concerning
the future. Things more unlikely I have yet seen
brought to pass, and things which, if I had ex-
pressed myself of them at all, I should have said
were impossible. But, being respectively circum-
stanced as we are, there seems no present proba-
bility of it. You speak of insuperable hindrances ;
and I also have hindrances that would be equally
difficult to surmount. One is, that I never ride,
that I am not able to perform a journey on foot, and
that chaises do not roll within the sphere of that
economy which my circumstances oblige me to ob-
serve. If this were not of itself sufficient to excuse
me, when I decline so obliging an invitation as yours,
I could mention yet other obstacles. But to what
end ? One impracticability makes as effectual a bar-
rier as a thousand. It will be otherwise in other
worlds. Either we shall not bear about us a body,
or it will be more easily transportable than this. In
the mean time, by the help of the post, strangers
to each other may cease to be such, as you and I
have already begun to experience.


It is indeed, madam, as you say, a foolish world,
and likely to continue such till the Great Teacher
shall himself vouchsafe to make it wiser. I am per-
suaded that time alone will never mend it. But
there is doubtless a day appointed when there shall
be a more general manifestation of the beauty of
holiness than mankind have ever yet beheld. When
that period shall arrive there will be an end of pro-
fane representations, whether of heaven or hell, on
the stage : — the great realities will supersede them.

I have just discovered that I have written to you
on paper so transparent, that it will hardly keep the
contents a secret. Excuse the mistake, and believe
me, dear madam, with my respects to Mr. King,
Affectionately yours,

W. C.

The slow progress of the abolition cause, and the
nature of the difficulties are adverted to in the fol-
lowing letter.


Weston, April 19, 1788.

My dear Friend — I thank you for your last and
for the verses in particular therein contained, in
which there is not only rhyme but reason. And yet
I fear that neither you nor I, with all our reasoning
and rhyming, shall effect much good in this matter.

* Private Correspondence.


So far as I can learn, and I have had intelligence
from a quarter within the reach of such as is re-
spectable, our governors are not animated altogether
with such heroic ardour as the occasion might in-
spire. They consult frequently indeed in the cabinet
about it, but the frequency of their consultations in
a case so plain as this would be, did not what
Shakspeare calls commodity, and what we call po-
litical expediency, cast a cloud over it, rather be-
speaks a desire to save appearances than to interpose
to purpose. Laws will, I suppose, be enacted for
the more humane treatment of the negroes ; but
who shall see to the execution of them ? The plan-
ters will not, and the negroes cannot. In fact, we
know that laws of this tendency have not been want-
ing, enacted even amongst themselves, but there
has been always a want of prosecutors, or righteous
judges ; deficiencies which will not be very easily
supplied. The newspapers have lately told us that
these merciful masters have, on this occasion, been
occupied in passing ordinances, by which the lives
and limbs of their slaves are to be secured from
wanton cruelty hereafter. But who does not imme-
diately detect the artifice, or can give them a mo-
ment's credit for any thing more than a design, by
this show of lenity, to avert the storm which they
think hangs over them? On the whole, I fear there
is reason to wish, for the honour of England, that
the nuisance had never been troubled, lest we even-
tually make ourselves justly chargeable with the
whole offence by not removing it. The enormity
cannot be palliated ; we can no longer plead that we


were not aware of it, or that our attention was other-
wise engaged, and shall be inexcusable therefore our-
selves if we leave the least part of it unredressed.
Such arguments as Pharaoh might have used to jus-
tify the destruction of the Israelites, substituting
only sugar for bricks, may lie ready for our use also;
but I think we can find no better.

We are tolerably well, and shall rejoice to hear
that, as the year rises, Mrs. Newton's health keeps
pace with it. Believe me, my dear friend.
Affectionately and truly yours,

W. C.


The Lodge, May 6, 1788.

My dearest Cousin — You ask me how I like
Smollett's Don Quixote ? I answer, Well ; perhaps
better than any body's : but, having no skill in the
original, some diffidence becomes me : that is to
say, I do not know whether 1 ought to prefer it or
not. Yet there is so little deviation from other ver-
sions which I have seen that I do not much hesitate.
It has made me laugh I know immoderately, and in
such a case f'a siiffit.

A thousand thanks, my dear, for the new conve-
nience in the jtvay of stowage which you are so kind
as to intend me. There is nothing in which I am so
deficient as repositories for letters, papers, and litter
of all sorts. Your last present has helped me some-
what, but not with respect to such things as require

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Online LibraryWilliam CowperThe life and works of William Cowper (Volume 4) → online text (page 3 of 23)