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in spite of all reasonings, and let our warnings have
been what they may. Thus it is I take my last



48 LIFE OF COWPER.

leave of poor Ashley, whose heart towards me was
ever truly parental, and to whose memory I owe a
tenderness and respect that will never leave me.

w. c.



TO LADY HESKETH.

The Lodge, June 10, 1788.
My dear Coz. — Your kind letter of precaution to
Mr. Gregson sent him hither as soon as chapel ser-
vice was ended in the evening. But he found me
already apprized of the event that occasioned it, by
a line from Sephus, received a few hours before.
My dear uncle's death awakened in me many re-
flections, which for a time sunk my spirits. A man
like him would have been mourned had he doubled
the age he reached. At any age ])is death would
have been felt as a loss, that no survivor could repair.
And though it was not probable that, for my own
part, 1 should ever see him more, yet the consci-
ousness that he still lived was a comfort to me. Let
it comfort us now, that we have lost him only at a
time when nature could afford him to us no longer ;
that, as his life was blameless, so was his death with-
out anguish, and that he is gone to heaven. I know
not that human life, i« its most prosperous state,
can present any thing to our wishes half so desirable
as such a close of it.

Not to mingle this subject with others that would
ill suit with it, I will add no more at present than a



LIFE OF COWPER. 49

warm hope that you and your sister * will be able
efFectually to avail yourselves of all the consolatory
matter with which it abounds. You gave yourselves,
while he lived, to a father, whose life was doubtless
prolonged by your attentions, and whose tenderness
of disposition made him always deeply sensible of
your kindness in this respect, as well as in many
others. His old age was the happiest that I have
ever known, and I give you both joy of having had
so fair an opportunity, and of having so well used it,
to approve yourselves equal to the .calls of such a
duty in the sight of God and man.

W. C.



• TO LADY HESKETH.

The Lodge, June 15, 1788.

Although I know that you must be very much
Qccupied on the present most affecting occasion,
yet, not hearing from you, I began to be very un-
easy on your account, and to fear that your health
might have suffered by the fatigue both of body and
spirits that you must have undergone, till a letter
that reached me yesterday from the General f set
my heart at rest, so far as that cause of anxiety was
in question. He speaks of my uncle in the tender-
est terms, such as show how truly sensible he was
of the araiableness and excellence of his character,

* Miss Theodora Cowper.

t General Cowper was nephew to Ashley Cowper.
VOL. IV. E



50 LIFE OF COWPER.

and how deeply he regrets his loss. We have in-
deed lost one who has not left his like in the present
generation of our family, and whose equal, in all
respects, no future of it will probably produce.
My memory retains so perfect an impression of him,
that, had I been painter instead of poet, I could
from those faithful traces have perpetuated his face
and form with the most minute exactness ; and this
I the rather wonder at, because some with whom I
was equally conversant five-and-twenty years ago
have almost faded out of all recollection with me.
But he made impression not soon to be effaced, and
was in figure, in temper, in manner, and in nu-
merous other respects such as I shall never behold
again. I often think what a joyful interview there
has been between him and some of his contempo^
raries who went before him. The truth of the
matter is, my dear, that they are the happy ones,
and that we shall never be such ourselves till we
have joined the party. Can there be anything so
worthy of our warmest wishes as to enter on an
eternal, unchangeable state, in blessed fellowship
and communion with those whose society we valued
most, and for the best reasons, while they continued
with us ? A Few steps more through a vain, foolish
world, and this happiness will be yours. But be not
hasty, my dear, to accomplish thy journey ! For of
all that live thou art one whom I can least spare ;
for thou also art one, who shalt not leave thy equal
behind thee.

w. c.



LIFE OF COWPER. 51

The contrast between the awful scenes in nature,
and those produced by the passions of men, is finely
drawn in the following letter.

TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.

Weston, June 17, 1788.

My dear Walter — You think me, no doubt, a
tardy correspondent, and such I am, but not wil-
lingly. Many hindrances have intervened, and the
most difficult to surmount have been those which
the east and north-east winds have occasioned,
breathing winter upon the roses of June, and in-
flaming my eyes, ten times more sensible of the in-
convenience than they. The vegetables of England
seem, like our animals, of a hardier and bolder
nature than those of other countries. In France
and Italy flowers blow because it is warm, but here
in spite of the cold. The season however is some-
what mended at present, and my eyes with it.
Finding myself this morning in perfect ease of body,
I seize the welcome opportunity to do something at
least towards the discharge of my arrears to you.

I am glad that you liked my song, and, if I liked
the others myself so well as that I sent you, I would
transcribe for you them also. But I sent that.) be-
cause I accounted it the best. Slavery, and espe-
cially negro slavery, because the cruellest, is an
odious and disgusting subject. Twice or thrice I
have been assailed with entreaties to write a poem
on that theme. But, besides that it would be in some
sort treason against Homer to abandon him for an)'

e2



LIFE OF COWPER.



Other matter. I felt myself so much hm't in my
spirits the moment I entered on the contemplation
of it, that I have at last determined absolutely to
have nothing more to do with it. There are some
scenes of horror on which my imagination can dwell
not without some complacence. But, then they are
such scenes as God, not man, produces. In earth-
quakes, high winds, tempestuous seas, there is the
grand as well as the terrible. But, when man is
active to disturb, there is such meanness in the de-
sign and such cruelty in the execution, that I both
hate and despise the whole operation, and feel it a
degradation of Poetry to employ her in the de-
scription of it. I hope also, that the generality of
my countrymen have more generosity in their nature
than to want the fiddle of verse to go before them
in the performance of an act to which they are in-
vited by the loudest calls of humanity.
Breakfast calls, and then Homer,

Ever yours,

W. C.

Erratum. — Instead of Mr. Wilberforce as author
of " Manners of the Great," read Hannah More.

My paper mourns, and my seal. It is for the death
of a venerable uncle, Ashley Cowper, at the age of
eighty-seven.



Cowper's description of the variations of climate,
and their influence on the nerves and constitution, is



LIFE OF COWPER. 53

what most of his readers probably know from fre-
quent experience of their effects.

TO MRS. KING.*

Tbe Lodge, June 19, 1788.
My dear Madam — You must think me a tardy
correspondent, unless you have had charity enough
for me to suppose that I have met with other hin-
drances than those of indolence and inattention.
With these I cannot charge myself, for I am never
idle by choice ; and inattentive to you I certainly
have not been, but, on the contrarj^, can safely
affirm that every day I have thought on you. My
silence has been occasioned by a malady to which
I have all my life been subject — an inflammation of
the eyes. The last sudden change of weather from
excessive heat to a wintry degree of cold occasioned
it, and at the same time gave me a pinch of the
rheumatic kind ; from both which disorders I have
but just recovered. I do not suppose that our
climate has been much altered since the days of
our forefathers, the Picts ;f but certainly the human
constitution in this country has been altered much.
Inured as we are from our cradles to every vicissi-
tude in a climate more various than any other, and
in possession of all that modern refinement has been
able to contrive for our security, we are yet as
subject to blights as the tenderest blossoms of
spring ; and are so well admonished of every change

* Private Correspondence.
t The Picts were not our ancestors.



54 LIFE OF COWPER.

in the atmosphere by our bodily feelings as hardly
to have any need of a weather-glass to mark them.
For this we are, no doubt, indebted to the multitude
of our accommodations ; for it was not possible to
retain the hardiness that originally belonged to our
race, under the delicate management to which for
many years we have now been accustomed. I can
hardly doubt that a bull-dog or a game-cock might
be made just as susceptible of injuries from weather
as myself, were he dieted and in all respects ac-
commodated as I am. Or, if the project did not
succeed in the first instance, (for we ourselves did
not become what we are at once,) in pro.cess of time,
however, and in a course of many generations, it
would certainly take eftect. Let such a dog be fed
in his infancy with pap, Naples' biscuit, and boiled
chicken ; let him be wrapt in flannel at night, sleep
on a good feather-bed, and ride out in a coach for,
an airing ; and if his posterity do not become slight-
limbed, puny, and valetudinarian, it will be a wonder.
Thus our parents, and their parents, and the pa-
rents of both were managed ; and thus ourselves ;
and the consequence is, that instead of being wea-
ther-proof, even without clothing, furs and flannels
are not warm enough to defend us. It is observable,
however, that though we have by these means lost
much of our pristine vigour, our days are not the
fewer. We live as long as those whom, on account
of the sturdiness of their frame, the poets supposed
to have been the progeny of oaks. Perhaps too
they had little feeling, and for that reason also
might be imagined to be so descended. For a very



LIFE OF COWPER. 55

robust athletic habit seems inconsistent with much
sensibility. But sensibility is the sine qua non of
real happiness. If, therefore, our lives have not
been shortened, and if our feelings have been ren-
dered more exquisite as our habit of body has be-
come more delicate, on the whole perhaps we have
no cause to complain, but are rather gainers by our
degeneracy.

Do you consider what you do, when you ask one
poet his opinion of another ? Yet I think I can
give you an honest answer to your question, and
without the least wish to nibble. Thomson was
admirable .in description : but it always seemed to
me that there was somewhat of affectation in his
style, and that his numbers are sometimes not well
harmonized. I could wish too, with Dr. Johnson,
that he had confined himself to this country ; for,
when he describes what he never saw, one is forced
to read him with some allowance for possible mis-
representation. He was, however, a true poet, and
his lasting fame has proved it. Believe me, my dear
madam, with my best respects to Mr. King, most
truly yours.

w. c.

p. S. I am extremely sorry that you have been
so much indisposed, and hope that your next will
bring me a more favourable account of your health.
I know not why, but I rather suspect that you do
not allow yourself sufficient air and exercise. The
physicians call them no;i-naturals, I suppose to deter
their patients from the use of them.



56 LIFE OF COWPER.

The providence of God and the brevity of human
life are subjects of profitable remark in the follow-
ing letter.

TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ.

Weston, June 23, 1788.

When I tell you that an unanswered letter trovx-
bles my conscience in some degree like a crime,
you will think me endued with a most heroic
patience, who have so long submitted to that trou-
ble on account of yours not answered yet. But
the truth is, that I have been much engaged. Homer
(you know) affords me constant employment; be-
sides which, I have rather what may be called, con-
sidering the privacy with which I have long lived,
a numerous correspondence : to one of my friends,
in particular, a near and much loved relation, I
write weekly, and sometimes twice in a week; nor
are these my only excuses : the sudden changes of
the weather have much affected me, and especially
with a disorder most unfavourable to letter- wi-iting,
an inflammation in my eyes. With all these apo-
logies, I approach you once more, not altogether
despairing of foi-giveness.

It has pleased God to give us rain, without which
this part of the country at least must soon have be-
come a desert. The meadows have been parched
to a January brown, and we have foddered our cat-
tle for some time, as in the winter. The goodness
and power of God are never (I believe) so uni-
versally acknowledged as at the end of a long



LIFE OF COWPER. 57

drought. Man is naturally a self-sufficient animal,
and, in all concerns that seem to lie within the
sphere of his own ability, thinks little or not at all of
the need he always has of protection and further-
ance from above. But he is sensible that the clouds
will not assemble at his bidding, and that, though
the clouds assemble, they will not fall in showers,
because he commands them. When therefore at
last the blessing descends, you shall hear even in
the streets the most irreligious and thoughtless
with one voice exclaim, " Thank God !" — confess-
ing themselves indebted to his favour, and willing,
at least so far as words go, to give him the glory.
I can hardly doubt, therefore, that the earth is
sometimes parched, and the crops endangered, in
order that the multitude may not want a memento
to whom they owe them, nor absolutely forget the
power on which all depend for all things.

Our solitary part of the year is over. Mrs. Un-
win's daughter and son-in-law have lately spent
some time with us. We shall shortly receive from
London our old friends the Newtons, (he was once
minister of Olney,) and, when they leave us, we
expect that Lady Hesketh will succeed them, per-
haps to spend the summer here, and possibly the
winter also. The summer indeed is leaving us at a
rapid rate, as do all the seasons ; and, though I have
marked their flight so often, I know not which is
the swiftest. Man is never so deluded as when he
dreams of his own duration. The answer of the
old patriarch to Pharaoh may be adopted by every
man at the close of the lonijest life : " Few and



58 LIFE OF COWPER.

evil have been the days of the years of my pilgrim-
age." Whether we look back from fifty, or from-
twice fifty, the past appears equally a dream ; and
we can only be said truly to have lived, while we
have been profitably employed. Alas, then! making
the necessary deductions, how short is life ! Were
men in general to save themselves all the steps
they take to no purpose, or to a bad one, what
numbers, who are now active, would become se-
dentary !

Thus I have sermonized through my paper.
Living where you live, you can bear with me the
better. I always follow the leading of my uncon-
strained thoughts, when I write to a friend, be
they grave or otherwise. Homer reminds me of
you every day. I am now in the twenty-first Iliad.
Adieu,

W. C.



TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*

June 24, 1788.

My dear Friend — I rejoice that my letter found
you at all points so well prepared to answer it ac-
cording to our wishes. I have written to "Lady
Hesketh to apprise her of your intended journey
hither, and she, having as yet made no assignation
with us herself, will easily adjust her measures to
the occasion.

I have not lately had an opportunity of seeing

* Private Correspondence.



LIFE OF COWFER. 59

Mr. Bean. The late rains, which have revived the
hopes of the farmers, have intercepted our com-
munication. I hear, however, that he meets with
not a Httle trouble in his progress towards a
reformation of Olney manners ; and that the Sab-
bath, which he wishes to have hallowed by a stricter
and more general observation of it, is, through the
brutality of the lowest order, a day of more turbu-
lence and riot than any other. At the latter end
of last week he found himself obliged to make
another trip to the justice, in company with two or
three of the principal inhabitants. What passed 1
have not learned ; but I understand their errand to
have been, partly at least, to efface the evil im-
pressions made on his worship's mind, by a man
who had applied a day or two before for a warrant
against the constable ; which, however, he did not
obtain. I rather fear that the constables are not
altogether judicious in the exercise either of their
justice or their mercy. Some, who may have seemed
proper objects of punishment, they have released,
on a promise of better behaviour ; and others,
whose offence has been personal against themselves,
though in other respects less guilty, they have set
in the stocks. The ladies, however, and of course
the ladies of Silver-End in particular, give them
the most trouble, being always active on these oc-
casions, as well as clamorous, and both with im-
punity. For the sex are privileged in the free use
of their tongues and of their nails, the Parliament
having never yet laid them under any penal re-
strictions ; and they employ them accordingly.



60 LIFE OF COWPER.

Johnson, the constable, lost much of his skin, and
still more of his coat, in one of those Sunday bat-
tles ; and, had not Ashburner hastened to his aid,
had probably been completely stripped of both. With
such a zeal are these fair ones animated, though, un-
fortunately for all parties, rather erroneously.

What you tell me of the effect that the limi-
tation of numbers to tonnage is likely to have on
the slave trade, gives me the greatest pleasure.*
Should it amount, in the issue, to an abolition of
the traffic, I shall account it indeed an argument of
great wisdom in our youthful minister. A silent
and indirect way of doing it, is, I suppose, the only
safe one. At the same time, in how horrid a light
does it place the trade itself, when it comes to be
proved by consequences that the mere article of a
little elbow-room for the poor creatures in their
passage to the islands could not be secured by an
order of Parliament, without the utter annihilation
of it ! If so it prove, no man deserving to be called
a man, can say that it ought to subsist a moment
longer. My writing-time is expended, and break-
fast is at hand. With our joint love to the trio, and
our best wishes for your good journey to Weston,
I remain, my dear friend.

Affectionately yours,

W. C.



The next letter contains an interesting incident,

* The credit of liavin^ introduced this regulation is due
to the late much respected Sir William Dolben, Bart.



LIFE OF COWPER. 61

recorded of his dog Beau, and the verses composed
on the occasion.

TO LADY HESKETH.

The Lodge, June 27, 1788.

For the sake of a longer visit, my dearest Coz,
I can be well content to wait. The country, this
country at least, is pleasant at all times, and when
winter is come, or near at hand, we shall have the
better chance for being snug. I know your passion
for retirement indeed, or for what we call deedy

retirement, and, the F s intending to return to

Bath with their mother, when her visit at the Hall
is over, you will then find here exactly the re-
tirement in question. I have made in the orchard
the best winter-walk in all the parish, sheltered from
the east and from the north-east, and open to the
sun, except at his rising, all the day. Then we
will have Homer and Don Quixote; and then we
will have saunter and chat and one laugh more be-
fore we die. Our orchard is alive with creatures
of all kinds ; poultry of every denomination swarms
in it, and pigs, the drollest in the world !

I rejoice, that we have a cousin Charles also, as
well as a cousin Henry, who has had the address to
win the good likings of the Chancellor. May he
fare the better for it! As to myself, I have long
since ceased to have any expectations from that
quarter. Yet, if he were indeed mortified as you
say, (and no doubt you have particular reasons for
thinking so,) and repented to that degree of his



62 LIFE OF COWPER.

hasty exertions in favour of the present occupant,
who can tell ? He wants neither means nor ma-
nagement, but can easily at some future period re-
dress the evil, if he chooses to do it. But in the
mean time life steals away, and shortly neither he
will be in circumstances to do me a kindness, nor I
to receive one at his hands. Let him make haste,
therefore, or he will -die a promise in my debt,
which he will never be able to perform.* Your
communications on this subject are as safe as you
can wish them. We divulge nothing but what
might appear in the magazine, nor that without
great consideration.

T must tell you a feat of my dog Beau. Walking
by the river side, I observed some water-lilies float-
ing at a little distance from the bank. They are a
large white flower, with an orange-coloured eye,
very beautiful. 1 had a desire to gather one, and,
having your long cane in my hand, by the help of
it endeavoured to bring one of them within my
reach. But the attempt proved vain, and I walked
forward. Beau had all the while observed me very
attentively. Returning soon after toward the same
place, I observed him plunge into the river, while
I was about forty yards distant from him; and,
when I had nearly reached the spot, he swam to
land with a lily in his mouth, which he came and
laid at my foot.

Mr. Rose, whom I have mentioned to you, as a

* Lord Thurlow, it will be remembered, pledged himself to
make some provision for Cowper, if he became Lord Chan-
cellor.



LIFE OF COWPER. ()-j

visitor of mine for the first time soon after you left
us, writes me word that he has seen my ballads
against the slave-mongers, but not in print. ''^ Where
he met with them I know not. Mr. Bull begged
hard for leave to print them at Newport Pagnel,
and I refused, thinking that it would be wrong to
anticipate the nobility, gentry, and others, at whose
pressing instance I composed them, in their designs
to print them. But perhaps I need not have been
so squeamish: for the opportunity to publish them
in London seems now not only ripe but rotten. I
am well content. There is but one of them with
which I am myself satisfied, though I have heard
them all well spoken of. But there are very few
things of my own composition that I can endure to
read, when they have been written a month, though
at first they seem to me to be all perfection.

Mrs. Unwin, who has been much the happier
since the time of your return hither has been in
some sort settled, begs me to make her kindest re-
membrance. Yours, my dear, most truly,

W. C.

The following verses are so singularly beautiful,
and interesting from the incident which gave rise
to them, that, though they are inserted in the Poems,
we cannot refrain from introducing them, in con-
nexion with the letter which records the occasion of
their being written.

* We have elsewhere observed that they never were printed
as ballads, but were inserted in his works.



64 LIFE OF COWPKI?.

THE DOG AND THE WATER LILY,

No Fable.

The noon was shady, and soft airs

Swept Ouse's silent tide,
When, 'scaped from literary cares,

I wandered on his side.

RIy spaniel, prettiest of his race.

And high in pedigree,
("Two nymphs* adorn'd with every grace

That spaniel found for me)

Now wantoned, lost in flags and reeds,

Now starting into sight.
Pursued the swallow o'er the meads

With scarce a slower flight.
It was the time when Ouse displayed

His lilies newly blown ;
Their beauties I intent surveyed.

And one I wished my own.

With cane extended, far I sought

To steer it close to land ;
But still the prize, though nearly caught,

Escaped my eager hand.

Beau marked my unsuccessful pains

With fixt considerate face.
And, puzzling, set his puppy brains

To comprehend the case.

But, with a chirrup clear and strong,

Dispersing all his dream,
I thence withdrew, and followed long
The windings of the stream.
* The Miss Gunnings, the daughters of Sir Robert Gun-
ning, Bart.



LIFE OF COWPER. 65

My ramble ended, I returned.

Beau, trotting far before,
The floating wreath again discerned,

And plunging left the shore.

I saw him with that lily cropped.

Impatient swim, to meet
My quick approach, and soon he dropped

The treasure at my feet.


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