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present on this subject, or to touch any other. Once
more, therefore, thanking you for your kindness, of
which I am truly sensible ; and thanking, too, Mr.
King for the favour he has done me in subscribing
to my Homer, and at the same time begging you to
make my best compliments to him, I conclude my-
self, with Mrs. Unwin's acknowledgments of your
most acceptable present to her.

Your obliged and affectionate

W. C.


March 12, 1789.

My dear Madam — I feel myself in no small de-
gree unworthy of the kind solicitude which you ex-

'22nd, 1788. The nation was plunged in grief by this cala-
mitous event, and a regency appointed, to the exclusion of
the Prince of Wales, which occasioned much discussion in
parliament at that time. Happily the King's illness was only
of a few months' duration : his recovery was announced to he
complete, Feb. 27th, 1789. Few monarchs have been more
justly venerated than George the Tljird, or have left behind
them more unquestionable evidences of real personal piety.
• Private Correspondence.



press concerning me and my welfare, after a silence
so much longer than 1 gave you reason to expect.
I should indeed account myself inexcusable, had I
not to allege, in my defence, perpetual engagements
of such a kind as would by no means be dispensed
with. Had Homer alone been in question, Homer
should have made room for you : but I have had
other work in hand at the same time, equally pres-
sing and more laborious. Let it suffice to say, that
I have not wilfully neglected you for a moment, and
that you have never been out of my thoughts a day
together. But I begin to perceive that, if a man
will be an author, he must live neither to himself nor
to his friends so much as to others, whom he never
saw nor shall see.

My promise to follow my last letter with another
speedily, which promise I kept so ill, is not the only
one which I am conscious of having made to you,
and but very indifferently performed. I promised
you all the smaller pieces that I should produce, as
fast as occasion called them forth, and leisure oc-
curred to write them. Now, the fact is that T have
produced several since I made that fair profession,
of which I have sent you hardly any. The reason
is that, transcribed into the body of a letter, they
would leave me no room for prose ; and that other
conveyance than by the post I cannot find, even
after inquiry made among all my neighbours for a
traveller to Kimbolton. Well, we shall see you, I
hope, .in the summer; and then I will show you all.
I will transcribe one for you every morning before
breakfast, as long as they last ; and when you come


down, you shall find it laid on your napkin. I sent
one last week to London, which, by some kind body
or another, I know not whom, is to be presented to
the Queen. The subject, as you may guess, is the
King's recovery ; a theme that might make a bad
poet a good one, and a good one excel himself.
This, too, you shall see when we meet, unless it
should bounce upon you before, from some periodical
register of all such matters.

I shall commission my cousin, who lately left us,
to procure for me the book you mention. Being,
and having long been, so deep in the business of
translation, it was natural that I should have many
thoughts on that subject. I have accordingly had as
many as would of themselves, perhaps, make a vo-
lume, and shall be glad to compare them with those
of any writer recommended by Mr. Martyn. When
you write next to that gentleman, I beg you, madam,
to present my compliments to him, with thanks both
for the mention of Mr. Twining'sf book, and for the
honour of his name among my subscribers.

1 remain always, my dear Madam,

Your affectionate

W. C.


The Lodge, April 22, 1789.
My dear Madam — Having waited hitherto in ex-
pectation of the messenger whom, in your last, you

t The author of the translation of Aristotle.
* Private Correspondence.


mentioned a design to send, I have at length saga-
ciously surmised that you delay to send him, in ex-
pectation of hearing first from me. I would that
his errand hither were better worthy the journey.
I shall have no very voluminous packet to charge
him with when he comes. Such, however, as it is,
it is ready ; and has received an addition in the in-
terim of one copy, which would not have made a
part of it, had your Mercury arrived here sooner.
It is on the subject of the Queen's visit to London
on the night of the illuminations. Mrs. Unwin,
knowing the burthen that lies on my back too
heavy for any but Atlantean shoulders, has kindly
performed the copyist's part, and transcribed all that
I had to send you. Observe, madam, I do not write
this to hasten your messenger hither, but merely
to account for my own silence. It is probable that
the later he arrives the more he will receive when
he comes ; for I never fail to write when I think I
have found a favourable subject.'^

* We insert these verses, as expressive of the loyal feel-
ings of Covrper.


The Night of the Tenth of March, 1789.

When, long sequester'd from his throne,

George took his seat again,
By right of worth, not blood alone.
Entitled here to reign !

Then Loyalty, vrith all her lamps.

New trimm'd, a gallant show,
Chasing the darkness and the damj)S,

Set London in a glow.


We mourn that we must give up the hope of see-
ing you and Mr. King at Weston. Had our cor-
respondence commenced sooner, we had certainly
found the means of meeting ; but it seems that we
were doomed to know each other too late for a
meeting in this world. May a better world make
us amends, as it certainly will, if I ever reach a
better! Our interviews here are but imperfect
pleasures at the best; and generally from such

'Twas hard to tell, of streets, of squares,
Which form'd the chief display.

These most resembling cluster'd stars,
Those the long milky way.

Bright shone the roofs, the domes, the spires.

And rockets flew, self-driven.
To hang their momentary fires

Amid the vault of heaven.

So, fire with water to compare,

The ocean serves on high.
Up-spouted by a whale in air.

To express unwieldy joy.

Had all the pageants of the world

In one procession join'd,
And all the banners been unfurl'd

That heralds e'er design'd.

For no such sight had England's Queen,

Forsaken her retreat.
Where George recover'd made a scene

Sweet always, doubly sweet.

Yet glad she came that night to prove,

A witness undescried.
How much the object of her love

Was lov'd by all beside.


as promise us most gratification we receive the
most disappointment. But disappointment is, I
suppose, confined to the planet on which we dwell ;
the only one in the universe, probably, that is inha-
bited by sinners.

I did not know, or even suspect, that when I re-
ceived your last messenger, I received so eminent
a disciple of Hippocrates; a physician of such ab-
solute controul over disease and the human consti-

Darkness the skies had mantled o'er

In aid of her design —
Darkness, O Queen ! ne'er call'd before

To veil a deed of thine !

On borrow'd wheels away she flies,

Resolv'd to be unknown.
And gratify no curious eyes

That night, except her own.

Arriv'd, a night like noon she sees,
And hears the million hum ;

As all by instinct, like the bees.
Had known their sov'reign come.

Pleas'd she beheld aloft portray'd,

On many a splendid wall,
Emblems of health and heav'nly aid,

And George the theme of all

Unlike the aenigmatic line,

So diflBcult to spell,
Which shook Belshazzar at his wine.

The night his city fell.

Soon watery grew her eyes, and dim.

But with a joyful tear !
None else, except in prayer for him,

Georsre ever drew from her.


tution, as to be able to put a pestilence into his
pocket, confine it there, and to let it loose at his
pleasure. We are much indebted to him that he
did not give us here a stroke of his ability.

I must not forget to mention that I have re-
ceived (probably not without your privity) Mr.
Twining's valuable volume.* For a long time I
supposed it to have come from my bookseller, who

It was a scene in every part

Like that in fable feign'd.
And seem'd by some magician's art,

Created and sustain'd.

But other magic there she knew

Had been exerted none.
To raise such wonders in her view,

Save love of George alone !

That cordial thought her spirit cheer'd.
And, through the cumb'rous throng.

Not else unworthy to be fear'd,
Convey'd her calm along.

So, ancient poets say, serene
The sea-maid rides the waves.

And fearless of the billowy scene,
Her peaceful bosom laves.

With more than astronomic eyes
She view'd the sparkling show;

One Georgian star adorns the skies.
She myriads found below.

Yet let the glorios of a night
Like that, ori^ ^ seen, suffice !

Heav'n grant ii:, no sucli future sight
Such precious woe the price !

* The translation of Aristotle.


now and then sends me a new publication; but I
find, on inquiry, that it came not from him. I beg,
madam, if you are aware that Mr. Twining himself
sent it, or your friend Mr. Martyn, that you will
negociate for me on the occasion, and contrive to con-
vey to the obliging donor my very warmest thanks. I
am impatient till he receives them. I have not yet
had time to do justice to a writer so sensible, ele-
gant, and entertaining, by a complete perusal of his
w^ork; but I have with pleasure sought out all those
passages to which Mr. Martyn was so good as to
refer me, and am delighted to observe the exact
agreement in opinion on the subject of translation
in general, and on that of Mr. Pope's in particular,
that subsists between Mr. Twining and myself.
With Mrs. Unwin's best compliments, I remain,
my dear madam, your obliged and affectionate

w. c.


April 30, 1789.
My dear Madam — I thought to have sent you,
by the return of your messenger, a letter; at least,
something like one : but instead of sleeping here, as
I supposed he would, he purposes to pass the night
at Lavendon, a village three miles off. This design
of his is but just made known to me, and it is now
near seven in the evening. Therefore, lest he
should be obliged to feel out his way, in an un-
known country, in the dark, I am forced to scribble
* Private Correspondence.


a hasty word or two, instead of devoting, as I in-
tended, the whole evening to your service.

A thousand thanks for your basket, and all the
good things that it contained ; particularly for my
brother's Poems,* whose hand-writing struck me
the moment I saw it. They gave me some feelings
of a melancholy kind, but not painful. I will return
them to you by the next opportunity. I wish that
mine, which I send you, may prove half as pleasant
to you as your excellent cakes and apples have
proved to us. You will then think yourself suffi-
ciently recompensed for your obliging present. If
a crab-stock can transform a pippin into a nonpareil,
what may not I effect in a translation of Homer?
Alas ! I fear, nothing half so valuable.

I have learned, at length, that I am indebted for
Twining's Aristotle to a relation of mine, General

Pardon me that I quit you so soon. It is not
willingly; but I have compassion on your poor mes-

Adieu, my dear Madam, and believe me

Affectionately yours,

W. C.

* We regret tliat we have not succeeded in procuring any
traces of these poems of Cowper's brother.



The Lodge, May 20, 1789.

My dear Sir — Finding myself between twelve
and one, at the end of the seventeenth book of the
Odyssey, I give the interval between the present
moment and the time of walking, to you. If I
write letters before I sit down to Homer, I feel my
spirits too flat for poetry, and too flat for letter-
writing if I address myself to Homer first ; but the
last I choose as the least evil, because my friends
will pardon my dullness, but the public will not.

I had been some days uneasy on your account
when yours arrived. We should have rejoiced to
have seen you, would your engagements have per-
mitted: but in the autumn, I hope, if not before,
we shall have the pleasure to receive you. At
what time we may expect Lady Hesketh, at pre-
sent, I know not; but imagine that at any time
after the month of June you will be sure to find
her with us, which I mention, knowing that to meet
you would add a relish to all the pleasures she can
find at Weston.

When I wrote those lines on the Queen's visit, I
thought I had performed well ; but it belongs to me,
as I have told you before, to dislike whatever I
write when it has been written a month. The per-
formance was therefore sinking in my esteem, when
your approbation of it, arriving in good time, buoyed
it up again. It will now keep possession of the place
it holds in my good opinion, because it has been


favoured with yours ; and a copy will certainly be at
your service whenever you choose to have one.

Nothing is more certain than that when I wrote
the line,

God made the country, and man made the town,
I had not the least recollection of that very similar
one, which you quote from Hawkins Brown. It
convinces me that critics (and none more than
War ton, in his notes on Milton's minor poems) have
often charged authors with borrowing what they
drew from their own fund. Brown was an enter-
taining companion when he had drunk his bottle,
but not before : this proved a snare to him, and he
would sometimes drink too much ; but I know not
that he was chargeable with any other irregularities.
He had those among his intimates, who would not
have been such, had he been otherwise viciously in-
clined; the Duncombs, in particular, father and
son, who were of unblemished morals.

W. C.


The Lodge, May 30, 1789.
Dearest Madam — Many thanks for your kind and
valuable dispatches, none of which, except your
letter, I have yet had time to read; for true it is,
and a sad truth too, that I was in bed when your
messenger arrived. He waits only for my answer,
for which reason I answer as speedily as I can.

• Private Correspondeiue.


I am glad if my poetical packet pleased you.
Those stanzas on the Queen's visit were presented
some time since, by Miss Goldsworthy,* to the
Princess Augusta, who has probably given them to
the Queen ; but of their reception I have heard no-
thing. I gratified myself by complimenting two
sovereigns whom I love and honour ; and that gra-
tification will be my reward. It would, indeed, be
unreasonable to expect that persons who keep a
Laureat in constant pay, should have either praise
or emolument to spare for every volunteer who
may choose to make them his subject.

I will take the greatest care of the papers with
M hich you have entrusted me, and will return them
by the next opportunity. It is very unfortunate that
the people of Bedford should choose to have the
small-pox, just at the season when it would be sure
to prevent our meeting. God only knows, madam,
when we shall meet, or whether at all in this world;
but certain it is, that whether we meet or not,
I am most truly yours,

W. C.


The Lodge, June 5, 1789.

My dear Friend — I am going to give you a deal

of trouble, but London folks must be content to be

troubled by country folks ; for in London only can

our strange necessities be supplied. You must buj'

* The daughter of General Goldsworthy.


for me, if you please, a cuckoo clock ; and now 1
will tell you where they are sold, which, Londoner
as you are, it is possible you may not know. They
are sold, I am informed, at more houses than one
in that narrow part of Holborn which leads into
Bro^d St. Giles'. It seems they are well-going
clocks and cheap, which are the two best recom-
mendations of any clock. They are made in Ger-
many, and such numbers of them are annually im-
ported, that they are become even a considerable
article of commerce.

I return you many thanks for Boswell's Tour.* I
read it to Mrs. Unwin after supper, and we find it
amusing. There is much trash in it, as there must
always be in every narrative that relates indiscri-
minately all that passed. But now and then the
Doctor speaks like an oracle, and that makes amends
for all. Sir John was a coxcomb, and Boswell is
not less a coxcomb, though of another kind. 1
fancy Johnson made coxcombs of all his friends, and
they in return made him a coxcomb ; for, with re-
verence be it spoken, such he certainly was, and
flattered as he was he was sure to be so.

Thanks for your invitation to London, but, unless
London can come to me, I fear we shall never meet.
I was sure that you would love my friend when you
should once be well acquainted with him,f and
equally sure that he would take kindly to you.

Now for Homer.

W. C.

* Tour to the Hebrides. t Rev. John Newton.



Weston, June 16, 1789.

My dear Friend — You will naturally suppose that
the letter in which you announced your marriage
occasioned me some concern, though in my answer
I had the wisdom to conceal it. The account you
gave me of the object of your choice was such as
left me at liberty to form conjectures not very com-
fortable to myself, if my friendship for you were
indeed sincere. I have since, however, been suffi-
ciently consoled. Your brother Chester has in-
formed me that you have married not only one of
the most agreeable, but one of the most accomplished,
women in the kingdom. It is an old maxim, that it
is better to exceed expectation than to disappoint
it ; and with this maxim in your view it was, no
doubt, that you dwelt only on circumstances of dis-
advantage, and would not treat me with a recital of
others which abundantly overweigh them. I now
congratulate not you only but myself, and truly re-
joice that my friend has chosen for his fellow tra-
veller, through the remaining stages of his journey,
a companion who will do honour to his discernment,
and make his way, so far as it can depend on a wife
to do so, pleasant to the last.

My verses on the Queen's visit to London either
have been printed, or soon will be, in the " World."
The finishing to which you objected I have altered,
and have substituted two new stanzas instead of it.
Two others also I have struck out, another critic


having objected to them. I think I am a very tract-
able sort of a poet. Most of my fraternity would
as soon shorten the noses of their children because
they were said to be too long, as thus dock their
compositions in compliance with the opinion of
others. 1 beg that when my life shall be written
hereafter, my authorship's ductibility of temper may
not be forgotten I

I am, my dear friend,

Ever yours,

W. C.


The Lodge, June 20, 1789.

Amico Mio — I am truly sorry that it must be so
long before we can have an opportunity to meet.
My cousin in her last letter but one inspired me
with other expectations, expressing a purpose, if
the matter could be so contrived, of bringing you
with her: I was willing to believe that you had con-
sulted together on the subject, and found it feasible.
A month was formerly a trifle in my account, but
at my present age I give it all its importance, and
grudge that so many months should yet pass in
which I have not eveh a glimpse of those 1 love,
and o^whom, the course of nature considered, I
must ere long take leave for ever — but I shall live
till August.

Many thanks for the cuckoo, which arrived per-
fectly safe and goes well, to the amusement and



amazement of all who hear it. Hannah lies awake
to hear it, and I am not sure that we have not others
in the house that admire his music as much as she-
Having read both Hawkins and Boswell, I now
think myself as much a master of Johnson's cha-
racter as if I had known him personally, and cannot
but regret that our bards of other times found no
such biographers as these. They have both been
ridiculed, and the wits have had their laugh ; but
such a history of Milton or Shakspeare as they
have given of Johnson — O how desirable !*

W. C.


July 18, 1789.
Many thanks, my dear madam, for your extract
from* George's letter. I retain but little Italian, yet
that little was so forcibly mustered by the consci-
ousness that I was myself the subject, that I pre-
sently became master of it. I have always said
that George is a poet, and I am never in his com-
pany but I discover proofs of it, and the delicate

* The distinguishing merit of Boswell's Life of Dr, Johnson
is precisely what Cowper here states. In perusing it, we
become intimately acquainted with his manner, habits of life,
and sentiments on every subject. We are introduced to the
great wits of the age, and see a lively portraiture of the lite-
rary characters of those times. However minute and even
frivolous some of the remarks may be, yet Boswell's life will
never fail to awaken interest, and no library can be considered
to be complete without it.


address by which he has managed his complimentary
mention of me convinces me of it still more than
ever. Here are a thousand poets of us who have
impudence enough to write for the public ; but
amongst the modest men who are by diffidence re-
strained from such an enterprise are those who
would eclipse us all. I wish that George would make
the experiment, I would bind on his laurels with my
own hand.*

Your gardener has gone after his wife, but, having
neglected to take his lyre, alias fiddle, with him,
has not yet brought home his Eurydice. Your clock
in the hall has stopped, and (strange to tell !) it
stopped at sight of the watchmaker. For he only
looked at it, and it has been motionless ever since.
Mr. Gregson is gone, and the Hall is a desolation.
Pray don't think any place pleasant that you may
find in your rambles, that we may see you the sooner.
Your aviary is all in good health ; I pass it every
day, and often enquire at the lattice ; the inha-
bitants of it send their duty, and wish for your
return. I took notice of the inscription on your
seal, and had we an artist here capable of furnishing
me with another, you should read on mine — " En-
core une lettre."

Adieu !

W. C.

The importance of improving the early hours of

* This truly amiable and accomplished person afterwards
became Sir George Throckmorton, Bart.

I 2


life, which, once lost, are never recovered, is profit-
ably enforced in the succeeding letter.


The Lodge, July 23, 1789.

You do well, my dear sir, to improve your op-
portunity ; to speak in the rural phrase, this is your
sowing time, and the sheaves you look for can never
be yours unless you make that use of it. The colour
of our w^hole life is generally such as the three or
four first years in which we are our own masters
make it. Then it is that we may be said to shape
our own destiny, and to treasure up for ourselves a
series of future successes or disappointments. Had
I employed my time as wisely as you, in a situation
very similar to yours, I had never been a poet per-
haps, but I might by this time have acquired a cha-
racter of more importance in society, and a situation
in which my friends would have been better pleased
to see me. But three years misspent in an attor-
ney's office, were almost of course followed by
several more equally misspent in the Temple, and
the consequence has been, as the Italian epitaph
says, " Sto quV The only use I can make of my-
self now, at least the best, is to serve in terrorem
to others, when occasion may happen to offer, that
they may escape (so far as my admonitions can have
any weight with them) my folly and my fate. When
you feel yourself tempted to relax a little of the
strictness of your present discipline, and to indulge


in amusement incompatible with your future inte-
rests, think on your friend at Weston.

Having said this, I shall next, with my whole
heart, invite you hither, and assure you that I look
forward to approaching August with great pleasure,
because it promises me your company. After a
little time (which we shall wish longer) spent with

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Online LibraryWilliam CowperThe life and works of William Cowper (Volume 4) → online text (page 8 of 23)