William Hayley.

The Life and posthumous writings of William Cowper, Esq. : with an introductory letter to the Right Honourable Earl Cowper online

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THE



LIFE



POSTHUMOUS WRITINGS



WILLIAM COWPERy Esq,



THE



LIFE



POSTHUMOUS WRITINGS

WILLIAM COWPER, ESQ.

WITH AN

INTRODUCTORY LETTER

TO THE

RIGHT HONOURABLE EARL COWPER.
BY AVILLIAM HAYLEY, ESQ.



" Obversatur oculis ille vir, quo neminem setas nostra graviorem, sanc-
" tiorem, subtiliorem denique tulit : quern ego quum ex admiratione dili-
" gere coepissem, quod evenire contra solet, magis admiratus sum, post-
" quam penitus inspexi. Inspexi enim penitus : nihil a me ille secretum,
* non joculare, non serium, non triste, non Ixtum."

Plinii Epist. Lib. iv. Ep. 17-

VOL. L



NEW-VORK:



PnlNTED AND SOLD BY T. AND J. SWORDS,

Nu. 160 Tearl-Street.

ISOS.



CONTENTS

OF THE

FIRST VOLUME.



Introductory Letter.

The Life, Part the First — the Family, Birth, and first Residence of Cow-
per — his Eulogy on the Tenderness of his Mother, pages 1, 2. Her
Portrait — her Epitaph by her Niece, 2, 3. The Schools that Cowper
attended — his Sufferings in Childhood, 4, 5, 6. Leaves Westminster,
and is stationed in the House of an Attorney, 6, 7. Verses on his early
Afflictions, 7, 8. Setdes in the Inner Temple — his Acquaintance with
eminent Authors, 8. His Epistle to Lloyd, 9. His Translations in
Duncomhe's Horace, 11. His own Account of his early Life, 11.
Stanzas on reading Sir Charles Grandison, 12. Verses written at Bath,
1748 — his Nomination to the Office of Reading Clerk in the House of
Lords, 13, 14. His extreme dread of appearing in Public, 15. His
Healtli deranged — his Retirement to the House of Dr. Cotton, at St.
Alban's, 15. His Recovery, 16. He settles at Huntingdon, to be near
his Brother residing in Cambridge, 17. The two Brothers employed
on a Translation of Voltaire's Henriade, 17. The Origin of Cowper's
Acquaiiitance with the Family of Unwin, 18. He becomes a Part of
that Family, 19. His early Friendship with Lord Thurlow and Joseph
Hill, Esq. 19.



Letter 1


To Joseph Hill,


Esq.


June 24,


1765


Page 20


2


To Major Cowper


Oct. 18,


1765


21


o


To Joseph Hill,


Esq.


Oct. 25,


1765


22


4


To Mrs. Cowper


March 11,


1766


23


5


To the same




April 4,


1766


24


6


To the same




April 17,


1766


25


7


To the same




April 18,


1766


27


8


To the same




Sept. 3,


1766


29


9


To the same




Oct. 20,


1766


31


10


To the same




March 11,


1767


32


11


To the same




March 14,


1767


34


12


To the same




April 3,


1767


ib.


13


To the same




July 13,


1767


36


14


To Joseph Hill,


Esq.


July 16,


1767


ib.



The Origin of Cowper's Acquaintance with the Rev. Mr. Newton, 37-
His Removal with Mrs. Unwin, on the Death of her Husband, to Ol-
ney, in Buckinghamshire — his Devotion and Charity in his new Resi-
dence, 37-



vi CONTENTS.

Letter 15 To Joseph Hill, Esq. June 16,1768 Page 38

16 To the same 1769 ib.

A Poem in Memory of John Thornton, Esq. 39. Cowper's Beneficence

to a Necessitous Child, 40. Composes a Series of Hymns, 41.
Letter 17 To Mrs. Cowper without date Page 41

18 To the same Aug. 31, 1769 42

Cowper is hurried to Cambridge by the dangerous Illness of his Brother, 43
Letter 19 To Mrs. Cowper March 5, 1770 Page 44

A brief Account of the Rev. John Cowper, who died March 20, 1770—

and the Tribute paid to his Memory by his Brother the Poet, 44, 45.
Letter 20 To Joseph HiU, Esq. ■ May 8, 1770 Page 46

21 To Mrs. Cowper June 7, 1770 47

22 To Joseph Hill, Esq. Sept. 25, 1770 49
The Collection of the Olney Hymns interrupted by the Illness of Cowper,

49. His long and severe Depression — his tame Hares one of his first
Amusements on his revival, 50, 51, 52.



Letter 23


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


May


6,


1780


Page 53


24


To Mrs. Cowper '


May


10,


1780


54,


25


To Joseph HUl, Esq.


July


8,


1780


ib.


26


To Mrs. Cowper


July


20,


1780


55


27


To the same


Aug.


31,


1780


56


28


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


Dec.


25,


1780


57


29


To the same


Feb.


15,


1781


59


30


To the same


May


9,


1781


60


31


To Mrs. Cowper


Oct.


19,


1781


61



The Publication of his first Volume — not immediately successful— probable
Reasons of the Neglect that it seemed for some Time to experience —
an E.\ample of the Poet's amiable Ingenuousness in speaking of him-
self — the various kinds of Excellence in liis first Volume, 62 to 65.



PART THE SECOND.

The Origin of Cowper's Acquaintance with Lady Austin — a Poetical
Epistle to that Lady, 67, 68. A Billet to the same Lady, and three
Songs, written for her Harpsichord, 71 to 74. She relates to Cowper
the Story of John Gilpin, 75.
Letter 32 To Joseph Hill, Esq. Feb. 13, 1783 Page 76

23 To the same, enclosing a Let-
ter from Benjamin Franklin Feb. 20,1783 ib.

34 To the same without date 77

35 To the same May 26, 1783 78
56 To the same Oct. 20, 1783 ib.

The Origin of the Task, 79. Extracts from Cowper's Letters to the Rev.
Ml-. Bull, relating to the Progress of that Poem, 79, 80. A sudden
end of the Poet's Intercourse v/ith Lady Austin, 81.



CONTENTS. vii

Letter 37 To Joseph Hill, Esq. Sept. 11, 1784 Page 81

38 To the same without date 82

39 To tlie same June 25, 1785 83
The Publication of Cowper's second Volume, in 1785, leads to a renewal

of his Correspondence with his Relation, I.ady Hesketh, 83.



Letter 40


To Lady Hesketh


Oct.


12,


1785


Page


• 84


41


To the same


Nov.


9,


1785




85


42


To the same


without date




88


43


To the same


Dec.


24,


1785




89


44


To the same


Jan.


10,


, 1786




90


45


To the same


Jan.


31,


1786




91


46


To the same


Feb.


9,


, 1785




93


47


To the same


Feb.


11,


1786




94


48


To the same


Feb.


19,


1786




95


49


To the same


March 6,


1786




98


50


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


April


5,


1786




100


51


To Lady Hesketh


April


17,


1786




101


52


To the same


April


24,


1786




103


5^


To the same


May


8,


1786




104


54


To the same


May


15,


1786




107


55


To the same


May


25,


1786




110


56


To the same


May


29,


1786




112


57


To the same


June


4,


1786




114


58


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


June


9,


1786




116


59


To the same


June


9,


1786




117


60


To the same


Oct.


6,


1786




ib.


Cowper receives at Olney his Relation Lady


Hesketh, 118.


E.xtracts


from his Letters to the Rev. Mr. Bull — Poem


on Friendship,


from 119


to 128.


Extract from the Rev. Mr. Newton's ]


Memoirs of Cowper,


129.


The Removal of Mrs. Unwin and Cowper fi


rom


the To\v'n


. of Olney


to the Village of Weston, 130.












Letter 61


To Lady Hesketh


Nov.


26,


1786


Page


130


62


To the same


Dec.


4,


1786




131


63


To the same


Dec.


9,


1786




133


64


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


Dec.


9,


1786




ib.


65


To Lady Hesketh


Dec.


21,


1786




134


66


To the same


Jan.


8,


1787




135


67


To the same


Jan.


8,


1787




136


68


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


July


24,


1787




137


69


To the same


Aug.


27,


1787




138


70


To Lady Hesketh


Aug.


30,


1787




139


71


To the same


Sept.


4,


1787




140


72


To the same


Sept.


15,


1787




141


73


To the same


Sept.


29,


1787




142


74>


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


Oct.


19,


1787




143


75


To Lady Hesketh


Nov.


10,


1787




ib.



viii


CONTENTS.










The retired Cat, an occasional Poem, page 144,




Letter 76


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


Nov.


16,


1787


Page 147


77


To Lady Hesketh


Nov.


27,


1787


148


78


To the same


Dec.


4,


1787


149


79


To the same


Dec.


10,


1787


150


80


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


Dec.


13,


1787


151


81


To Lady Hesketh


Jan.


1,


1788


153


82


To the same


Jan.


19,


1788


154


83


To the same


Jan.


30,


1788


155


84


To the same


Feb.


1,


1788


156


85


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


Feb.


14,


1788


157


85


To Lady Hesketh


Feb.


16,


1788


159


87


To the same


Feb.


22,


1788


160


88


To the same


March 3,


1788


162


89


To the same


March 12,


1788


163


90


To General Cowper


Dec.


13,


1787


164




The Morning Dream, a ]


Ballad,


page


■ 164.




91


To Samiiel Rose, Esq.


March 29,


1788


166


92


To Lady Hesketh


March 31,


1788


167


93


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


May


8,


1788


168


94


To Lady Hesketh


May


12,


1788


ib.


95


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


May


24,


1788


169


96


To Lady Hesketh


May


27,


1788


170


97


To the same


June


j>


1788


171


98


To Joseph Hill, Esq.


June


8,


1788


172


99


To Lady Hesketh


June


10,


1788


173


100


To the same


June


15,


1788


ib.


101


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


June


23,


1788


174


102


To Lady Hesketh


JiJy


28,


1788


176


103


To the same


Aug.


9,


1788


177


104


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


Aug.


18,


1788


'b.


105


To the same


Sept.


11,


1788


179




Two Poems on a favourite


Spaniel


, page 180.




105


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


Sept.


25,


1788


181


107


To the same


Nov.


30,


1788


182


108


To the same


Jan.


19,


1789


183


109


To the same


Jan.


24,


1789


184


110


To the same


M.iy


20,


1789


ib.


A Poem on the Queen's Visit to Londor


!, the IS!


-ight


of March 17, 1789,




page 185










Letter 111


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


June


5,


1789


Page 188


112


To the same


June


20,


1789


ib.


113


To Mrs. Throckmorton


Julv


18,


1789


189


114


To Samuel Rose, Esq.


Julv


23,


1789


190


115


To the same


Aug.


8,


1789


191


iir.


To the same


Sept.


24,


1789


i!>.



CONTENTS.



Letter 117 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

118 To Joseph Hill, Esq.

119 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

120 To Lady Hesketh

121 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

122 To Lady Hesketh
Verses to Mrs. Throckmorton, on her

Ode, Ad Librum sun

Letter 123 To Lady Hesketh

124 To Mrs. Bodham

125 To John Johnson, Esq.

126 To Lady Hesketh

127 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

128 To Mrs. Throckmorton

129 To Lady Hesketh

130 To John Johnson, Esq.

131 To the same

132 To Lady Hesketh,

133 To the same

134 To Mrs. Throckmorton

135 To Lady Hesketh

136 To the same

137 To John Johnson, Esq.

138 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

139 To Mrs. Bodham

140 To Lady Hesketh

141 To John Johnson, Esq.

142 To the same

143 To Mrs. Bodham

144 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

145 To Mrs. Bodham

146 To John Johnson, Esq.

147 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

148 To John Johnson, Esq.

149 To the same

150 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

151 To Lady Hesketh

152 To John Johnson, Esq.

153 To Joseph Hill, Esq.

154 To the same

155 To John Johnson, Esq.

156 To Samuel Rose, Esq.

157 To Mrs. Throckmorton

158 To John Johnson, Esq.

159 To Samuel Rose. Esq.

160 To John Johnson, Esq.
VOL, I. A



Sept.


11,


1788


Page 192


Dec.


18,


1789


193


Jan.


3,


1790


ib.


Jan.


23,


1790


194


Feb.


2,


1790


195


Feb.


9,


1790


196


beautiful


1 Transcript


of Horace's


im, page


197






Feb.


26,


1790


Page 197


Feb.


27,


1790


198


Feb.


28,


1790


200


March 8,


1790


202


March 11,


1790


ib.


March 21,


1790


203


INIarch 22,


1790


204


March 23,


1790


205


April


17,


1790


206


April


19,


1890


208


April


30,


1790


ib.


May


10,


1790


209


May


28,


1790


210


June


•Ji


1790


ib.


June


7,


1790


211


June


8,


1790


212


June


29,


1790


213


July


7,


1790


214


July


8,


1790


215


July


31,


1790


216


Sept.


9,


1790


ib.


Sept.


13,


1790


217


Nov.


21,


1790


2J8


Nov.


26,


1790


219


Nov.


30,


1790


220


Dec.


18,


1790


ib.


Jan.


21,


1791


221


Feb.


5,


1791


222


Feb.


13,


1791


ib.


Feb.


27,


1791


223


March 6,


1791


224


March 10,


1791


ib.


March 19,


1791


ib-


March 24,


1791


225


April


1,


1791


226


April


6,


1791


ib.


April


29,


1791


127


May


23,


1791


ib.



X CONTENTS.

The Judgment of the Poets, an occasional Poem, page 228.
Letter 161 To Samuel Rose, Esq. June 15, 1791 Page 229

The first Publication of Covvper's Homer — the Pleasure he derived from

that Work — Extract of a Letter on the Subject to his Kinsman, of

Norfolk, page 230, to the end of the Volume.



DIRECTIONS TO THE BINDER.

The Portrait of Cowper as a Frontispiece to Vol. I.
The Portrait of Mrs. Cowper to face Page 3, Vol. I.



llW



INTRODUCTORY LETTER



Right Honourable Earl COWPER.

Y OUR family, my Lord, our country itself, and the whole
literary world, sustained such a loss in the death of that
amiable man and enchanting author who forms the subject
of these volumes, as inspired the friends of genius and virtue
with universal concern. It soon became a general wish, that
some authentic and copious memorial of a character so highly
interesting should be produced with all becoming dispatch ;
not only to render due honour to the dead, but to alleviate
the regret of a nation taking a just and liberal pride in the
reputation of a poet, who had obtained and deserved her
applause, her esteem, her affection. If this laudable wish
was very sensibly felt by the public at large, it glowed with
peculiar warmth and eagerness in the bosom of the few who
had been so fortunate as to enjoy an intimacy with Cowper
in some vmclouded periods of his life, and who knew, from
such an intimacy, that a lively sweetness and sanctity of
spirit were as truly the characteristics of his social enjoy-
ments, as they arc allowed to constitute a principal charm in
his poetical productions. — It has justly been regarded as a
signal blessing, to have possessed the perfect esteem and
confidence of such a man : and not long after his decease,
one of his particular friends presumed to suggest to an ac-
complished lady, nearly related both to him and to your
Lordship, that she herself might be the biographer the most
worthy of the poet. The long intimacy and correspondence
which she enjoved with him, from their lively hours of in-



xii INTRODUCTORY LETTER.

fantile friendship to the dark evening of his wonderfully
chequered life ; her cultivated and affectionate mind, which
led her to take peculiar delight and interest in the merit
and the reputation of his writings ; and, lastly, that generous
attachment to her afflicted relation which induced her to
watch over his disoi'dered health, in a period of its most
calamitous depression ; — these circumstances, united, seemed
to render it desirable that she should assume the office of
Cowper's biographer; having such advantages for the perfect
execution of that very delicate office as, perhaps, no other
memorialist could possess in an equal degree. For the in-
terest of literature, and for the honour of many poets, whose
memories have suffered from some biographers of a very
different description, we may wish that the extensive series
of poetical biography had been frequently enriched by the
memoirs of such remembrancers as feel only the influence
of tenderness and truth. Some poets, indeed, of recent
times, have been happy in this most desirable advantage.
The Scottish favourite of nature, the tender and impetuous
Burns, has found, in Dr. Currie, an ingenuous, eloquent,
affectionate biographer; and in a lady also (whose memoir
of her friend, the bard, is very properly annexed to his life)
a zealous and graceful advocate, singularly happy in vindi-
cating his character from invidious detraction. We may
observe, to the honour of Scotland, that her national enthu-
siasm has, for some years, been very laudably exerted in
cherishing the memory of her departed poets. — But to
return to the lady who gave rise to this remark. The na-
tural diffidence of her sex, uniting with extreme delicacy of
health, induced her, eager as she is to promote the celebrity
of her deceased relation, to shrink from the idea of submit-
ting herself, as an author, to the formidable eye of the public.
Her knowledge of the very cordial regard wi^h which Cowper
has honoured me, as one of his most confidential friends,
led her to request that she might assign to me that arduous
office, which she candidly confessed she had not the resolu-
tion to assume. She confided to my care such materials for
the work in question, as her affinity to the deceased had



INTRODUCTORY LETTER. xUi

thrown into her hands. In receiving a collection of many-
private letters, and of several posthumous little poems, in
the vi'ell-known characters of that beloved correspondent, at
the sight of whose hand I have often exulted, I felt the
blended emotions of melancholy regret, and of awful plea-
sure. Yes, I was pleased that these aflFecting papers were
entrusted to my care, because some incidents induce me to
believe that, if their revered author had been solicited to
appoint a biographer for himself, he would have assigned to
me this honourable task. Yet, honourable as I considered it,
I was perfectly aware of the difficulties and the dangers at-
tending it. One danger, indeed, appeared to me of such a
nature as to require perpetual caution as I advanced : I
mean the danger of being led, in writing as the biographer
of my friend, to speak infinitely too much of myself. To
avoid the offensive failing of egotism, I had resolved, at first,
to make no inconsiderable sacrifice, and to suppress, in his
letters, every particle of praise bestowed upon myself. I
soon found it impossible to do so without injuring the tender
and generous spirit of my friend. I have, therefore, sufilered
many expressions of his affectionate partiality towards me to
appear, at the hazard of being censured for inordinate vanity.
To obviate such a censure, I will only say, that I have en-
tleavoured to execute what I regard as a mournful duty, as
if I were under the immediate and visible direction of the
most pure, the most truly modest, and the most gracefully
virtuous mind, that I had ever the happiness of knowing in
the form of a manly friend. It is certainly my wish that
these volumes may obtain the entire approbation of the
world ; but it is infinitely more my desire and ambition to
render them exactly such as I think most likely to gratify
the conscious spirit of Cowper himself in a superior exist-
ence. The person who recommended it to his female relation
to continue her exemplary regard to the poet, by appearing
as his biographer, advised her to relate the particulars of his
life in the form of letters addressed to your Lordship. He
cited, on the occasion, a striking passage from the memoirs
of Gibbon, in which that great historian pnys a just and a



xiv INTRODUCTORY LETTER.

splendid compliment to one of the early English poets, who,
in the tenderness and purity of his heart, and in the vivid
powers of description, may be thought to resemble Cowper.
The passage I allude to is this: " The nobility of the Spen-
cers has been illustrated and enriched by the trophies of
Marlborough ; but T exhort them to consider the Fairy Queen
as the most precious jewel of their coronet." If this lively
metaphor is just in every point of view, we inay regard The
Task as a jewel of pre-eminent lustre in the coronet belong-
iiig to the noble family of Cowper. Under the influence of
this idea, allow me, my Lord, to address to you such me-
moirs of your admirable relation, as my own intimacy with
him, and the kindness of those who knew and loved him
most truly, have enabled me to compose. I will tell you,
with perfect sincerity, all my motives for addressing them to
your Lordship. First, I flatter myself it may be a pleasing,
and, permit me to say, not an unuseful occupation to an in-
g-envious young nobleman, to trace the steps by which a re-
tired man, of the most diffident modesty, whose private vir-
tues did honour to his name, arose to peculiar celebrity.
iVIy second motive is, I ov/n, of a more selfish nature; for I
amt persuaded, that, in addressing my v/ork to you, I give
the public a satisfactory pledge for the authenticity of my
materials. I \n\\ not pretend to say that I hold it in the
power of any title, or affinity, to reflect an additional lustre
on the memory of the departed poet : for I think so highly
of poetical distinction, when that distinction is pre-eminently
obtained by genius, piety, and benevolence, that all common
honours appear to be eclipsed by a splendour more forcible
and extensive. Great poets, my Lord, and that I may speak
of thcni as they deserve, let me say, in the words of Horace,

Frimum me illorum, dederim qulbus esse Poetas,
Excerpam numero —

Great poets have generally united in their destiny those ex-
tremes of good and evil, which liomer, their immortal pre-
sident, assigns to the bard he describes, and v/hich he ex-
emplified himself in his own person. — Their lives have been



INTRODUCTORY LETTER. xv

frequently chequered by the darkest shades of calamity ; but
their personal infelicities are nobly compensated by the pre-
valence and the extent of their renown. To set this in the
most striking point of view, allow me to compare poetical
celebrity with the fame acquired by the exertion of different
mental powers in the highest department of civil life. The
Lord Chancellors of England may be justly regarded among
the personages of the modern world, peculiarly exalted by
intellectual endowments : with two of these illustrious cha-
racters, the poet, whose life I have endeavoured to delineate,
was in some measure connected; being related to one, the
immediate ancestor of your Lordship, and being intimate,
in early life, with a Chancellor of the present reign, whose
elevation to that dignity he has recorded in rhyine. Much
respect is due to the legal names of Cowper, and of Thurlow.
Knowledge, eloquence, and political importance, conspired
to aggrandize the men who added those names to the list of
English nobility: yet, after the lapse of a few centuries, they
.will shine only like very distant constellations, merely visi-
ble in the vast expanse of history ! But, at that time, the
poet of whom I speak, will continue to sparkle in the eyes
of all men, like the radiant star of the evening, perpetually
hailed by the voice of gratitude, affection, and delight. There
is a principle of unperishablc vitality (if I may use such an
expression) in the compositions of Cowper, which must en-
sure to them in future ages, what we have seen them so
happily acquire and maintain in the present — universal admi-
ration and love ! His poetry is to the heart and the fancy,
what the moral essays of Bacon are to the understanding, a
never-cloying feast !

" As if increase of appetite had grown
" By what it fed on."

Like them it comes " home to the business and bosom of
every man ;" by possessing the rare and double talent to fami-
liarize and endear the most awful subjects, and to dignify
the most familiar, the poet naturally becomes a favourite
with readers of every description. His works must interest



xvi INTRODUCTORY LETTER.

every nation under heaven, where his sentiments are under-
stood, and where the feelings of humanity prevail. Yet
their author is eminently an EngUshman, in the noblest
sense of that honourable appellation. He loved the consti-
tution; he revered the I'eligion of his country; he was ten-
derly, and generously alive to her real interest and honour;
and perhaps of her many admirable poets, not one has
touched her foibles, and celebrated her perfections, with a
spirit so truly filial. — But I perceive that I am in danger of
going far beyond my design in this introductory letter, for it



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