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who, after perusing the preceding extracts, can harbour a doubt on the point, we leave him to the curse of a polluted imagination.
There were persons who would have thought it far better that Cowper should have been provided with a younger, and fairer, and more sprightly companion : and we have heard Mrs. Unwin unfeelingly reproached with a deficiency of cheerfulness, under circumstances that would have consumed alike the mind and the heart of any ordinary woman. It is scarcely worth while to advert to useless surmises and unprofitable peradventures; but we will give our opinion, that the appointment of Providence was in this instance, as in every other, wiser than the wisdom of the world. Excitement of a gentle description was undoubtedly beneficial to Cowper's mind: the stimulus supplied by the presence of Lady Hesketh and other gay accomplished friends, bad for a time the happiest effect, but, like all other stimulants, its efficacy was soon spent. Familia arity with an object, while it may strengthen its power over our affections, of necessity renders it less capable of ministering that excitation which things of a novel or occasional kind produce. The sprightliest companion would have failed, after a time, to cheer by her gayety ; and something more than sprightliness was requisite to qualify for the arduous task which devolved upon Cowper's companion in the awful season of his deepest dejection, when, but for Mrs. Unwin's strength of mind and unwearied fidelity, he must have been consigned to the hired nurse and the medical practitioner. With her, it ought not to be forgotten, he shared some of his happiest hours, and to her he was indebted for all the alleviation of which his gloomiest seasons were susceptible. If she could not excite, she could soothe him; and what the heart requires for its happiness is, an object on which the affections can repose.
• Oye to whom the hand of heaven assigns
Of hope and happiness, desire for rest.' That Cowper himself both valued and loved her society, is evident from his own unreserved declaration to Mr. Newton. In a letter written after the departure of Lady Hesketh, he mentions their being once more reduced to their dual state, and then adds :
« There are those in the world whom we love, and whom we are happy to see; but we are happy likewise in each other, and so far
independent of our fellow-mortals, as to be able to pass our time comfortably without them ;-as comfortably, at least, as Mrs. Unwin's frequent indispositions, and my no less frequent troubles of mind, will permit. When I am much distressed, any company but her's distresses me more, and makes me doubly sensible of my sufferings; though sometimes,' I confess, it falls out otherwise ; and by the help of more general conversation, I recover that elasticity of mind which is able to resist the pressure. On the whole, I believe I am situated exactly as I should wish to be, were my situation to be determined by my own election ; and am denied no comfort that is compatible with the total absence of the chief of all.'
Mrs. Unwin was an eminently pious woman, and this was to some of Cowper's friends her real offence. Those who chose to ascribe his melancholy to his religion, naturally regarded Mr. Newton and Mrs. Unwin as persons who had contributed to his distemper. We have seen how judiciously the former acquitted himself as a correspondent, and we have reason to believe that, in the latter, Cowper had a not less judicious companion. It was she who urged him in the first instance to employ his mind in poetical composition. Though religion was for the most part an interdicted, because unapproachable theme, yet, he could never have been happy, united to one who was not in his estimation religious; and there were his bright moments in which he could have relished no cther intercourse. Perhaps no man is ever more religious for having his mind constantly occupied with religion. This may seem a paradox; but those who know how little necessary connexion there is between theological studies and spirituality of mind, and how much a professional familiarity with such subjects, tends to deteriorate their influence, will subscribe to the truth of the assertion. Our religious character depends, not on the nature of our avocations, but on the motives from which we engage in them, the principles by which our ordinary actions are regulated. The mind must have an external object, a pursuit, to prevent its becoming the prey of its own energies, Religion, as connected with the personal interests and internal feelings, supplies the highest motives, but cannot be said to furnish such anobject. A man might as well expect to grow in strength by watching his appetite, as a Christian to grow in grace merely by watching his internal feelings. But religion, in any other reference, considered as a matter of speculation, of philosophical inquiry, or of public instruction, is as secular an object of pursuit, (or is liable to become so,) as geology, poetry, or Greek criticism. God has so constituted the mind, that employment and amusement are essentia to the healthful play of the faculties. The common business of life and the pursuits of science are wisely designed to provide the one, while the natural and ideal worlds, together with the pleasures of society, afford an inexhaustible fund of the other. Happy is he who can use them without abusing them, and woe to him that despises them.
It has been one object which we have had in view in the preceding remarks, to shew that the force and beauty of Cowper's example are in no degree diminished by the hallucination under which he laboured, since, in fact, the influence of religion on his mind was never suspended, even when he religiously forbore to pray. The piety that shines through all his despondency, the filial submission with which he utters the mournful complaint, “Why hast thou forsaken me," indicate, that, through all the bewilderment of reason, his heart was singularly right with God. But the present Editor anticipates an objection to the publication of the desponding letters.
Am I not afraid, it may be asked, lest, in affording an indiscriminate inspection into the gloomy interior of Cowper's mind, I should minister to the melancholy contemplations of some depressed spirit, and thus eventually assiinilate it to his own? I answer, I should indeed fear it, but for the circumstance already mentioned; the striking irregularity of the Writer's intellect on the subject of his own salvability. This is the frame, if I may so express it, in wbich all his gloomy pictures are conspicuously set; and as they cannot be separated, they must be transferred, both or neither, to the mind of another. But as experience teaches me that insanity is not tranferrible, so I set my heart at rest as to a transfer of the gloom which in this case resulted from it.'
The answer is, we think, most satisfactory; and indeed, to any person suffering under religious dejection that admits of being rationally dealt with, the experience of Cowper is adapted to afford genuine consolation, and to disprove those melancholy suggestions which are grounded on the singularity and consequent hopelessness of the person's own case. Although, however, our extracts have partaken of a sombre hue, the present volumes are by no means altogether of this character. A large proportion of them are of a very lively description, replete with that playful humour which is so peculiar to the letters of Cowper; and the most trilling of them are marked by an inimitable ease and the purest taste in composition. The greater part of those in the first volume, are addressed to Joseph Hill, Esq., commencing at July 1765, and extending through the ensuing twenty years. Up to the close of the year 1772, the letters, though brief, and chiefly on business, abound with indications of the Writer's happy temper, unclouded mind, and fervent piety. Then occurs a chasm of four years; and when the series recommences, the letters are still more
brief, and are confined to indifferent subjects. In the year 1780, begins that most interesting portion of his correspondence, the letters to Mr. Newton, which extends throughout the remainder of the volumes, intermixed with letters to Mr. Hill, the Rev. Mr. Bull, Mrs. King, and the Editor. About the same period, he began to busy him with verse
as a relief to his melancholy. • While I am held in pursuit of pretty
images,' he says to Mr. Newton,or a pretty way of ex
pressing them, I forget every thing that is irksome, and, • like a boy that plays truant, determine to avail myself of • the present opportunity to be amused, and to put by the dis
agreeable recollection that I must, after all, go home and be
whipt again.' The beneficial effect on his mind is discernible in the letters. Throughout the first volume, with the few exceptions which we have extracted, the prevailing character of the composition is light and playful, and sometimes there are gleams of cheerfulness in regard to his own spiritual condition. The supposed bistory of an antidiluvian day at p. 287, and the poetical epistle to the Rev. Mr. Bull, whom he elsewhere facetiously addresses as charissime taurorum, may be referred to as very happy specimens of the same playful humour that shines in John Gilpin, and in so many of the letters published by Hayley. In the second volume, a more serious style prevails, and the letters are of a deeper interest. In the year 1787, another melancholy blank of ten months occurs. The Writer's own account of his instantaneous recovery from this attack, is most interesting. In the year 1792, he appears to have derived temporary benefit from a visit he received from his invaluable friend Mr. Newton. I rejoiced, and had rea
son to do so,' he tells him, in your coming to Weston, for I • think the Lord came with you.' The feelings of his better
' days seemed, during two or three transient moments, to be in a degree renewed. You will tell me,' he says, ' that, transient as they were, they were yet evidences of a love that is not
and I am desirous to believe it. This was written in July, 1792. In a letter dated the following October, he notices a similar ‘manifestation of God's presence' vouchsafed to hin a few days before; ' transient, indeed, and dimly seen
through a mist of many fears and troubles, but sufficient to • convince me, at least while the Enemy's power is a little re
strained, that He has not cast me off for ever.' The last letter in the collection is addressed to Mr. Hill, Dec. 10, 1793, just before he was visited with that last calamitous attack which preceded his final removal from Weston.
The thanks of the public, more especially of the religious public, are due to the excellent Editor, for having rescued
these most interesting documents from the neglect to which Hayley had consigned them. He has but done justice to his inestimable relative, while, by the manner in which he has executed his task, he has done honour to himself. At the close of the preface, baving, he remarks, exercised the mind of the reader with recitals not of the most enlivening tone, he has presented us a jeu d'esprit, written by Cowper, when a young man in the Temple, as a contribution to the “ Nonsense Club," in which Bonnel Thornton, Lloyd, and Colman were his associates. For the same reason that Dr. Johnson has assigned, we shall transcribe it for the amusement of our readers.
• LETTER FROM AN OWL TO A BIRD OF PARADISE.
• I have lately been under some uneasiness at your silence, and began to fear that our friends in Paradise were not so well as I could wish ; but I was told yesterday that the pigeon you employed as a carrier, after having been long pursued by a lawk, found it necessary to drop your letter, in order to facilitate her
escape. I send you this by the claws of a distant relation of mine, an eagle, who lives on the top of a neighbouring mountain. The nights being short at this time of the year, my epistle will probably be so too ; and it strains my eyes not a little to write, when it is not as dark as pitch. I am likewise much distressed for ink: the blackberry juice which I had bottled up having been all exhausted, I am forced to dip my beak in the blood of a mouse, which I have just caught; and it is so very savoury, that I think in my heart I swallow more than I expend in writing. A monkey who lately arrived in these parts,
. is teaching me and my eldest daughter to dance. The motion was a little uneasy to us at first, as he taught us to stretch our wings wide, and to turn out our toes; but it is easier now. I, in particular, am a tolerable proficient in a hornpipe, and can foot it very nimbly with a switch tucked under my left wing, considering my years and infirmities. As you are constantly gazing at the sun, it is no wonder that you complain of a weakness in your eyes; how should it be otherwise, when mine are none of the strongest, though I always draw the curtain over them as soon as he rises, in order to shut out as much of his light as possible ? We have had a miserable dry Season, and my ivy-bush is sadly out of repair. I shall be obliged to you if you will favour me with a shower or two, which you can easily do, by driving a few clouds together over the wood, and beating them about with your wings till they fall to pieces. I send you some of the largest berries the bush has produced, for
your children to play withal. A neighbouring physician, who is a goat of great experience, says they will cure the worms ; so, if they should chance to swallow them, you need not be frightened. I have lately had a violent fit of the pip, which festered my rump to a prodigious degree. I have shed almost every feather in my tail, and