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MEMOIR OF W. COWPER, ESQ."
131 which he was ill prepared to encounter:
His natural baslıfulness, and his broker spirits, however unsuitable to the protession of a barrister, were not suffered to esempt him from a calling in which his powerful connexions aiforded the fairest pros. pects of advancing his temporal interests. At the age of eighteen, he was articled to an eminent attorney; and three years atierwards, he entered, as a student of bew, in the society of the Inner Temple. His genius and inclinations were no better adapted to this pursuit, thin his acquired habits. He amused himself with light poetical compositions; and divided his social hours between the convivial or literary intercourse of eininent persons who had been his school-fellows, and the :nore domestic conversation of his polite and affectionate relations. In 1756 he lost his father, from whom he did not inherit a fortane adequate to his situation in life. He forined about that time, a peculiar intimacy with Sir William Russel, whose premature decease greatly afflicted him. He also cherished a tender attachment to an amiable and accomplished young lady, whose hand was expected to crown his approaching establishment in life.
This important crisis was deferred till he reached bis thirtyfirst year; and its result at that time produced the final disappointment of his eartbly hopes. Being nominated, by the interest of his family, to the lucrative posts of reading-clerk, and clerk of private cominittees, in the House of Lords, he conceived so great a dread of officiating before the assembled peers, that notwithstanding the delay and danger to which it exposed his temporal prospects, he determined upon relinquishing the appointinent. The etfects of such a conflict in his mind, are pathetically represented in the following verses, addressed to one of his female relations, whose faithtul memory has enabled Mr. Hayley to communicate them to the public.
** Doom'd as I am, in solitude to waste
If these emphatic lines afforded a promise of the future excellence of Mr. Cowper's productions, they were equally pre. dictive of his future distress. They breathie the same wounded spirit with many of his later pieces. The principal difference consists in the author's unacquaintance, at the former period, with the consolations of the gospel; and his knowledge of their worth, with a sense of their loss, at the latter. The breach was already made, which nothing but the balın of salvation could heal; and that, no longer than it was infused by appropriating faith. The 'season was at hand when that restorative became indispensably necessary. Mr. Cowper accepted the appointment of Clerk of the Joórnals in the House of Lords, in lieu of the more advantageous offices which he had relinquished, hoping that his personal attendance would not be requisite : but this expectation also was frustrated, and the necessity of appearivg in public overwhelmed him with dismay; while his unwillingness to renounce every prospect of earthly comfort, his fear of injuring the patron isho had repeatedly recommended him to proinotion, and the urgent exhortations of his intimate acquaintance to surmount a diffidence that appeared to them so unreasonable, excited a tumult in his breast which filled him with inexpréssible anguish. In this deplorable condition, his brother Jolin, who had taken clerical orders, made the utmost exertions to tranquilize bis inind by such religious arguments as he eould adduce; but to no purpose. Mr. Madan's convecsation with his afflicted kinsman was attended with different success. Mr. Cowper felt the redemption of' sinners, on which he dwelt, to be the only refuge for his troubled soul; and its darkness was
dispelled, almost instantaneously, by a ray of hope and peace. : Mr. John Cowper was astonished at a change, which then
seemed to bim unaccountable. It was, alas! but transient. Imagining that the faith which is essential to salvation can be attained, was attainable by his own powers, his failure in the trial involved him in aggravated distress; and the dread of appearing before an carthly tribunal was lost in the horrors of eternal judgment. It is needless here to dwell more particularly upon a scene, the particulars of wbich have been laid before our readers, as far as was judged expedient, in our extracts from the funeral sermon published by Mr. Greatheed:* Let it suffice to say, that it terminated in Mr. Cowper's removal to, St. Alban's in December, 1763. the remained there eighteen months, under the humane care of the late Dr. Cotton, at what was entitled the College: an institution founded by that amiable and ingenious physician, for the relief of persons under mental derangement. The latter and greater part, however, of this period, was spent by Mr. Cowper, not only in the possession of his restored faculties, but in the enjoyment of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. While in a state of con
See Evan. Mag. for 1800, P. 457; and 1801, p. 361..
MEMOIR OF W. COWPER, Esg.
133 valescence, he opened the book of revealed truth; and that epitome of the gospel which is comprised in Romans iii. 25, was happily rendered instrumental to his deliverauce both from worldly sorrow and spiritual despair.
The state to which he had been reduced, had broken off for ever his former connexions and pursuits; and baving found the pearl of matchless price, he could cheerfully relinquish them. He sought retirement and concealment at Huntingdon, where he might often have the company of his brother alone, without being known to numerons academical friends, amidst wbom he resided at Cambridge; but he could not anywhere long remain unnoticed. His appearance was striking and interesting. A most intelligent and engaging countenance, a well-proportioned figure, and elegant manners, speedily drew attention from ilie inhabitants of a rural borough-town. An amiable young man, a student from Cambridge, whose father, Mr. Unwin, a clergyman, then superintended a private classical seminary at Huntingdon, conceived so strong a desire for the acquaintance of this interesting stranger, that be surinounted Mr. Cowper's reserve, and gradually acquired his confidential friendship. Some orber young men likewise ingratiated themselves in his esteem; and he was soon introduced to their families, which were among the most respectable in the place. His faithful friend, Mr. Joseph Hill, who had taken the care of his temporal concerus, both corresponded with, and visited him, from London. With his affectionate brother he spent some part of every week, alternately, at their respective places of abode. He resumed, also his correspondence with Lady Hesketh, daughter of his uncle Mr. Ashley Cowper, clerk of parliament, in London; and with his cousins at Harlingfordbury, Major Cowper and his lady. In the last correspondent he soon discovered one, who, like himself, lived in fellowship with Christ. His letters to her, will probably appear to the serious reader the most important part of Mr. Hayley's collection. The following extract from one of thein, shews how clearly Mr. Cowper discerned, and how warınly he had embraced the leading truths of the gospel, although as yet a stranger to the advantages of an evangelical ministry. • That Jesus is a present Saviour froin the guilt of sin, by his most precious blood, and from the power of it by his Spirit; that corrupt and wretched in ourselves, in Him, and in Him only, we are complete ; that being united to Jesus by a lively faith, we have a solid and eternal interest in his obedience and sufferings, to justify us before the face of our Heaven!y Father; and that all this inestimable treasure, the earne si of which is in grace, and its consummation in glory, is given, freely given to us of God; in short, that he hath opened the kingdom of Heaven to all believers : these are the truths which, by the Grace of God, shall ever be dearer to me than life itselt; shall ever be placed next my heart, as the throne whereon the Saviour himself shall sit, to sway all its motions, and reduce
that world of iniquity and rebellion to a state of filial and affectionate obedience to the will of the Most Holy.”.
Mr. Cowper shortly became more intimate with Mr. Unwin's family than with any other in Huntingdon; and at the close of 1765, he took up his residence entirely with them. Mrs. Unwin had always been extremely fond of reading, and was esa teened for superior intelligence; but she had been remarked for gaiety and vivacity. She soon, notwithstanding, fully entered into Mr. Cowper's religious views, and discovered 'a change of character that was far from being agreeable to her fashionable acquaintances. Her age exceeded Mr. Cowper's but seven years; yet as she had married very young, and was the mother of his academical friend, he naturally regarded her with a kind of filial, as well as with a spiritual affecuon. He thus writes of her to his cousin Mrs. Cooper :-"The lady in whose house I live, is so excellent a person, and regards me with a friendship so truly Christian, that I could almost fancy my own mother restored to life again, to compensate me for all the friends I have lost, and all my connexious broken.”
In another letter, he describes the manner in which their daily time was employed. “As to amusements, I mean what the world calls such, --we have none. The place indeed swarms with them; and cards and dancing are the professed business of almost all the gentle inbabitants of huntingdon. We refuse to take part in thein, or to be accessaries to this way of mura dering our time; and by so doing, have acquired the name of Methodists. Having told you how we do not spend our time, I will next say how we do :-}e breakfast coinmonly between eight and nine ;-till eleven, we read either the Scriptures, or the sermons of soine faithtul preacher of these holy mysteries. At eleven we attend divine service, -which is performed here twice every day; - and from twelve to three we separate, and amuse ourselves as we please. During that interval, I either read in my own apartment, or walk, or ride, or work in the garden. We seldomi sit an hour atter dinner ; but if the weather permits, adjourn to the gardien ; where, with Mrs. Unwin, and her son, I have generally the pleasure of religious conversation till tea-time. If it rains, or is too windy for walking, we either converse within doors, or sing soine hyinns of Martin's * collection, and, by the help of Mrs. Unwin's harpsichord, make up a tolerable concert; in which our hearts, I hope, are the best and most musical performers. After tea, we sally forth to walk in good earnest. 'Afrs. Unwin is a good walker, and we have gelerally travelled about four miles before we see home again. When the days are short, we make this excursion in the former part of the day, between church-time and dinner. At night, wę read and converse, as before, till supper; and commonly
* Mr. Madan's
MEMOIR OF W. COWPER, ESQ. finish the evening either with hyinns or a sermon; and last of all, the family are called to prayers.”
While Mr. Cowper's tiine and attention were so fully occupied with religious objects, it is not strange that his mind should be impressed with a desire to preach the gospel. On this subs ject he remarks, “ I have had many anxious thoughts about taking orders; and I believe every new convert is apt to thiuk himself called upon for that purpose ; – but it has pleased God, by means which there is no need to particularize, to give me fall satisfaction as to the propriety of declining it. Indeed, they who have the least idea of what I have suffered froin the dread of public exhibitions, will readily excuse my never attempting them hereafter. In the mean time, if it please the Almighty, I may be an instrument of tarning many to the truth in a private way; and I hope that my endeavours in this way have not been entirely unsuccessful. Had I the zeal of Moses, I should want an Aaron to be my spokesman." - The usefulness to which he alludes in this passage, was no less than the conversion of almost all M5. Unwin's family. The consequent alteration of their conduct excited the surprize and displeasure of their former intimates, whose round of amusements had long been undisturbed by appearances of genuine godliness. They regretted that a man of Mr. Cowper's accomplishinents should have been spoiled for society by religion; and still more, that his delusion should have infected a family so extensively connected as Mr. Unwin's, with the politc inhibitants. That connexion was soon dissolved; and their resentment of the change vented itself in a calumny, to which a gross ignorance of the principles of Christian friendship afforded its sole support.
A solemn and unexpected event removed Mr. Cowper to a vicinity more congenial with bis feelings, and more conducive to his profit. In the summer of 1767, Mr.Cowin was killed by a fall from his horse. At that juncture, Mr. Newton, then curate of Olney, was travelling thither from Cainbridge, and called upon Mrs. Unwin, by the desire of the late Dr. Conyers, who had learned from her son, about six mouths before, the happy change wrought in her prind. Mr. Newton found the family in the depth of affliction for their recent and sudden loss; and as they proposed shortly to remove from Huntingdon, he invited them to fix their abode at Olney. They repaired in the following October, to a house so near the vicarage in which he lived, that by opening a door way in a garden-wall, they could exchange mutual visits without entering the public street. Mrs. Uuwin kept the house; and Mr. Cowper continued to board with her, as he had done in her husband's life-tine. Their days were spent nearly as at Huntingdon ; except the differences produced by a substitution of frequent evangelical worship for the daily forms of prayer, - the advantages of a more extended religious intercourse, and the peculiar friendship of