Imatges de pÓgina

part of his work would have borne no proportion to that which a detail of his correspondence required; and, therefore, he selected and published only a part of Cowper's Letters which had been submitted to his inspection, returning the rest to their respective owners.* We mention these facts, the rather to prevent our readers from being misled by the word "Private" in the title-page of the volumes before us. When we first saw the work announced, we confess we were staggered by this epithet, and almost led to suspect the genuineness of the Letters; and though we are now perfectly satisfied that there was no foundation for our suspicions, we still think the word "Private" had been better omitted. Certainly, had Cowper filled any public station from which he had issued official documents, and conducted a correspondence of a nature different from the tenour of these letters, we then could have seen a propriety in designating them "private" but the truth is, they are no more private, than were the letters that have been so long before the world, anterior to their being printed. Some of them, indeed, were never submitted to Mr. Hayley's inspection at all; and with regard to those that were, the reader is not to imagine that he cropped the flower of the collection. Mr. Hayley had other reasons for declining the publication of these now first printed, which the Editor of the volumes before us, Dr. Johnson, has very satisfactorily explained in his Preface. Some of them were too much of a political cast to suit the prevailing taste of the day, and others too much tinged with gloom and melancholy to suit his purpose. The consequence of their rejection, therefore, has been, that the letters published by Mr. Hayley, do not present us with a fair exhibition of the character of Cowper. People read the Letters' with The Task' in their recollection, and are perplexed. They look for Cowper, and find him not the correspondency between the Letters and the Poem is destroyed. Hence the character of Cowper is undetermined; mystery hangs over it; and the opinions formed of him are as various as the minds of the enquirers." We coincide in opinion, therefore, with


the Rev. Legh Richmond, who, in referring to these suppressed letters, says, that Cowper will never be clearly and satisfactorily understood without them, and they ought to be published for the demonstration of the case." As to the quality of the Letters themselves, the following testimony from the pen of Mr. Hall, of Leicester, to whom they were submitted, and who has given his judgment respecting them, in a letter to the Editor, dated Aug. 19, 1823, is perfectly conclusive.

"It is quite unnecessary to say that I perused the letters with great admiration and delight. I have always considered the letters of Mr. Cowper as the finest language; and these appear to me of a specimen of the epistolary style in our superior description to the former, possessing as much beauty with more piety and pathos. To an air of inimitable ease and carelessness, they unite a high degree of correctness, such as could result only from the clearest intellect, combined with the most finished taste. I have scarcely found a single word which is capable of being exchanged for a better.




Literary errors I can discern none. The selection of words and the structure of the periods are inimitable; they present as striking a contrast as can well be conceived, to the turgid verbosity which which bears a great resemblance to the passes at present for fine writing, and degeneracy which marks the style of Ammianus Marcellinus, as compared to that of Cicero and Livy. A perpetual effort and struggle is made to supply the place of vigour; garish and dazzling colours are substituted for chaste ornament; and the hideous distortions of weakness for native strength. In my humble opinion, the study of Cowper's prose may, on this account, be as useful in forming the taste of young people as his poetry.


light to all persons of true taste, and that "That the letters will afford great deyou will confer a most acceptable present on the reading world by publishing them, will not admit of a doubt."

Before we close these preliminary remarks, we must beg leave to introduce from the Preface to the first volume, an interesting paragraph relating to Cowper's melancholy. ́ ́

* Mr. Hayley's primary object was, doubtless, to compile a Work that would sell, (for we believe be was very fond of money) and he succeeded. The profits of the publication were, we have reason to think, unparalleled in the history of English literature. Mr. Hayley and his publisher divided ELEVEN THOU, SAND POUNDS arising from that speculation!


"There is one subject," says Dr. Johnson, "connected, if not with the composition, yet with the matter of these letters to Mr. Newton, to which I would beg to call a few minutes' attention ;-the aberration of mind which they so painfully develope. To this was indisputably owing all the gloominess of the character of Cowper: a point which I am the more anxious to establish, as it has been erroneously charged on his religious opinions. But no-the unhappiness of this amiable man is to be referred to the cause already stated; and that again, to an excess of hypochondriacal affection, induced, in the first instance, as I have repeatedly heard a deceased friend of his and mine observe, by his having, in very early life, improperly checked an erysipelatous complaint of the face; which rendered him ever after liable to depression of spirits. Under the influence of one of these attacks, attended with evideut mental obliquity, he was impressed with an idea, originating in a supposed voice from heaven, that the Author of his life had recalled the loan. This was rapidly followed by another, to this effect: That as he had failed to restore it, in the intervening moment, the punishment of his disobedience would be everlasting destruction.

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Now, I would ask those who have inadvertently charged the unhappiness of this pitiable sufferer on his religious opinions, to the operation of what theological tenets they can warrantably ascribe the supposition, not only of so preposterous a demand, but of a denunciation, under such circumstances, more preposterous still, as referred to the Supreme Being? It will be readily conceded, I trust, that, as no known system of divinity can be justly charged with such absurd principles as the above supposition would imply, so that which Cowper adopted, (whatever it might be,) and through the influence of which on his divine poem "The Task," he obtained the high eulogium of being "With more than painter's fancy blest, with lays Holy as saints to heav'n expiring raise" unquestionably cannot. And if this be granted, his unhappiness must undoubtedly be referred solely to the aberration of




March 4, 1780.


To communicate surprise is almost, perhaps quite, as agreeable as to receive it. This is my present motive for writing to you rather than to Mr. Newton. He would be pleased with hearing from me, but he would not be surprized at it; you see, therefore, I am selfish upon the present occasion, and principally consult my own gratification. Indeed, if I consulted yours, I should be silent, for I have no such budget as the Minister's, furnished and stuffed with ways and means for every emergency, and shall find it difficult, perhaps, to raise supplies even for a short epistle.

You have observed in common conversation, that the man who coughs the oftenest, (I mean if he has not a cold) does it because he has nothing to say. Even so it is in letter-writing: a long preface, such as mine, is an ugly symptom, and always forebodes great sterility in the following pages.


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"The vicarage-house became a melancholy object, as soon as Mr. Newton had left it: when you left it, it became more melancholy: now it is actually occupied by another family, even I cannot look at it without being shocked. As I walked in the garden this evening, I saw the smoke issue from the study chimney, and said to myself, That used to be a sign that Mr. Newton was there; but it is so no longer. The walls of the house know nothing of the change that has taken place; the bolt of the chamber-door sounds just as it used to do; and when Mr. P stairs, for aught I know, or ever shall know, the fall of his foot could hardly, perhaps, be distinguished from that of Mr. Newton. But Mr. Newton's foot will never be heard upon that staircase again. These reflections, and such as these, occurred to me upon the occasion; * If I were in a condition to leave Olney too, I certainly would not stay in it. It is no attachment to the place that binds me here, but an unfitness for every other. I lived in it once, but now I am buried in it, and have no business with the world on the outside of my sepulchre; my appearance would startle them, and theirs would be shocking to me.


"Such are my thoughts about the mat

We shall now present our readers ter. Others are more deeply affected, and with a few of the Poet's letters, which by more weighty considerations, having commence in the year 1765, at which been many years the objects of a ministry time he resided at Huntingdon, and ter- selves happy in the possession of. ** which they had reason to account themminate in 1793. They are addressed to 66 "My respects attend Mr. Newton and Joseph Hill, Esq.-Rev. Wm. Unwin-yourself, accompanied with much affection Mr. and Mrs. Newton-Rev. W. Bull-for you both. Mrs. King, and others.

Yours, dear Madam,

W. C.

July 12, 1780.


Such nights as I frequently spend, are but a miserable prelude to the succeeding day, and indispose me above all things to the business of writing. Yet with a pen in my hand, if I am able to write at all, I find myself gradually relieved; and as I am glad of any employment that may serve to engage my attention, so especially I am pleased with an opportunity of conversing with you, though it be but upon paper. This occupation above all others assists me in that self-deception to which I am indebted for all the little comfort I enjoy; things seem to be as they were, and I almost forget that they never can be so again.

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"We are both obliged to you for a sight of Mr. -'s letter. The friendly and obliging manner of it will much enhance the difficulty of answering it. I think I can see plainly that though he does not hope for your applause, he would gladly escape your censure. He seems to approach you smoothly and softly, and to take you gently by the hand, as if he bespoke your lenity, and entreated you at least to spare him. You have such skill in the management of your pen, that I doubt not you will be able to send him a balmy reproof, that shall give him no reason to complain of a broken head.How delusive is the wildest speculation when pursued with eagerness, and nourished with such arguments as the perverted ingenuity of such a mind as his can easily furnish!-Judgment falls asleep upon the bench, while Imagination, like à smug, pert counsellor, stands chattering at the bar, and with a deal of finespun, enchanting sophistry, carries all before him. "If I had strength of mind, I have not strength of body for the task which, you say, some would impose upon me. I cannot bear much thinking. The meshes of that fine net-work, the brain, are composed of such mere spinners' threads in me, that when a long thought finds its way into them, it buzzes, and twangs, and bustles about at such a rate as seems to threaten the whole contexture.-No, I must needs refer it again to you.

"My enigma will probably find you out, and you will find out my enigma at some future time. I am not in a humour to transcribe it now. Indeed I wonder that a sportive thought should ever knock at the door of my intellects, and still more that it should gain admittance. It is as if harlequin should intrude himself into the gloomy chamber where a corpse is deposited in state. His antic gesticulations would be unseasonable at any rate, but more especially so if they should dis

tort the features of the mournful attendants into laughter. But the mind long wearied with the sameness of a dull, dreary prospect, will gladly fix its eyes on any thing that may make a little variety in its contemplations, though it were but a kitten playing with her tail.

"You would believe, though I did not
say it at the end of every letter, that we
remember you and Mrs. Newton with the
same affection as ever; but I would not
therefore excuse myself from writing what
it gives you pleasure to read. I have
often wished indeed, when writing to an
ordinary correspondent, for the revival of
the Roman custom-salutis at top, and
vale at bottom. But as the French have
taught all Europe to enter a room, and to
leave it with a most ceremonious bow, so
they have taught us to begin and conclude
our letters in the same manner;
ever, I can say to you,

Sans ceremonie,
Adieu, mon ami!




W. C.

Nov. 23, 1782.

Accept my thanks for the trouble you take in vending my poems, and still more for the interest you take in their success. My authorship is undoubtedly pleased, when I hear that they are ap proved either by the great or the small; but to be approved by the great, as Horace observed many years ago, is fame indeed. Having met with encouragement, I consequently wish to write again; but wishes are a very small part of the qualifications necessary for such a purpose. Many a man who has succeeded tolerably well in his first attempt, has spoiled all by the second. But it just occurs to me that I told you so once before, and if my memory had served me with the intelligence a minute sooner, I would not have repeated the observation now.

"The winter sets in with great severity. The rigour of the season, and the advanced price of grain, are very threatening to the poor. It is well with those that can feed upon a promise, and wrap themselves up warm in the robe of salvation. A good fire-side and a well-spread table are but very indifferent substitutes for these better accommodations; so very indifferent, that I would gladly exchange them both, for the rags and the unsatisfied hunger of the poorest creature that looks forward with hope to a better world, and weeps tears of joy in the midst of penury and distress. What a world is this! How mysteriously governed, and, in appearance, left to itself.

One man, having squandered


thousands at a gaming-table, finds it convenient to travel; gives his estate to somebody to manage for him; amuses himself a few years in France and Italy; returns, perhaps, wiser than he went, having acquired knowledge which, but for his follies, he would never have acquired; again makes a splendid figure at home, shines in the senate, governs his country as its minister, is admired for his abilities, and, if successful, adored, at least by a party. When he dies he is praised as a demi-god, and his monument records every thing but his vices. The exact contrast of such a picture is to be found in many cottages at Olney. I have no need to describe them; you know the characters I mean. They love God, they trust him, they pray to him in secret, and though he means to reward them openly, the day of recompense is delayed. In the mean time they suffer every thing that infirmity and poverty can inflict upon them. Who would suspect, that has not a spiritual eye to discern it, that the fine gentleman was one whom his Maker had in abhorrence, and the wretch last-mentioned, dear to him as the apple of his eye? It is no wonder that the world, who are not in the secret, find themselves obliged, some of them, to doubt a Providence, and others, absolutely to deny it; when almost all the real virtue there is in it, is to be found living and dying in a state of neglected obscurity, and all the vices of others cannot exclude them from the privilege of worship and honour! But behind the curtain the matter is explained; very little, however, to the satisfaction of the great.

"If you ask me why I have written thus, and to you especially, to whom there was no need to write thus, I can only reply, that having a letter to write, and no news to communicate, I picked up the first subject I found, and pursued it as far as was convenient for my purpose.

"Mr. Newton and I are of one mind on the subject of patriotism. Our dispute was no sooner begun than it ended. It would be well, perhaps, if, when two disputants begin to engage, their friends would hurry each into a separate chaise, and order them to opposite points of the compass. Let one travel twenty miles east; the other, as many west; then let them write their opinions by the post. Much altercation and chafing of the spirit would be prevented; they would sooner come to a right understanding, and running away from each other, would carry on the combat more judiciously, in exact proportion to the distance.



in mercy, than judicially hardened by prosperity.

My love to that gentleman, if you please; and tell him, that, like him, though I love my country, I hate its follies and its sins, and had rather see it scourged

Yours, my dear Madam, as ever,

'W. C.


April 20, 1783.

My device was intended to represent not my own heart, but the heart of a Christian, mourning and yet rejoicing, pierced with thorns, yet wreathed about with roses.

I have the thorn without the rose. My briar is a wintry one, the flowers are withered, but the thorn remains. My days are spent in vanity, and it is impossible for me to spend them otherwise. No man upon earth is more sensible of the unprofitableness of a life like mine, than I am, or groans more heavily under the burthen; but this too is vanity, because it is in vain; my groans will not bring the remedy, because there is no remedy for me. The time when I seem to be most rationally employed, is when I am reading. My studies, however, are very much confined, and of little use, because I have no books but what I borrow, and nobody will lend me a memory. My own is almost worn out. I read the Biographia and the Review. If all the readers of the former had memories like mine, the compilers of that work would in vain have laboured to rescue the great names of past ages from oblivion, for what I read to-day, I forget to-morrow. A by-stander might say, This is rather an advantage, the book is always new ;-but I beg the by-stander's pardon; I can recollect though I cannot remember, and with the book in my hand I recognise those passages which, without the book, I should never have thought of more. The Review pleases me most, because, if the contents escape me, 1 regret them less, being a very supercilious reader of most modern writers. Either I dislike the subject, or the manner of treating it; the style is affected, or the matter is disgusting.

I see




(though he was a learned man, and sometimes wrote like a wise one) labouring under invincible prejudices against the truth and its professors; heterodox in his opinion upon some religious subjects, and reasoning most weakly in support of them. How has he toiled to prove that the perdition of the wicked is not eternal, that there may be repentance in hell, and that the devils may be saved at last: thus establishing, as far as in him lies, the belief of a purgatory, and approaching nearer to the church of Rome than ever any Methodist did, though papalizing is the crime with which he charges all of that denomination. When I think

of him, I think too of some who shall say hereafter, "Have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name done many wondrous works? Then shall he say unto them, Depart from me, for I never knew you." But perhaps he might be enlightened in his last moments, and saved in the very article of dissolution. It is much to be wished, and indeed hoped, that he was. Such a man reprobated in the great day, would be the most melancholy spectacle of all that shall stand at the left hand hereafter. But I do not think that many or indeed any will be found there, who in their lives were sober, virtuous, and sincere, truly pious in the use of their little light, and though ignorant of God, in comparison with some others, yet sufficiently informed to know that he is to be feared, loved, and trusted. An operation is often performed within the curtain of a dying bed, in behalf of such men, that the nurse and the doctor (I mean the doctor and the nurse) have no suspicion of. The soul makes but one step out of darkness into light, and makes that step without a witness. My brother's case has made me very charitable in my opinion about the future state of such men."

To the same.


Sept. 8, 1783.

These letters sufficiently indicate the sombre cast of the writer's mind; and it is impossible to read them without feeling for his unhappy state. Yet there the exhibition they make of the playfulare many of the letters remarkable for ness of wit, the sportiveness of fancy in which at times he could indulge. In reading them we were reminded of an anecdote which we remembered to have heard Dr. Chalmers relate, in one of the Sermons preached when last in London, and which we have since found in the volume with which he has favoured the public. Our readers shall have it in his own words :

"Some of you have heard of the individual who, under an oppression of the severest melancholy, implored relief and counsel from his physician. The unhappy patient was advised to attend the performances of a comedian, who had put all the world into ecstacies. But it turned out that the patient was the comedian himself-and that while his smile was the signal of merriment to all, his heart stood uncheered and, motionless, amid the gratulations of an applauding theatre-and evening after evening did he kindle around him a rapture in which he could not participatea poor, helpless, dejected mourner, among the tumults of that high-sounding gaiety, which he himself had created."

I have been lately more dejected and more distressed than usual; more harassed by dreams in the night, and more deeply poisoned by them in the following day. I know not what is portended by an alteration for the worse, after eleven years of misery; but firmly believe that it is not This was frequently the case with designed as the introduction of a change poor Cowper. Referring to the Preface for the better. You know not what I suf- which Mr. Newton wrote to his Poems, fered while you were here, nor was there he says, "If your Preface finds no reaany need you should. Your friendship ders, I shall take it for granted, that it for me would have made you in some is because the book itself is not worth degree a partaker of my woes; and your their notice. Be that as it may, it is share in them would have been increased quite sufficient that I have played the by your inability to help me. Perhaps, indeed, they took a keener edge from the antic myself for their diversion; and consideration of your presence. The friend that in a state of dejection, such as they of my heart, the person with whom I had are absolute strangers to, I have someformerly taken sweet counsel, no longer times put on an air of cheerfulness and useful to me as a minister, no longer plea- vivacity, to which I myself am in reality sant to me as a Christian, was a spectacle a stranger, for the sake of winning their that must necessarily add the bitterness of attention to more useful matter.' mortification to the sadness of despair. I Vol. I. p. 160. There are many pasnow see a long winter before me, and am sages in these volumes in which this, to get through it as I can. I know the amiable man speaks in a similar strain; ground before I tread upon it. It is hol- but we must take our leave of the work low; it is agitated; it suffers shocks in for the present, hoping to resume our every direction; it is like the soil of Cala-notice of it next month, when we shall bria-all whirlpool and undulation. But must reel through it; at least, if I be probably present our readers with a not swallowed up by the way. Portrait of this amiable and interesting individual.


W. C.

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