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vigour of mind I ever had, of the self-supporting kind I mean, has long since been broken; and that, though I can bear nothing well, yet any thing better than a state of ignorance concerning your welfare. I have spent hours in the night leaning upon my elbow, and wondering what your silence
I intreat you once more to put an end to these speculations, which cost me more animal spirits than I can spare; if you cannot, without great trouble to yourself, which in your situation may very possibly be the case, contrive opportunities of writing so frequently as usual, only say it, and I am content. I will wait, if you desire it, as long for every letter, but then let them arrive at the period once fixed, exactly at the time, for my patience will not hold out an hour beyond it.*
TO LADY HESKETH.
The Lodge, Feb 1, 1788. Pardon me, my dearest Cousin, the mournful ditty that I sent you last. There are times when I see every thing through a medium that distresses me to an insupportable degree, and that letter was written in one of them. A fog, that had for three days obliterated all the beauties of Weston, and a northeast wind, might possibly contribute not a little to
* This letter proves how much the sensitive mind of Cowper was liable to be ruffled by external incidents. Life presents too many real sources of anxiety, to justify us in adding those wbich are imaginary and of our own creation.
the melancholy that indited it. But my mind is now easy; your letter has made it so, and I feel myself as blithe as a bird in comparison. I love you, my Cousin, and cannot suspect, either with or without cause, the least evil in which you may be concerned, without being greatly troubled! Oh, trouble! The portion of all mortals—but mine in particular. Would I had never known thee, or could bid thee farewell for ever; for I meet thee at every turn: my pillows are stuffed with thee, my very roses smell of thee, and even my Cousin, who would cure me of all trouble if she could, is sometimes innocently the cause of trouble to me. I now see the unreasonableness of
late trouble, and would, if I could trust myself so far, promise never again to trouble either myself or you in the same manner, unless warranted by some more substantial ground of apprehension.
What I said concerning Homer, my dear, was spoken, or rather written, merely under the influence of a certain jocularity that I felt at that moment. I am in reality so far from thinking myself an ass, and
tion a sand-cart, that I rather seem, in my own account of the matter, one of those flaming steeds harnessed to the chariot of Apollo, of which we read in the works of the ancients. I have lately, I know not how, acquired a certain superiority to myself in this business, and in this last revisal have elevated the expression to a degree far surpassing its former boast. A few evenings since, I had an opportunity to try how far I might venture to expect such success of
labours as can alone repay them,
by reading the first book of my Iliad to a friend of ours. He dined with you once at Olney. His name is Greatheed, a man of letters and of taste. He dined with us, and, the evening proving dark and dirty, we persuaded him to take a bed. I entertained him as I tell you. He heard me with great attention, and with evident symptoms of the highest satisfaction, which, when I had finished the exhibition, he put out of all doubt by expressions which I cannot repeat. Only this he said to Mrs. Unwin, while I was in another room, that he had never entered into the spirit of Homer before, nor had any thing like a due conception of his manner. This I have said, knowing that it will please you, and will now say no more.
Adieu! my dear, will you never speak of coming to Weston more?
Mrs. King, to whom the following letter is addressed, was the wife of Dr. King, Rector of Perten-hall, near Kimbolton, and a connexion of the late Professor Martyn, well known for his botanical researches. The perusal of Cowper's Poems had been the means of conveying impressions of piety to her mind; and it was to record her gratitude, and to cultivate his acquaintance, that she wrote a letter, to which this is the reply.
MRS. KING, PERTEN HALL, NEAR KIMBOLTON,
Weston Lodge, Feb. 12, 1788. Dear Madam-A letter from a lady who was once intimate with my brother could not fail of being most acceptable to me. I lost him just in the moment when those truths which have recommended my volumes to your approbation were become his daily sustenance, as they had long been mine. But the will of God was done. I have sometimes thought that had his life been spared, being made brothers by a stricter tie than ever in the bonds of the same faith, hope, and love, we should have been happier in each other than it was in the power of mere natural affection to make us. But it was his blessing to be taken from a world in which he had no longer any wish to continue, and it will be mine, if, while I dwell in it, my time may not be altogether wasted. In order to effect that good end, I wrote what I am happy to find it has given you pleasure to read. But for that pleasure, madam, you are indebted neither to me, nor to my Muse ; but (as you are well aware) to Him who alone can make divine truths palatable, in whatever vehicle conveyed. It is an established philosophical axiom, that nothing can communicate what it has not in itself; but, in the effects of Christian communion, a very strong exception is found to this general rule, however self-evident it may seem. A man himself
* Private Correspondence.
destitute of all spiritual consolation may, by occasion, impart it to others. Thus I, it seems, who wrote those very poems to amuse a mind oppressed with melancholy, and who have myself derived from them no other benefit, (for mere success in authorship will do me no good,) have nevertheless, by so doing, comforted others, at the same time that they administer to me no consolation. But I will proceed no farther in this strain, lest my prose should damp a pleasure that my verse has happily excited. On the contrary, I will endeavour to rejoice in your joy, and especially because I have been myself the instrument of conveying it.
Since the receipt of your obliging letter, I have naturally had recourse to my recollection, to try if it would furnish me with the name that I find at the bottom of it. At the same time I am aware that there is nothing more probable than that my brother might be honoured with your friendship without mentioning it to me; for, except a very short period before his death, we lived necessarily at a considerable distance from each other. Ascribe it, madam, not to an impertinent curiosity, but to a desire of better acquaintance with you, if I take the liberty to ask (since ladies' names, at least, are changeable,) whether yours was at that time the same as now.
Sincerely wishing you all happiness, and especially that which I am sure you covet most, the happiness which is from above, I remain, dear madam-early as it may seem to say it,