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TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, May, 1785. My dear friend - I do not know that I shall send you news; but, whether it be news or not, it is necessary that I should relate the fact, lest I should omit an article of intelligence important at least at Olney. The event took place much nearer to you than to us, and yet it is possible that no account of it may yet have reached you. -Mr. Ashburner the elder, went to London on Tuesday se'nnight in perfect health and in high spirits, so as to be remarkably cheerful; and was brought home in a hearse the Friday following: Soon after his arrival in town, he complained of an acute pain in his elbow, then in his shoulder, then in both shoulders ; was blooded ; took two doses of such medicine as an apothecary thought might do him good; and died on Thursday in the morning at ten o'clock. When I first heard the tidings I could hardly credit them; and yet have lived long enough myself to have seen manifold and most convincing proofs that neither health, great strength, nor even youth itself, afford the least security from the stroke of death. It is not common however for men at the age of thirty-six to die so suddenly. I saw him but a few days before, with a bundle of gloves and hatbands under his arm, at the door of Geary Ball, who lay at that time a corpse. The following day I saw him march before the coffin, and lead the procession that attended Geary to the grave. He might be truly said to march, for his step was heroic, his figure athletic, and his countenance as firm and confident as if he had been born only to bury others, and was sure never to be buried himself. Such he appeared to me, while I stood at the window and contemplated his deportment ; and then he died.
* Private Correspondence.
I am sensible of the tenderness and affectionate kindness with which you recollect our past intercourse, and express your hopes of my future restoration. I too within the last eight months have had my hopes, though they have been of short duration, cut off like the foam upon the waters. Some previous adjustments indeed are necessary, before a lasting expectation of comfort can have place in me. There are those persuasions in my mind which either entirely forbid the entrance of hope, or, if it enter, immediately eject it. They are incompatible with any such inmate, and must be turned out themselves before so desirable a guest can possibly have secure possession. This, you say, will be done. It
may be, but it is not done yet; nor has a single step in the course of God's dealings with me been taken towards it. If I mend, no creature ever mended so slowly that recovered at last. I am like a slug or snail, that has fallen into a deep well : slug as he is, he performs his descent with an alacrity proportioned to his weight; but he does not crawl up again quite so fast. Mine was a rapid plunge ; but my return to daylight, if I am indeed returning, is
leisurely enough. I wish you a swift progress, and a pleasant one, through the great subject that you have in hand ;* and set that value upon your letters to which they are in themselves entitled, but which is certainly increased by that peculiar attention which the writer of them pays to me. Were I such as I once was, I should say that I have a claim upon your particular notice which nothing ought to supersede. Most of your other connexions you may fairly be said to have formed by your own act; but your connexion with me was the work of God. The kine that went up with the ark from Bethshemesh left what they loved behind them, in obedience to an impression which to them was perfectly dark and unintelligible.t Your journey to Huntingdon was not less wonderful. He indeed who sent you knew well wherefore, but you knew not. That dispensation therefore would furnish me, as long as we can both remember it, with a plea for some distinction at your hands, had I occasion to use and urge it, which I have not.
But I am altered since that time; and if your affection for me had ceased, you might very reasonably justify your change by mine. I can cay nothing for myself at present; but this I can venture to foretell, that, should the restoration of which
friends me obtain, I shall undoubtedly love those who have continued to love me, even in a state of transforma
* Mr. Newton was at this time preparing two volumes of Sermons for the press, on the subject of the Messiah, preached on the occasion of the Commemoration of Handel.
+ See 1 Sam. vi. 7-10.
former self, much more than ever. I doubt not that Nebuchadnezzar had friends in his prosperity; all kings have many. But when his nails became like eagles' claws, and he ate grass like an ox,
suppose he had few to pity him. We are going to pay Mr. Pomfrett a morning visit. Our errand is to see a fine bed of tulips, a sight that I never saw. Fine painting, and God the artist. Mrs. Unwin has something to say in the
I leave her therefore to make her own courtesy, and only add that I am yours and Mrs. Newton's
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, June 4, 1785. My dear Friend—Mr. Greatheed had your letter the day after we received it. I He is a well-bred, agreeable young man, and one whose eyes have been opened, I doubt not, for the benefit of others, as well as for his own. He preached at Olney a day or two ago, and I have reason to think with acceptance and success. One person, at least, who had been in prison some weeks, received his enlarge
+ The Rector at that time of Emberton, near Olney. * Private Correspondence.
The Rev. Mr. Greatheed was a man of piety and talent, and much respected in his day. He wrote a short and intememoir of Cowper.
ment under him. I should have been glad to have been a hearer, but that privilege is not allowed me yet.
My book is at length printed, and I returned the last proof to Johnson on Tuesday. I have ordered a copy to Charles Square, and have directed Johnson to enclose one with it, addressed to John Bacon, Esq. I was obliged to give you this trouble, not being sure of the place of his abode. I have taken the liberty to mention him, as an artist, in terms that he well deserves. The passage was written soon after I received the engraving with which he favoured me,* and while the impression that it made upon me was yet warm. He will therefore excuse the liberty that I have taken, and place it to the account of those feelings which he himself excited.
The walking season is returned. We visit the Wilderness daily. Mr. Throckmorton last summer presented me with a key of his garden. The family
a are all absent, except the priest and a servant or two; so that the honeysuckles, lilacs, and syringas, are all our own.
We are well, and our united love attends yourselves and the young ladies. Yours, my dear friend, With much affection,
“ Bacon there
The Task, Book I.