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On this intimacy, the biographer remarks

The attachment of Cowper to Mrs. Unwin, the Mary of the poet! was an attachment perhaps unparalleled. l'heir domestic union, tho' not sanctioned by the common forms of life, was supported with perfect innocence.' Vol. i. p. 30.

The charm of this unparalleled connexion is often warmly acknowledged in the letters of the poet to his friends.

Among his earliest correspondents were two lawyers-lord Thurlow, and Joseph Hill, esq. The latter has preserved many interesting memorials, of which Mr. Hayley has availed himself. To Mr. Cowper, of Park-house, Ilartford, his cousin, he communicated, in 1767, his religious opinions, strongly tinctured with enthusiastic faith. Calvinism, or the spirit of vital Christianity, then pervaded the entire soul of Cowper.

Mr. Unwin died by a fall from his horse, which fractured his skull, in July 1767: but Cowper informs his cousin

I shall still, by God's leave, continue with Mrs. Unwin, whose behaviour to me has always been that of a mother to a son. We know not yet where we shall settle, but we trust, that the Lord whom we seek, will go before us, and prepare a rest for us.' Vol. i. p. 63.

Mr. Newton, the curate of Olney, who visited Mrs. Unwin on this event, assisted her and the poet on their removal to Olney, in October 1767.

Cowper, who inherited no opulence from his father, was incapable of coveting or acquiring wealth: but the rich often engaged him in relieving the necessitous; and for Mr. Thornton, celebrated in his poems, he distributed various


His mode of life at Olney was calculated to increase the morbid propensity of his mind, which one tremendous idea, not explained by Mr. Hayley, perpetually assailed.

The poet's time and thoughts were more and more engrossed by religious pursuits. He wrote many hymns, and occasionally directed the prayers of the poor. Vol. i. P. 71.

In 1770 he was hurried to Cambridge, to witness the death of his brother John, fellow of Bennet-college, a man of learning, and an affectionate relative.

Consoled by the society of Mr. Newton, he composed sixty-eight hymns, which, in the volume completed by the clergyman for the inhabitants of Olney, are marked with the initial letters of the poet's name.

From 1773 to 1779 a continued dejection oppressed the mind of Cowper. Cordially do we approve, with Mr. Hay ley, those medical writers on mental disorder, who cautious

ly guard a frame of the slightest tendency to this misfortune. from the attractions of Piety herself.

So fearfully and wonderfully are we made, that man in all conditions, ought perhaps to pray, that he never may be led to think of his Creator, and of his Redeemer either too little, or too much." Vol. i. p. 87.

Mrs. Unwin watched over the poet in his lengthened malady with maternal tenderness. As he emerged from this gloom, before his mind was capable of literary occupation, he diverted himself with educating the group of young hares,

celebrated in The Task.

In 1780, Mr. Newton, being presented to a living in London, introduced to the poet the Rev. Mr. Bull, of NewportPagnel, for whom Cowper translated, from the French, many parts of the spiritual songs of madame de la Motte Guyon. To the influence of friendship, we principally owe the writings of Cowper.

His exertions were relaxed until the spring of 1781. At this time, a letter to Mr. Hill discovers that he gratuitously assisted his neighbours with legal advice.

Half a century of life had passed before the poet appeared to the public as an author. In May 1781, he informed Mr. Hill that he had a work in the press, the production of the winter of 1780, except a few minor pieces. He thus describes his propensity to verse :

• When I can find no other occupation, I think, and when I think, I am very apt to do it in rhyme. Hence it comes to pass that the season of the year which generally pinches off the flowers of poetry, unfolds mine, such as they are, and crowns me with a winter garland. In this respect therefore, I and my contemporary bards are by no means upon a par. They write when the delightful influences of fine weather, fine prospects, and a brisk motion of the animal spirits, make poetry almost the language of nature; and I, when icicles depend from all the leaves of the Parnassian laurel, and when a reasonable man would as little expect to succeed in verse, as to hear a blackbird whistle.' Vol. i. p. 103.

The Progress of Error, and other poetical subjects, were suggested by Mrs. Unwin.

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On its publication, his first volume of poems-equal perhaps, in originality of manner, to the popular Task --was neglected. To the exaggerated praises of Mr. Hayley on this volume, we cannot assent; yet many passages authorise the quotation from the younger Pliny

"Multa tenuiter, multa sublimiter, multa venuste, multa tenere, multa dulciter, multa cum bile." Vol. i. p. 112.

In the autumn of 1781, a fortunate incident, the friend

ship of a lady, to whom we are indebted for The Task, the ballad of John Gilpin, and the translation of Homer, gave renewed ardor to the poct. Lady Austen, an accomplished character, and widow of sir Robert Austen, bart. - afterwards married M. de Tardif, and died in France in 1802. From her Mr. Hayley has derived valuable information.

The origin of this intimacy displays the eccentric charac ter of Cowper.

He saw, from the window of Mrs. Unwin's house, lady Austen in a shop at Olney, with her sister, Mrs. Jones, whom he had met at Mrs. Unwin's house. Struck with the appearance of the stranger, although naturally timid, he requested that Mrs. Unwin would invite her, with Mrs. Jones, to tea, When they had arrived, he was reluctant to join them; but, prevailed on at length, he was re-animated by the colloquial talents of lady Austen.

This trivial occurrence had a salutary influence on the spirits of the bard, who did not anticipate the danger of an intimacy with two ladies, each presuming on her power to direct his studies.

Lady Austen was sedulous to prevent his habitual dejection. She presented bin with a portabic printing-press; and he whimsically informs her of his progress in the typographic art. She became tenant of the parsonage at Olney, contiguous to the dwelling of Mrs. Unwin, to which she had a free communication; and Cowper, lady Austen, and Mrs. Unwin, formed almost one family. The musical abilities of lady Austen induced the poet to compose songs, of which a few pleasing examples are given. The history of the facetious ballad of John Gilpin, which originated in a hint of lady Austen, our contracted space precludes us from extracting. The name of Dr. Franklin, as a critic on poetry, tempts us, however, to transcribe his complimentary letter on the first volume of poems. We are unacquainted with the person to whom it was addressed.

• Sir,

Passy, May 8, 1782.

I received the letter you did me the honour of writing to me, and am much obliged by your kind present of a book. The relish for reading of poetry had long since left me, but there is something so new in the manner, so easy and yet so correct in the language, so clear in the expression, yet concise, and so just in the sentiments, that I have read the whole with great pleasure, and some of the pieces more than once. I beg you to accept my thankful acknowledgements, and to present my respects to the author.

• Your most obedient humble Servant,

B. Franklin.' Vol. i. P. 131, B÷

The Task was composed in 1784. In the same year, the translation of Homer was commenced, at the request of lady Austen, from whom the poet was soon fated to separate, after a vain prediction that 'a three-fold chord is not soon broken.' This lady, in Mr. Hayley's verse, had, by her magical influence,

Sent the freed eagle in the sun to bask,

And, from the mind of Cowper, called The Task.'

Mrs. Unwin observed, with uneasiness, the superiority of her new friend: Cowper discovered this her jealousy. Gratitude for past services induced him to relinquish the society of lady Austen, his idolised sister Anne,' and gave him resolution to write a farewell letter, explaining, as his biogra pher assures us, his reasons for this sacrifice, with a delicacy honorable to his feelings.-The letter is not inserted.-Recollecting what Cowper owed to a lady who had so often solaced his dejection, so often animated his genius to its highest fervour-we felt the language of the poet, in his letter to Mr. Hill, after this separation, unexpectedly chilling.

We have as you say lost a lively and sensible neighbour in lady Austen, but we have been long accustomed to a state of retirement, within one degree of solitude, and being naturally lovers of still life, can relapse into our former duality without being unhappy at the change. To me indeed a third is not necessary, while I can have the companion I have had these twenty years.' Vol. i. p. 141.

The same letter, in the most affectionate tone, describes the impression which the tenderness of a mother, lost so early in life, had left on his mind.

In the summer of 1785, the second volume of his poems was published. Another female friend appeared in lady Hesketh (widow of sir Thomas Hesketh); and the advancing age of Mrs. Unwin rendered this acquisition important. In his first letter to lady Hesketh, who became his principal correspondent, he acknowledges the attentions of Mrs. Unwin, who had injured her own health by her solicitude for him during thirteen years of insanity. Her income nearly doubled his own. They had but one purse; and her circum stances were declining. Cowper communicated to lady Hesketh his situation, consulted her as a friend and a critic in the progress of his translation of Homer, and solicited her support in the subscription.

In a letter to this lady, he paints himself with a familiar


I am a very smart youth of my years. I am not indeed grown grey so much as I am grown bald. No matter. There was mora

hair in the world than ever had the honour to belong to me. Accordingly having found just enough to curl a little at my ears, and to intermix with a little of my own that still hangs behind, I appear, if you see me in an afternoon, to have a very decent head-dress, not easily distinguished from my natural growth; which being worn with a small bag, and a black riband about my neck, continues to me the charms of my youth, even on the verge of age.' Vol. i. r. 152.

Lady Hesketh, by a visit at Olney, was useful to the poet: she became his amanuensis, accommodated him with her carriage, and, in the autumn of 1786, prevailed on him to remove with Mrs. Unwin to the village of Weston near Olney, where, with other advantages, he had access to the pleasure-grounds of Mr. Throckmorton, his landlord.

The happy influence of this change is apparent in the style of his subsequent letters, which relate, in a cheerful manner, his private concerns, with various opinions on subjects political and literary; and are rarely darkened by a gloomy enthusiasm. These benefits may be, in part, ascribed to the direction of his mind to poetical labour, but more to the anxious care of his female associates, particularly of lady Hesketh. On this topic, the biographer eloquently observes:

To the honor of human nature, and of the present times, it will appear, that a sequestered poet, pre-eminent in genius and calamity, was beloved and assisted by his friends of both sexes, with a purity of zeal, and an inexhaustible ardor of 'affection, more resembling the friendship of the heroic ages, than the precarious attachments of the modern world.' Vol. i. r. 224.

The death of the younger Unwin cast a transient shade over his spirits, which was soon dispersed. His letters, at this period, show that he was acutely sensible to applause. Yet his poetical pride could not overcome his philanthropy, nor prevent his acceding to the request of the clerk of AllSaints' church in Northampton, for whose annual bill of mortality he condescended to write mortuary verses.

The correspondence of Cowper with Mr. Rose the barrister, on the subject of Homer, and the merits of different writers, is amusing. Cowper admits the genius of Burns, but laments the disguise of his dialect. Of Barclay's Argenis, his praise is excessive. Among living writers, we observed, with no surprise, that Mr. Wilberforce and miss Hannah More were his favourites. The slave-trade naturally excites a poet's reprobation; and, in a letter to Mr. Rose, in 1788, he asserts that an ounce of grace is a better guard against gross absurdity, than the brightest talents in the world. That particular dreams are often predictive, and not the ordinary operations of fancy, he seems to be

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