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influence of each other. He wrote occasionally to clerical friends of the established church, and to others among the dissenters. His heart made no difference between them, for it felt towards both the fraternal sensations of true christianity.' P. xxix.
We shall now in part unveil the personal habits and feelings of this estimable character:
Sept. 21, 1779.
Amico mio, be pleased to buy me a glazier's diamond-pencil. I have glazed the two frames, designed to receive my pine-plants. But I cannot mend the kitchen-windows, till by the help of that implement I can reduce the glass to its proper dimensions. If I were a plumber I should be a complete glazier, and possibly the happy time may come, when I shall be seen trudging away to the neighbouring towns, with a shelf of glass hanging at my back. If government should impose another tax upon that commodity, I hardly know a business in which a gentleman might more successfully employ himself: a Chinese of ten times my fortune would avail himself of such an opportunity without scruple; and why should not I, who want money as much as any mandarin in China? Rousseau would have been charmed to have seen me so occupied, and would have exclaimed with rapture, that he had found the Emilius, who (he supposed) had subsisted only in his own idea. I would recommend it to you to follow my example. You will presently qualify yourself for the task, and may not only amuse yourself at home, but may even exercise your skill in mending the church-windows; which, as it would save money to the parish, would conduce, together with your other ministerial accomplishments, to make you extremely popular in the place.
I have eight pair of tame pigeons. When I first enter the garden in a morning, I find them perched upon the wall waiting for their breakfast. For I feed them always upon the gravel-walk. If your wish should be accomplished, and you should find yourself furnished with the wings of a dove, I shall undoubtedly find you amongst them. Only be so good, if that fhould be the case, as to announce yourself by some means or other. For I imagine your crop will require something better than tares to fill it.
Your mother and I, last week, made a trip in a post-chaise to Gayhurst, the seat of Mr. Wright, about four miles off. He understood that I did not much affect strange faces, and sent over his servant on purpose to inform me, that he was going into Leicestershire, and that, if I chose to see the gardens, I might gratify myself without danger of seeing the proprietor. I accepted the invitation, and was delighted with all I found there.' P. 5.
My scribbling humour has of late been entirely absorbed in the
passion for landscape drawing.' P. 20.
So long as I am pleased with an employment, I am capable of unwearied application, because my feelings are all of the intense kind; I never received a little pleasure from any thing in my life; if I am delighted, it is in the extreme. The unhappy consequences of this temperature is, that my attachment to any occupation seldom out-lives the novelty of it. That nerve of my imagination that feels the touch of any particular amusement, twangs under the energy of the pressure with so much vehemence, that it soon becomes sensible of weariness and fatigue.' P. 21.
I am pretty much in the garden at this season of the year, so read but little. In summer time I am as giddy-headed as a boy, and can settle to nothing. Winter condenses me, and makes me lumpish and sober; and then I can read all day long." P. 34.
I can compare this mind of mine to nothing that resembles it more, than to a board that is under the carpenter's plane (I mean while I am writing to you), the shavings are my uppermost thoughts; after a few strokes of the tool, it requires a new surface, this again upon a repetition of his task he takes off, and a new surface still succeeds—whether the shavings of the present day will be worth your acceptance, I know not. I am unfortunately made neither of cedar, nor of mahogany, but Truncus ficulnus, inutile lignum-consequently, though I should be planed 'till I am as thin as a wafer, it will be but P. 36.
rubbish to the last.'
It is not when I will, nor upon what I will, but as a thought happens to occur to me; and then I versify, whether I will or not.'
My morning is engrossed by the garden; and in the afternoon, 'till I have drunk tea, I am fit for nothing.'
'Not that I am insensible of the value of a good name, either as a man or an author. Without an ambition to attain it, it is absolutely unattainable under either of those descriptions. But my life, having been in many respects a series of mortifications and disappointments, I am become less apprehensive, and impressible perhaps in some points, than I should have otherwise been.' P. 81.
Sleep, that refreshes my body, seems to cripple me in every other respect. As the evening approaches, I grow more alert, and when I am retiring to bed, am more fit for mental occupation than at any other time. So it fares with us, whom they call nervous. By a strange inversion of the animal œconomy, we are ready to sleep when we have most need to be awake, and go to bed just when we might sit up to some purpose. The watch is irregularly wound up, it goes in the night when it is not wanted, and in the day stands still. In
many respects we have the advantage of our forefathers, the Picts. We sleep in a whole skin, and are not obliged to submit to the painful operation of punctuating ourselves from head to foot, in order that we may be decently dressed and fit to appear abroad. But on the other hand, we have reason enough to envy then their tone of nerves, and that flow of spirits, which effectually secured them from all uncomfortable impressions of a gloomy atmosphere, and from every shade of melancholy from every other cause. They understood (I suppose) the use of vulnerary herbs, having frequent occasion for some skill in surgery, but physicians (I presume) they had none, having no need of any. Is it possible, that a creature like myself can be descended from such progenitors, in whom there appears not a single trace of family resemblance? What an alteration have a few ages made! They, without cloathing, would defy the severcst season, and I, with all the accommodations that art has since invented, am hardly secure even in the mildest. If the wind blows upon me when my pores are open, I catch cold. A cough is the consequence. I suppose if such a disorder could have seized a Pict, his friends would have concluded that a bone had stuck in his throat, and that he was in some danger of choking. They would perhaps have addressed themselves to the cure of his cough by thrusting their fingers into his gullet, which would only have exasperated the case. But they would never have thought of administering laudanum, my only remedy. For this difference however, that has obtained between me and my ancestors, I am indebted to the luxurious practices and enfeebling self-indulgence of a long line of grandsires, who from generation to generation have been employed in deteriorating the breed, 'till at last the collected effects of all their follies have centered in my puny self.-A man indeed, but not in the image of those that went before me. A man, who sigh and groan, who wear out life in dejection and oppression of spirits, and who never think of the aborigines of the country to which I belong, without wishing that I had been born among them.'
"When I write to a stranger, I feel myself deprived of half my I intellects. I suspect that I shall write nonsense, and I do so. tremble at the thought of an inaccuracy, and become absolutely ungrammatical. I feel myself sweat. I have recourse to the knife and the pounce. I correct half a dozen blunders, which in a common case I should not have committed, and have no sooner dispatched what I have written, than I recollect how much better I could have "made it; how easily and genteeliy I could have relaxed the stiffness of the phrase, and have cured the insufferable awkwardness of the whole, had they struck me a little earlier. Thus we stand in awe of we know not what, and miscarry through mere desire to excel.' -r. 235.
"A neighbour of mine, in Silver-end, keeps an ass; the ass lives on the other side of the garden-wall, and I am writing in the greenhouse: it happens that he is this morning most musically disposed, whether cheered by the fine weather, or by some new tune which he has just acquired, or by finding his voice more harmonious than usual. CRIT. REV. Vol. 4, January, 1805.
It would be cruel to mortify so fine a singer, therefore I do not tell him that he interrupts and hinders me, but I venture to tell you so, and to plead his performance in excuse of my abrupt conclusion,
I send you the goldfinches, with which you will do as you see good.' P. 268.
I sit with all the windows and the door wide open, and am regaled with the scent of every flower in a garden as full of flowers as I have known how to make it. We keep no bees, but if I lived in a hive, I should hardly hear more of their music. All the bees in the neighbourhood resort to a bed of mignonette, opposite to the window, and pay me for the honey they get out of it by a hum, which though rather monotonous, is as agreeable to my ear as the whistling of my linnets. All the sounds that nature utters are delightful, at least in this country. I should not perhaps find the roaring of lions in Africa, or of bears in Russia, very pleasing, but I know no beast in England whose voice I do not account musical, save and except always the braying of an ass. The notes of all our birds and fowls please me, without one exception. I should not indeed think of keeping a goose in a cage, that I might hang him up in the parlour, for the sake of his melody, but a goose upon a common, or in a farm-yard, is no bad performer and as to insects, if the black beetle, and beetles indeed of all hues, will keep out of my way, I have no objection to any of the rest; on the contrary, in whatever key they sing, from the gnat's fine treble to the bass of the humble bee, I admire them all. Seriously however, it strikes me as a very observable instance of providential kindness to man, that such an exact accord has been contrived between his ear, and the sounds with which, at least in a rural situation, it is almost every moment visited. All the world is sensible of the uncomfortable effect that certain sounds have upon the nerves, and consequently upon the spirits.-And if a sinful world had been filled with such as would have curdled the blood, and have made the sense of hearing a perpetual inconvenience, I do not know that we should have had a right to complain. But now the fields, the woods, the gardens, have each their concert, and the ear of man is for ever regaled by creatures who seem only to please themselves. Even the ears that are deaf to the Gospel are continually entertained, though without knowing it, by sounds for which they are solely indebted to its author. There is some where in infinite space, a world that does not roll within the precincts of mercy, and as it is reasonable, and even scriptural to suppose, that there is music in heaven, in those dismal regions perhaps the reverse of it is found. Tones se dismal, as to make woe itself more insupportable, and to acuminate even despair.' P. 287.
You never said a better thing in your life, than when you assured Mr. of the expedience of a gift of bedding to the poor of Olney. There is no one article of this world's comforts, with which, as Falstaff says, they are so heinously unprovided. When a poor woman, and an honest one, whom we know well, carried home two pair of blankets, a pair for herself and husband, and a pair for her six
children, as soon as the children saw them, they jumped out of their straw, caught them in their arms, kissed them, blessed them, and danced for joy. An old woman, a very old one, the first night that she found herself so comfortably covered, could not sleep a wink, being kept awake by the contrary emotions of transport on the one hand, and the fear of not being thankful enough on the other.' P. 347.
Engaging alike in sorrow and in joy, benevolence enlivens even the infirmities of Cowper. We leave, with reluctance, his sportive moments, to dwell on the contemplations of his more serious hours.
Oppressed by intellectual disease, if he sometimes appear an enthusiast, yet, as the animating fervour and general purity of his religious sentiments must powerfully impress every Christian reader, although our faith may be in a few points dissentient, we shall not withhold. his opinions.
On his poem entitled Truth, we notice these remarks, in a letter to Mr. Unwin :
'I wrote that poem on purpose to inculcate the eleemosynary character of the gospel, as a dispensation of mercy, in the most absolute sense of the word, to the exclusion of all claims of merit on the part of the receiver; consequently to set the brand of invalidity upon the plea of works, and to discover, upon scriptural ground, the absurdity of that notion, which includes a solecism in the very terms of it, that man, by repentance and good-works, may deserve the mercy of his Maker. I call it a solecism, because mercy deserved ceases to be mercy, and must take the name of justice. This is the opinion which I said in my last, the world would not acquiesce in, but except this, I do not recollect that I have introduced a syllable into any of my pieces that they can possibly object to; and even this I have endeavoured to deliver from doctrinal dryness, by as many pretty things, in the way of trinket and plaything, as I could muster upon the subject. So that if I have rubbed their gums, I have taken care to do it with a coral, and even that coral embellished by the ribbon to which it is tied, and recommended by the tinkling of all the bells I could contrive to annex to it.' P. 83.
In the passages subjoined, the genuine spirit of Christian morality is apparen :
A man, whose vices and irregularities have brought his liberty and life into danger, will always be viewed with an eye of compassion by those who understand what human nature is made of; and while we acknowledge the severities of the law to be founded upon principles of necessity and justice, and are glad that there is such a barrier provided for the peace of society, if we consider that the difference between ourselves and the culprit is not of our own making, we shall be, as you are, tenderly affected by the view of his misery, and not less so, because he has brought it upon himself.' P. 86.