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could not be prevailed upon to converse with him on any subject. Cowper, as soon as he began to feel the slightest symptoms of recovery, recollected the great sympathy and disinterested kindness of his new friend, and he took care to present him with the first productions of his pen. In the last week of July, 1787, he thus addressed him:—" This is the first time I have written this six months; and nothing but the constraint of obligation could induce me to write now. I cannot be so wanting to myself as not to endeavour, at least, to thank you, both for the visits with which you have favoured me, and the poem that you have sent me. In my present state of mind I taste nothing, nevertheless I read,—partly from habit, and partly because it is the only thing I am capable of." A month afterwards he again wrote to the same correspondent. "I have not yet taken up my pen, except to write to you. The little taste that I have had of your company, and your kindness in finding me out, make me wish that we were nearer neighbours, and that there were not so great a disparity in our years; that is to say, not that you were older, but that I was younger. Could we have met early in life, I flatter myself that we might have been more intimate* than now we are likely to be. But you shall not find me slow to cultivate such a measure of your regard as your friends of your own age can spare me. I hope the same kindness, which has prompted you twice to call on me, will prompt you again; and I shall be happy, if, on a future occasion, I shall be able to give you a more cheerful reception than can be expected from an invalid. My health and spirits are considerably improved, and I once more associate with my neighbours. My head, however, has been.the worst part of me, and still continues so; is subject to giddiness and pain, maladies very unfavourable to poetical employment: but I feel some encouragement to hope that I may possibly, before long, find myself able to resume the translation of Homer. When I cannot walk, I read, and read perhaps more than is good for me. But I cannot be idle. The only mercy that I show myself in this respect is, that I read nothing that requires much closeness of application."
Cowper was now recevered sufficiently to resume his correspondence with Lady Hesketh, and the following extracts will throw some additional light on the gradually improving state of his health, and on the manner in which he then spent his time. "My dear cousin, though it costs me something to write, it would cost me more to be silent. My intercourse with my neighbours being renewed, I can no longer forget how many reasons there are, why you especially should not be neglected; no neighbour, indeed, but the kindest of my friends, and ere long, I hope an inmate. My health and spirits seem to be mending daily. To what end I know not, neither will conjecture, but endeavour, as far as I can, to be content that they do so. I use exercise, and take the air in the park; I read much; have lately read Savary's Travels in Egypt; Memoirs of Baron du Tott; Fenn's Original Letters; the Letters of Frederick of Bohemia; and am now reading Memoirs d'Henri de Lorraine, Due de Guise. I have also read Barclay's Argenis, a Latin romance, and the best romance that was ever written. All these, together with Madan's Letters to Priestly, and several pamphlets, I have read within these two months. So that you will say I am a great reader. I, however, write but little, because writing is become new to me; but I shall come on by degrees, and hope to regain the use of my pen before long. Our friends at the Hall make themselves more and more amiable in our account, by, treating us rather as old friends, that as friends newly acquired. There are few days In which we do not meet, and I am now almost as much at home in their house as in my own. I have the free use of their library, an acquisition of great value to me, as I cannot live without books. By this means, I have been so well supplied, that I have not yet even looked at the Lounger; which you were so kind as to send me. His turn comes next, and I shall probably begin him to-morrow."
Cowper's correspondence with Mr. Newton; had now been suspended for some months. In the beginning of the ensuing October he renewed it; and the following extracts will afford some interesting information respecting the peculiarity of his case. "My Dear Friend,—After a long but necessary interruption of our correspondence, I return to it again, in one respect, at least, better qualified for it than before; I mean by a belief of your identity, which for thirteen years, strange and unaccountable as it may appear, I did not believe. The acquisition of this light, if light it may be called, which leaves me as much in the dark as ever, on the most interesting subjects, releases me, however, from the most disagreeable suspicion that I am addressing myself to you as the friend whom I loved and valued so highly in my better days, while in fact you are not that friend, but a stranger. I can now write to you without seeming to act a part, and without having any need to charge myself with dissimulation; a charge from which, in that state of mind, and under such an uncomfortable persuasion, I know not how to exculpate myself, and which, as you will easily conceive, not seldom made my correspondence with you a burden. Still, indeed, it wants, and is likely to want, that best ingredient, which alone can make it truly pleasant, either to myself or you—that spirituality which once enlivened all our intercourse. You will tell me, no doubt, that the knowledge I have gained is an earnest of more, and more valuable information too; and that the dispersion of the clouds in part, promises, in due time, their complete dispersion. I should be happy to believe it: but the power to do so is at present far from me. Never was the mind of man benighted to a degree that mine has been. The storms that have assailed me would have overset the faith of every man that ever had any; and the very remembrance of them, even after they have been long passed by, makes hope impossible. Mrs. Unwin, whose poor bark is still Tield together, though much shattered by being tossed and agitated so long at the side of mine, does not forget yours and Mrs. Newton's kindness on this last occasion. Mrs. Newton's offer to come to her assistance, and your readiness to have rendered us the same service, could you have hoped for any salutary effect of your presence, neither Mrs. Unwin nor myself undervalue, nor shall presently forget. But you judged right when you supposed that even your company would have been no relief to me; the company of my father or my brother, could they have been returned from the dead to visit me, would have been none. We are now busy in preparing for the reception of Lady Hesketh, whom we expect here shortly. Mrs. Unwin's time has, of course, been lately occupied to a degree that made writing to her impracticable; and she excused herself the rather, knowing my intentions to take her office. It does not, however, suit me to write much at a time. This last tempest has left my nerves in a worse condition than it found them; my head especially, though better informed, is more infirm than ever; I will therefore only add, that I rejoice to hear Mrs. Cowper has been so comfortably supported under her heavy trial. She must have severely felt the loss of her son. She has an affectionate heart towards her children, and could not but be sensible of the bitterness of such a cup. But God's presence sweetens every bitter. Desertion is the only evil that a christian cannot bear."
Cowper's friends were all delighted to see him again in full possession of his mental powers; and, as many of them attributed his last attack to the irritation and fatigue occasioned by his translation of Homer, they endeavoured to dissuade him from pursuing it, and recommended him to confine his attention to original poetry. Cowper wastiot, however, to be diverted from his purpose without an irrefragable proof of its injurious tendency, and he had formed a very different opinion on the subject to that of his friends. In a letter to Mr. Newton, he particularly adverts to it.—"I have many kind friends, who, like yourself, wish that, instead of turning my endeavours to a translation of Homer, I had proceeded in the way of original poetry. Bu> I can truly say, that it was ordered otherwise, notbyme,butbythatGod who governs all my thoughts and directs all my intentions as he pleases. It may seem strange, but it is true, that after-having written a volume, in general, with great ease to myself, I found it impossible to write another page. The mind of man is .not a fountain, but a cistern; and mine, God knows, a broken one. It is my creed, that the intellect depends as much, both for the energy and the multitude of its exertions, upon the operations of God's agency upon it, as the heart, for the exercise of its graces, upon the influence of the Holy Spirit. According to this persuasion, I may very reasonably, affirm, that it was not God's good pleasure that I should proceed in the same track, because he did not enable me to do it. A whole year I waited, and waited in circumstances of mind that made a state of mere employment peculiarly irksome to me. I longed for the pen as the only remedy, but I eould find no subject: extreme distress at last, drove rne, as, if I mistake not, I told you some time since, to lay Homer before me, and translate for amusement. Why it pleased God that I should be hunted into such a business, of such enormous length and labour, by miseries for which he did not see good to afford me any other remedy, I know not. But so it was; and jejune as the consolation may be, and unsuited to the exigencies of a mind that once was spiritual, yet a thousand times have I been glad of it, for a thousand times it has served, at least, to divert my attention in some, degree, from such terrible tempests as I believe have seldom been permitted to beat upon a human mind. Let my friends, therefore, who wish me some little measure of tranquillity in the performance of the most turbulent voyage that ever Christian mariner made, be contented, that having Homer's mountains and forests to windward, I escape, under their shelter, from many a gust of melancholy depression that would almost overset me, especially when they consider that, not by choice, but by necessity, I make them my refuge. As to the
fame, and honour, and glory, that may be acquired by poetical feats of any sort, God knows, that if I could lay me down in my grave with hope at my side, or sit with this companion in a dungeon all the residue of my days, I would cheerfully waive them all. For, the little fame that I have already earned, has never saved me from one distressing night, or from one despairing day, since I first acquired it. For what I am reserved, or to what, is a mystery; I would fain hope, not merely that I may amuse others, or only to be a translator of Homer."
Ten months had now elapsed since Cowpei had laid aside his translation, and as Johnston, the publisher, had been informed of his recovery, he wrote to require him to persevere in the work with as little delay as possible.—Cowper immediately recommenced the undertaking, and again entered upon it with all his former spirit and activity. The following extracts will show that his affliction had not deprived him of the vigour of his mind, or produced in him the slightest disinclination to engage in this laborious work. "I am as heretofore occupied with Homer; my present occupation is the revisal of all I have done, which is the first fifteen books. I stand amazed at my own increasing dexterity in the business, being verily persuaded that as far as I have gone, I have improved the work to double its value. I will assure you, that it engages, unavoidably, my whole attention. The length of it, the spirit of it, and the exactness requisite to its due performance, are so many most interesting subjects of consideration to me, who find that my best attempts are only introductory to others, and, that what to-day I supposed finished, to-morrow I must begin again. Thus it fares with a translator of Homer.—To exhibit the majesty of such a poet in a modern language, is a task that no man can estimate the difficulty of till he attempts it. To paraphrase him loosely, to hang him with trappings that do not belong to him, all this is comparatively easy. But to represent him with only his own ornaments, and still to preserve his dignity, is a labour, that if I hope in any measure to achieve it, I am sensible can only be achieved by the most assiduous and most unremitting attention; a perseverance that nothing can discourage, a minuteness of observation that suffers nothing to escape, and a determination not to be seduced from the straight line that lies before us, by any images which fancy may present. There are perhaps, few arduous undertakings that are not, in fact, more arduous than we at first supposed them. As we proceed, difficulties increase upon us, but our hopes gather strength