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from home; but will obtain for us, if your prayers can do it, all that we would ask for ourselves—the presence and favour of God, a salutary effect of our journey, and a safe return."
Anxious to enjoy the pleasure of Cowper's company at Eartham, Mr. Hayley, in his letters to the poet, urged him, by no means to defer his visit till late in the summer. From Cowper's replies we select the following interesting extracts. "The weather is sadly against my Mary's recovery; it deprives her of many a good turn in the orchard, and fifty times have I wished this very day, that Dr. Darwin's scheme of giving rudders and sails to the icelands, that spoil all our summers, were actually put into practice. So should we have gentle airs instead of fhurlish blasts, and those everlasting sources of bad weather, being once navigated into the southern hemisphere, my Mary would recover as fast again. We are both of your mind respecting the journey to Eartham, and think that July, if by that time she have strength for the journey, will be better than August. This, however, must be left to the Giver of all Good. If our visit to you be according to his will, he will smooth our way before Us, and appoint the time of it; and I thus speak not because I wish to seem a saint in your eyes, but because my poor Mary actually is one, and would not set her foot over the threshold, unless she had, or thought she had, God's free permission. With that she would go through floods and fire, though without it she would be afraid of everything—afraid even to visit you, dearly as she loves, and much as she longs to see you."
In another letter to Mr. Hayley, he writes, "The progress of the old nurse in Terence is very much like the progress of my poor patient in the road to recovery. I cannot indeed say that she moves but advances not, for advances are certainly made, but the progress of a week is hardly perceptible. I know not, therefore, at present, what to say about this long postponed journey; the utmost that it is safe for me to say at this moment is this,—you know that you are dear to us both; true it is that you are so, and equally true, that the very instant we feel ourselves at liberty, we will fly to Eartham. You wish me to settle the time, and L wish with all my heart so to do; living in hopes, meanwhile, that I shall be able to do it soon. But some little time must necessarily intervene. Our Mary must be able to walk alone, to cut her own food, and to feed herself, and to wear her own shoes, for at present she wears mine. All these things considered, my friend and brother, you will see the expediency of waiting a little before we set eff to Eartham. We mean, indeed, before that day arrives, to make a trial of her strength; how far she may be able to bear the motion of a carriage, a motion that she has not felt these seven years. I grieve that we are thus circumstanced, and that we cannot gratify ourselves in a delightful and innocent project, without all these precautions; but when we have leaf-gold to handle, we must do it tenderly."
The day was at length fixed for this long-intended journey; and the following letter to Mr. Hayley, written a day or two previously, describes Cowper's feelings respecting it:—
"Through floods and flames to your retreat
I win my desp'rate way,
Will echo your huzza '."
"You will wonder at the word desperate in the second line, and at the if in the third; but could you have any conception of the fears that I have had to bustle with, of the dejectionjof spirits I have suffered concerning this journey, you would wonder much that I still courageously persevere in my resolution to undertake it. Fortunately for my intention, it happens that as the day approaches my terrors abate; for had they continued to be, what they were a week ago, I must, after all, have disappointed you; and was actually once, on the verge of doing it. I have told you something of my nocturnal experiences, and assure you now, that they were hardly ever more terrific than on this occasion. Prayer has, however, opened my passage at last, and obtained for me a degree of confidence, that I trust will prove a comfortable viaticum to me all the way. The terrors that I have spoken of, would appear ridiculous to most, but to you they will not, for you are a reasonable creature, and know well that to whatever cause it be owing, (whether to constitution or to God's express appointment) I am hunted by spiritual hounds in the night season. I cannot help it. You will pity me, and wish it were otherwise; and though you may think there is much of the imaginary in it, will not deem it, for that reason, an evil Jess to be lamented. So much for fears and distresses. Soon I hope they will all have a joyful termination, and I and my Mary be skipping with delight at Eartham."
The protracted indisposition of Mrs. Unwin, and the preparation which Cowper thought it necessary to make for his journey, had entirely diverted his mind from his literary undertaking. To Mr. Hayley, on this point, he thus writes: —" I know not how you proceed in your Life of Milton, hut I suppose not very rapidly, for while you were here, and since you left us, you have had no other theme but me. As for myself, except my letters, and the nuptial song I sent you in my last, I have literally done nothing, since I saw you. Nothing, I mean, in the writing way, though a great deal in another; that is to say, in attending my poor Mary, and endeavouring to nurse her up for a journey to Eartham. In this I have hitherto succeeded tolerably well, and I had rather carry this point completely than be the most famous editor of Milton the world has ever seen, or shall see. As to this affair, I know not what will become of it. I wrote to Johnson a week since to tell him, that the interruption of Mrs. Unwin's illness still continued, and being likely to continue, I knew not when I should be able to proceed. The translations I said were finished, except the revisal of a part. I hope, or rather wish, that at Eartham I may recover that habit of study, which, inveterate as it once seemed, I now seem to have lost—lost to such a degree, that it is even painful for me to think of what it will cost me to acquire it again."
About this time, at the request of a much esteemed relative, Cowper sat to Abbot, the painter, for his portrait; and the following playful manner in which he adverts to the circumstance, exhibits the peculiarity of his case, and shows, that though he was almost invariably suffering under the influence of deep depression, he frequently wrote to his correspondents, in a strain the most sprightly and cheerful:— "How do you imagine I have been occupied these last ten days 1 In sitting, not on cockatrice eggs, nor yet to gratify a mere idle humour, nor because I was too sick to move, but because my cousin Johnson has an aunt who has a longing desire of my picture, and because he would, therefore, bring a painter from London to draw it. For this purpose I have been sitting, as I say, these ten days; and am heartily glad that my sitting time is over. The likeness is so strong, that when my friends enter the room where the picture is. they start, astonished to see me where they know I am not."
"Abbot is painting me so true,
Miserable man that you are, to be at Brighton, instead of being here, to contemplate this prodigy of art, which, therefore, you can never see, for it goes to London next Monday to be suspended awhile at Abbot's, and then proceeds to Norfolk, where it will be suspended for ever."
Journey to Eartham—Incidents of it—Safe arrival—description of its beauties—Employment there—Reply to a letter from Mr. Hurdis, on the death of his sister—State of Cowper's mind at Eartham—His great attention to Mrs. Unwin—Return to Weston—Interview with General Cowper—Safe arrival at their beloved retreat—Violence of his depressive malady —Regrets the loss of his studious habit—Ineffectual efforts to obtain it— Warmth of his affection for Mr. Hay ley—Dread of January Prepares for a second edition of Homer—Commences writing notes upon it—Labour it occasioned him—His close application—Continuance of his depression—Judicious consolatory advice he gives to his friends—Letter to Rev. J. Johnson on his taking orders—Pleasure it afforded him to find that his relative entered apon the work with suitable feelings—Reply to Mr. Hayley respecting a joint literary undertaking.
Cowper and Mrs. Unwin set out for Eartham in the beginning of August, 1792. It pleased God to conduct them thither in safety; and though considerably fatigued with their journey, they were much less so than they had anticipated. Cowper's letters to his friends after his arrival, describe his feelings on the occasion, in a manner the most pleasing :— "Here we are, at Eartham, in the most elegant mansion that I have ever inhabited, and surrounded by the most beautiful pleasure-grounds that I have ever seen; but. which, dissipated as my powers of thought are at present, I will not undertake to describe. It shall suffice me to say that they occupy three sides of a hill, which in Buckinghamshire might well pass for a mountain, and from the summit of which is beheld a most magnificent landscape, bounded by the sea, and in one part by the Isle of Wight, which may also be seen plainly from the window of the library, in which I am writing. It pleased God to carry us both through the journey with far less difficulty and inconvenience than I expected; I began it indeed with a thousand fears, and when we arrived the first evening at Barnet, found myself oppressed in spirit to a degree that could hardly be exceeded. I saw Mrs. Unwin