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happier than they could be here, and that we shall join them soon again: this is solid comfort, could we but avail ourselves of it, but I confess the difficulty of doing so always. Sorrow is like the deaf adder, that hears not the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely; and I feel so myself for the death of Austen, that my own chief consolation is, that I had never seen him. Live yourself, I beseech you, for I have seen so much of you, that I can by no means spare you, and I will live as long as it shall please God to permit. I know you set some value upon me, therefore let that promise comfort you, and give us not reason to say, like David's servants, 'We know that it would have pleased thee more if all we had died, than this one, for whom thou art inconsolable.' You have still Romney, and Carwardine, and Grey, and me, and my poor Mary, and I know not how many beside; as many I suppose as ever had an opportunity of spending a day with you. He who has the most friends, must necessarily lose the most; and he whose friends are numerous as yours, may the better spare a part of them. It is a changing transient scene: yet a little while, and this poor dream of life will be over with all of us. The living, and they who live unhappy, they are indeed the subjects of sorrow."
To his esteemed friend, Rev. Mr. Hurdis, who, as above related, had lost one beloved sister, and was in great danger of losing another, he thus writes, June, 1793: ."I seize a passing moment, merely to say that I feel for your distresses, and sincerely pity you, and I shall be happy to learn from your next that your sister's amendment has superseded the necessity you feared of a journey to London. Your candid account that your afflictions have broken your spirits and temper, I can perfectly understand, having laboured much in that fire myself, and perhaps more than any man. It is in such a school that we must learn, if we ever truly learn it, the natural depravity of the human heart, and of our own in particular, together with the consequence that necessarily follows such wretched premises; our indispensable need of the atonement, and our inexpressible obligations to Him who made it. This reflection cannot escape a thinking mind, looking back on those ebullitions of fretfulness and impatience to which it has yielded in a season of great affliction."
Early in the spring of this year, 1793, Cowper's esteemed relative, Rev. John Johnson, after much mature and solemn deliberation, had resolved to take holy orders. Cowper had always regarded him with the most paternal affection, and had wished that he should enter upon the important office of a christian minister, with a high sense of the greatness of the work, and with suitable qualifications for a proper discharge of its solemn duties. In accordance with these wishes, when Mr. Johnson, in a previous year, had relinquished his intentions of taking orders at that time, Cowper had thus addressed him. "My dearest of all Johnnys, I am not sorry that your ordination is postponed. A year's learning and wisdom, added to your present stock, will not be more than enough to satisfy the demands of your function. Neither am I sorry that you find it difficult to fix your thoughts to the serious point at all times. It proves, at least, that you attempt, and wish to do it, and these are good symptoms. Woe to those who enter on the ministry of the gospel without having previously asked, at least from God, a mind and spirit suited to their occupation, and whose experience never differs from itself, because they are always alike vain, light, and inconsiderate. It is therefore matter of great joy to me to hear you complain of levity, as it indicates the existence of anxiety of mind to be freed from it."
The gratification it afforded Cowper to find that his beloved relative entered into the ministry with scriptural views and feelings, is thus expressed: "What you say of your determined purpose, with God's help, to take up the cross, and despise the shame, gives us both great pleasure: in our pedigree is found one, at least, who did it before you. Do you the like, and you will meet him in heaven, as sure as the scripture is the word of God. The quarrel that the world has with evangelic men and doctrines, they would have with a host of angels in human form, for it is the quarrel of owls with sunshine; of ignorance with divine illumination. The Bishop of Norwich has won my heart by his kind and liberal behaviour to you, and if 1 knew him I would tell him so. I am glad that your auditors find your voice strong, and your utterance distinct; glad, too, that your doctrine has hitherto made you no enemies. You have a gracious Master, who, it seems, will not suffer you to see war in the beginning. It . will be a wonder, however, if you do not find out, sooner or later, that sore place in every heart, which can ill endure the touch of apostolic doctrine. Somebody will smart in his conscience, and you will hear of it. I say not this to terrify you, but to prepare you for what is likely to happen, and which, troublesome as it may prove, is yet devoutly to be wished; for, in general, there is little good done by preachers till the world begins to abuse them. But understand me right. I do not mean that you should give them unnecessary provoca
tion, by scolding and railing at them, as some, more zealous than wise, are apt to do. That were to deserve their anger. No; there is no need of it. The self-abasing doctrines of the gospel will, of themselves, create you enemies; but remember this for your comfort—they will also, in due time, transform them into friends, and make them love you as if they were your own children. God give you many such; as, if you are faithful to his cause I trust he will."
About this time Mr. Hayley appears to have applied to Cowper for his assistance, in a joint literary undertaking of some magnitude, with himself and two other distinguished literary characters. Anxious, however, as Cowper was on all occasions to oblige his friend, he could not give his consent to this measure. His reply, given partly in poetry and partly in prose, while it shows the peculiar state of his mind, exhibits, at the same time, so much of that amiable modesty by which he was always distinguished, that it cannot be read without interest.
"Dear architect of fine chateaux in air,
"What remains for me to say on this subject, my dear brother, I will say in prose. There are other impediments to the plan you propose, which I could not comprise within the bounds of a sonnet. My poor Mary's infirm condition makes it impossible for me, at present, to engage in a work such as ou propose. My thoughts are not sufficiently free; nor have , nor can I, by any means find opportunity; added to it comes a difficulty which, though you are not at all aware of it, presents itself to me under a most forbidding appearance. Can you guess it? No, not you: neither, perhaps, will you be able to imagine that such a difficulty can possibly exist. If your hair begins to bristle, stroke it down again; for there
is no need why it should erect itself. It concerns me, not you. I know myself too well not to know that I am nobody in verse, unless in a corner and alone, and unconnected in my operations. This is not owing to want-of love to you, my brother, or in the most consummate confidence in you—I have both in a degree that has not been exceeded in the experience of any friend you have. or ever had. But! am so made up— I will not enter into a philosophical analysis of my strange constitution, in order to detect the true cause of the evil; but, on a general view of the matter, I suspect that it proceeds from that shyness which has been my effectual and almost total hinderance on many other important occasions, and which I should feel, I well know, on this, to a degree that would perfectly cripple me. No! I shall neither do, nor attempt, anything of consequence more, unless my poor Mary get better: nor even then, unless it should please God to give me another nature. I could not thus act in concert with any man, not even with my own father or brother, were they now alive! Small game must serve me at present, and till I have done with Homer and Milton. The utmost that I aspire to, and Heaven knows with how feeble a hope, is to write, at some future and better opportunity, when my hands are free, The Four Ages. Thus I have opened my heart unto thee." On another occasion he thus plaintively writes:—" I find that much study fatigues me, which is a proof that I am somewhat stricken in years. Certain it is that, ten or sixteen years ago, I could have done as much, and did actually do much more, without suffering the least fatigue, than I can possibly accomplish now. How insensibly old age steals on us, and how often it is actually arrived before we suspect it! Accident alone; some occurrence that suggests a comparison of our former with our present selves, affords the discovery. Well, it is always good to be undeceived, especially in an article of such importance."
To a person less intimately acquainted with Cowper than Mr. Hayley was, the above reply would have been amply sufficient to have prevented him from making any further application of a similar nature. He, however, was not to be thus easily diverted from his purpose. Of the talents of Cowper he had justly formed the highest opinion, and had wisely concluded, that if they could only be again brought fairly and fully into exercise, in the composition of original poetry, the result would be everything that could be wished. Immediately, therefore, on receiving the above letter, he proffered Cowper his own assistance, and the assistance of two other esteemed friends, in composing the projected poem, "The Four Ages," and proposed that it-should be their joint production. His principal object was, unquestionably, to induce Cowper to employ his unrivalled talents. The pleasure he anticipated in having such a coadjutor, gratifying as it must have been to his feelings, was only a secondary consideration. Averse as Cowper was to the former proposal, he immediately consented to this, and the following extract will show what were his feelings on the occasion:—" I am in haste to tell you how much I am delighted with your projected quadruple alliance, and to assure you that, if it please God to afford me health, spirits, ability and leisure, I will not fail to devote them all to the production of my quota in " The Four Ages." You are very kind to humour me as you do, and had need be a little touched yourself with all my oddities, that you may know how to administer to mine. All whom I love do so, and I believe it to be impossible to love heartily those who do not. People must not do me good in their way, but in my own, and then they do me' good indeed. My pride, my ambition, and my friendship for you, and the interest I take in my own dear self, will all be consulted and gratified, by an arm-in-arm appearance with you in public; and I shall work with more zeal and assiduity at Homer; and when Homer is finished, at Milton, with the prospect of such a coalition before me. I am at this moment, with all the imprudence natural to poets, expending nobody knows what, in embellishing my premises, or rather the premises of my neighbour Courtenay, which is more poetical still. Your project, therefore, is most opportune, as any project must needs be, that has so direct a tendency to put money into the pocket of one so likely to want it."
"Ah, brother poet! send me of your shade,
It is deeply to be regretted that the pleasing anticipations of both Mr. Hayley and Cowper, respecting this joint production, were never realized. Had this poem been written, it would, in all probability, have been equal to any that had ever been published. Cowper was, however, at this time, rapidly sinking into that deep and settled melancholy which it now becomes our painful duty to relate, and in which he continued during the remaining period of his life, notwith. standing the united and indefatigable exertions of his friends to afford him relief,