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SINGULARLY VIVID DREAM. 325
that my salvation is impossible. I recapitulated, in the most impassioned accent and manner, the unexampled severity of God's dealings with me in the course of the last twenty years, especially in the year 1773, and again in 1786, and concluded all with observing that I must infallibly perish, and that the Scriptures which speak of the insufficiency of man to save himself can never be understood unless I perish." Again he says, "I was visited with a horrible dream, in which I seemed to be taking a final leave of my dwelling, and every object with which I have been most familiar, on the evening before my execution. I felt the tenderest regret at the separation, and looked about for something durable to carry with me as a memorial. The iron hasp of the garden-door presenting itself, I was on the point of taking that; but recollecting that the heat of the fire in which I was going to be tormented would fuse the metal, and that it would therefore only serve to increase my insupportable misery, I left it. I then awoke in all the horror with which the reality of such circumstances would fill me."
In one of his letters to Lady Hesketh, speaking of his continued labors upon Homer, Cowper says, and truly says: “Had Pope been subject to the same alarming speculations, had he, waking and sleeping, dreamed as I do, I am inclined to think he would not have been my predecessor in those
326 REASONINGS OF THE INSANE.
labors; for I compliment myself with a persuasion that I have more heroic valor, of the passive kind at least, than he had, perhaps than any man; it would be strange had I not, after so much exercise."
The trains of Cowper's reasoning in his dreams may some of them be curiously and instructively compared with illustrations of a waking insanity; as, for example, in the instance of George the Third, who once addressed himself to two persons long dead under the idea that they were living and in his presence. "Your Majesty forgets," said Sir Henry Halford, "that they both died many years ago." "True," replied His Majesty, "died to you and to the world in general, but not to me. You, Sir Henry, are forgetting that I have the power of holding intercourse with those whom you call dead. Yes, Sir Henry Halford, it is in vain, so far as I am concerned, that you kill your patients. Yes, Dr. Baillie; but-Baillie, Baillie ?—I don't know. Baillie is an anatomist; he dissects his patients; and then it would not be a resuscitation merely, but a re-creation; and that, I think, is beyond my power."
In the year 1787, just before the sudden and terrible attack of his malady, which was the third, Cowper had complained to Lady Hesketh of his nervous fever rendering his nights almost sleepless during a whole week. Then the fever left him en
OPINIONS ON DREAMS.
tirely, and he slept quietly, soundly, and long. Then, most unexpectedly, ensued the dreaded crisis, and Cowper's mind seemed instantly to have plunged plumb down ten thousand fathom deep into depths that he fully believed no other human being had ever sounded. The prostration continued for months, and the whole period, as to employment and social intercourse, was a vacuum, but not as to consciousness, though he never put on record a single detail of his profoundly distressing experience.
But in that letter to Lady Hesketh which preceded this attack he had been led by a reference, to Mrs. Carter's opinions on the subject of dreams, to speak of his own, which, though he said with truth that he was free from superstition, he believed were sometimes prophetic. Mrs. Carter, he said, had had no extraordinary dreams, "and therefore accounted them only the ordinary operations of the fancy. Mine are of a texture that will not suffer me to ascribe them to so inadequate a cause, or to any cause but the operation of an exterior agency. I have a mind, my dear (and to you I will venture to boast of it), as free from superstitition as any man living, neither do I give heed to dreams in general as predictive, though particular dreams I believe to be so."
The time had been when the burden of Cowper's distress was felt in gloom and apprehension
OPINIONS ON DREAMS.
mainly in the day-time, but often in his dreams he had intervals of peace and joy, and renewed that blissful communion with God, of which his hymn entitled "Retirement" presents so exquisitely beautiful a description. At a later period there came a darker change, and day and night were but a variation of the same portentous clouds and images of woe. The reasoning in the dream concerning the iron hasp of the gate is exactly an instance of the manner in which an ordinary and confirmed lunatic will reason from his insane premises while wide awake. But this was not the type of Cowper's insanity, for his mind was under complete control in the day time, and he was infinitely more sane in his dreadful depression and despair, in consequence of believing that he was cut off forever from the happiness of salvation, than any of his careless but affectionate friends were (for such he had) in their confidence and freedom from anxiety. If, as Southey has falsely said, Cowper's malady "had been what is termed religious madness," theirs was the worst madness of having no religion at all, the malady of an insane heedlessness about both its anxieties and its hopes. Dreams which by such minds would be scoffed at as the bugbears of superstition, would fill a heart that was truly anxious on the subject of an eternal state with trembling and astonishment. Such dreams might be, like the Gospel itself to men's
waking vision, the means of thoughtfulness and grace to the one class, and of contempt and perdition to the other.
Once in a while his dreams were brighter. "I dreamed about four nights ago that, walking I know not where, I suddenly found my thoughts drawn toward God, when I looked upward and exclaimed, 'I love Thee even now more than many who see Thee daily.' How affectingly true in regard to the reality was this exclamation, though uttered in a dream, and though the afflicted reason of Cowper would not have dared to utter it waking!
The notes of his misery were given in greatest fullness to his neighbor and Christian friend, Mr. Teedon, the schoolmaster at Olney, from whose papers it was that such revelations were at length presented of what Cowper really suffered. Mr. Newton regarded Mr. Teedon with friendly esteem, although Southey intimates that if Newton had been there on the ground, or if Mr. Unwin had been living, and known what was going on, they would have interposed, the one on behalf of the afflicted poet, the other on behalf of Mrs. Unwin, to prevent them from having any resort to Mr. Teedon's sympathy and prayers. Mrs. Unwin had been wont to commend their suffering friend to Mr. Teedon's supplications, that God would in mercy break away the dreadful gloom of his despondency, and restore