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FINAL AND FATAL RECURRENCE OF COWPER'S MALADY.-LADY HESKETH'S AFFECTIONATE CARE.-DEPARTURE OF COWPER AND MRS. UNWIN FROM WESTON.-MRS. UNWIN'S DEATH.-COWPER'S LETTERS AND TERRORS.-THE PROGRESS OF HIS DESPAIR.-LAST LETTER TO NEWTON.-LAST ORIGINAL COMPOSITIO N.-THE CASTAWAY.-RELEASE AND DELIVERANCE.
In the year 1794, when the dreadful malady increased upon Cowper with all its early force, his beloved cousin, Lady Hesketh, hastened to his care. She found him in a most deplorable condition, and the description of the circumstances in her letters makes us rather wonder that he had not been sooner and more completely overwhelmed. Mrs. Unwin had sunk, after her last attack of the palsy, into second childhood. Hayley says: "The distress of heart that he felt in beholding the cruel change in a companion so justly dear to him, conspiring with his constitutional melancholy, was gradually undermining the exquisite faculties of his mind." He then refers to Lady Hesketh's cheerful and affectionate kindness, as an angel of mercy, "who now devoted herself to the superin
LADY HESKETH'S LETTER. 381
tendence of a house, whose two interesting inhabitants were rendered, by age and trouble, almost incapable of attending to the ordinary offices of life. Those only who have lived with the superannuated and the melancholy can properly appreciate the value of such magnanimous friendship, or perfectly apprehend what personal sufferings it must cost a frame of compassionate sensibility."
Lady Hesketh, after noting that this last interval of Cowper's dreadful dejection began in the month of which he always lived in terror, that of January, says that she found him on her arrival "the absolute nurse of this poor lady Mrs. Unwin, who can not move out of her chair without help, nor walk across the room unless supported by two people; added to this, her voice is almost wholly unintelligible, and as their house was repairing all summer, he was reduced, poor soul, for many months, to have no conversation but hers. You must imagine, sir, that his situation was terrible indeed; and the more, as he was deprived, by means of this poor lady, of all his wonted exercises, both mental and bodily, as she did not choose he should leave her for a moment, or use a pen, or a book except when he read to her, which is an employment that always, I know, fatigues and hurts him, and which therefore my arrival relieved him from. I thought him, on the whole,
better than I expected he would have been in such a situation."
In another letter, Lady Hesketh described the increasing force of Cowper's malady, and the terrors that were gathering around him. "He is now come to expect daily, and even hourly, that he shall be carried away;-and he kept in his room from the time breakfast was over till four o'clock on Sunday last, in spite of repeated messages from Mrs. Unwin, because he was afraid somebody would take possession of his bed, and prevent his lying down on it any more!"
In July, 1795, Cowper and Mrs. Unwin were both removed from Weston to North Tuddenham, under the affectionate care of Mr. Johnson, and from thence, in August, to Mundesley, on the coast of Norfolk. While at Tuddenham, Cowper and Johnson walked over together to the village of Mattishall, on a visit to Mrs. Bodham, the poet's cousin. Cowper's own portrait by Abbot was there, taken at Weston in July, 1792, when Cowper and Mrs. Unwin were on the eve of their journey to Mr. Hayley's, at Eartham. He was then filled with trembling apprehensions on her account, and beginning to be harassed with a thousand anxieties about the pilgrimage of a hundred and twelve miles; hunted, as he told Hayley, by spiritual hounds in the night season, and scared with dreaming visions more terrific than ever. Yet
PORTRAIT BY ABBOT.
nothing of such terror was imprinted by day upon his mild and pensive countenance, and the portrait by Abbot was a most successful effort. Every creature that saw it was astonished at the resemblance. Cowper wrote Hayley that Sam's boy bowed to it, and Beau, his dog, walked up to it, wagging his tail as he went, aud evidently showing that he acknowledged its likeness to his
Now it is a most impressive sign of the acuteness of Cowper's mental distress, that, notwithstanding the sadness and dejection of his state when this picture was taken, it was, by comparison with his present darkness and despair, a season of most enviable light and enjoyment. When his gaze rested on the portrait at Mrs. Bodham's house, he clasped his hands, according to Hayley's account, in a paroxysm of pain, and uttered a vehement wish that his present sensations might be such as they were when that picture was painted!
While at Mundesley, Cowper wrote a single letter to Mr. Buchanan, the only effort he had been able to make, even in epistolary correspondence with his dearest friends (except Lady Hesketh) for a considerable interval. He longed to hear something from his beloved home at Weston, and closed his letter with a request, most tenderly illustrating the strength of his home affections and sensibilities. "Tell me if my poor birds are living! I
COWPER AT DUNHAM.
never see the herbs I used to give them without a recollection of them, and sometimes am ready to gather them, forgetting that I am not at home.”
In 1796, the two invalids resided with Mr. Johnson at Dunham Lodge, whence in September they again visited the sea-side at Mundesley, but in October retired to Mr. Johnson's house in Dunham for the winter. There Mrs. Unwin died, at the age of seventy-two; but the extreme depression of spirits produced by Cowper's malady prevented him entirely from the experience of that distress and anguish, with which such an event would, in a state of health and hope, have overwhelmed him. From the day of her death, he never mentioned her name, and seemed not even to retain the remembrance of such a person ever having existed. He continued under the same depression through the year 1797, but was persuaded by the affectionate and winning entreaties of his young kinsman to renew his labors on the revisal of his Homer, notwithstanding the pressure of his malady. The year 1798 passed away with but little variation in his state, and by the 8th of March, 1799, he had completed the revisal of the Odyssey, and the next morning wrote part of a new preface. But this was his last continuous intellectual effort, although he wrote one or two gloomy letters, and one more original poem.
The perusal of the letters (few, and despairing