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eyes. The last sudden change of weather, from excessive heat to a wintry degree of cold, occasioned it, and at the same time gave me a pinch of the rheumatic kind, from both which disorders I have but just recovered. I do not suppose that our climate has been much altered since the days of our forefathers, the Picts; but certainly the human constitution, in this country, has altered very much. Inured as we are from our cradles to every vicissitude, in a climate more various than any other, and in possession of all that modern refinement has been able to contrive for our security, we are yet as subject to blights as the tenderest blossoms of spring; and we are so well admonished of every change in the atmosphere by our bodily feelings, as hardly to have any need of a weather-glass to mark them. For this we are, no doubt, indebted to the multitude of our accommodations; for it was not possible to retain the hardiness that originally belonged to our race, under the delicate management to which, for many ages, we have been accustomed. It is observable, however, that though we have by these means lost much of our pristine vigour, our days are not the fewer. We live as long as those whom, on account of the sturdiness of their frame, the poets supposed to liave been the progeny of oaks. Perhaps, too, they had but little feeling, and for that reason might be imagined to be so descended; for a very robust, athletic habit, seems inconsistent with much sensibility. But sensibility is the sine quâ non of real happiness. If, therefore, our lives have not been shortened, and if our feelings have been rendered more exquisite, as our habit of body has become more delicate, on the whole we have no cause to complain, but are rather gainers by our degeneracy.”

In the beginning of June, 1788, an event occurred, which, though it had been long expected by Cowper and

by all his friends, could not fail to make a deep impression upon his peculiarly sensitive mind. This was the death of his esteemed and venerable relation Ashly Cowper, Esq., Clerk of the Parliaments, and brother to Cowper's father, the last moments of whose life his daughter, Lady Hesketh, had watched over with the tenderest solicitude. In reply to an affectionate letter from his friend Mr. Hill, apprizing him of the event, he thus writes : _“ Your letter brought me the first intelligence of the event it mentions. My last from Lady Hesketh gave me reason enough to expect it; but the certainty of it was unknown to me till I learned it by your information. If gradual decline, the consequence of great age, be a sufficient preparation of the mind to encounter such a loss, our minds were certainly prepared to meet it: yet to you I need not say that no preparation can supersede the feelings of the heart on such occasions. While our friends yet live, inhabitants of the same world with ourselves, they seem still to live to us — we are sure that they often think of us; and, however improbable it may seem, it is never impossible that we may see each other once again. But the grave, like a great gulph, swallows all such expectations, and in the moment when a beloved friend sinks into it, a thousand tender recollections awaken a regret that will be felt in spite of all reasonings, and let our warnings have been what they may. My dear uncle's death awakened in me many reflections, which, for a time, sunk my spirits. A man like him would have been mourned had he doubled the age he reached. At any age his death would have been felt as a loss that no survivor could repair. And though it was not probable that, for my own part, I should ever see him more, yet the consciousness that he still lived, was a comfort to me. Let it comfort us now, that we have lost him only at a time when nature could afford him to us no longer ; that as his life

was blameless, so was his death without anguish, and that he is gone to heaven. I know not that human life, in its most prosperous state, can present anything to our wishes half so desirable as such a close of it.”

In another letter, he again writes :-“ We have indeed lost one who has not left his like in the present generation of our family; and whose equal, in all respects, no future generation of it will probably produce. I often think what a joyful interview there has been between him and some of his friends who went before him. The truth of the matter is, my dear, they are happy ones, and we shall never be entirely so ourselves till we have joined the party. Can there be anything so worthy of our warmest wishes as to enter on an eternal, unchangeable state, in blessed fellowship and communion with those whose society we valued most, and for the best reasons, while they continued with us? A few steps more through a vain, foolish world, and this happiness will be yours. But I earnestly hope the end of thy journey is not near. For of all that live, thou art one whom I can least spare ; for thou also art one who shall not leave thy equal behind thee.”

The state of Cowper's mind at this period will be discovered by the following extract from a letter to his friend Mr. Bull, who appears to have solicited him for some original hymns, to be used by him probably on some public occasion. “Ask possibilities, and they shall be performed; but ask not hymns from a man suffering with despair as I do. I would not sing the Lord's song were it to save my life, banished as I am, not to a strange land, but to a remoteness from his presence, in comparison with which the distance from east to west is no distance - is vicinity and cohesion. I dare not, either in prose or verse, allow myself to express a frame of mind which I am conscious does not belong to me ; least of all can I venture to

use the language of absolute resignation, lest, only counterfeiting, I should, for that very reason, be taken strictly at my word, and lose all my remaining comfort. Can there not be found, among the translations of Madame Guion, somewhat that might serve the purpose? I should think there might. Submission to the will of Christ, my memory tells me, is a theme that pervades them all. If so, your request is performed already; and if any alteration in them should be necessary, I will, with all my heart, make it. I have no objection to giving the graces of a foreigner an English dress, but insuperable ones to all false pretences and affected exhibitions of what I do not feel.”

Several of Cowper's correspondents, at this time, again strongly urged him to write a poem on the Slave Trade. The following extracts will shew that he was unwilling to give a refusal, though he could by no means prevail upon himself to accede to their wishes. “ Twice or thrice, before your request came, have I been solicited to write a poem on the cruel, odious, and disgusting subject of Negro Slavery. But besides that it would be in some sort treason against Homer to abandon him for any other matter, I felt myself so much hurt in my spirits the moment I entered on the contemplation of it, that I have at last determined, absolutely, to have nothing more to do with it. There are some scenes of horror on which my imagination has dwelt not without some complacency; but then they are such scenes as God, not man, produces. In earthquakes, high winds, tempestuous seas, there is a grand as well as a terrible. But when man is tempted to disturb, there is such meanness in the design, and such cruelty in the execution, that I both hate and despise the whole operation, and feel it a degradation of poetry to employ her in the description of it. I hope, also, that the generality of my countrymen have more generosity in their nature than to

want the fiddle of verse to go before them in the performance of an act to which they are invited by the loudest calls of humanity. I shall rejoice if your friend, influenced by what you told him of my present engagements, shall waive his aplication to me for a poem on this revolting subject. I account myself honoured by his intention to solicit one, and it would give me pain to refuse him, which inevitably I shall be constrained to do. The more I have considered it, the more I have convinced myself that it is not a promising theme for verse, at least to me. General censure on the iniquity of the practice will avail nothing. The world has been overwhelmed with such remarks already, and to particularize all the horrors of it, were an employment for the mind, both of the poet and of his readers, of which they would necessarily soon grow weary. For my own part, I cannot contemplate the subject very nearly, without a degree of abhorrence that affects my spirits, and sinks them below the pitch requisite for success in verse. Lady Hesketh recommended it to me some months since, and then I declined it for those reasons, and for others which I need not now mention.”

The close attention that Cowper found it necessary to pay to his Homer, left him, at this period, but little time for any other engagement. Adverting to this, he thus writes to Mr. Newton :-“ It is a comfort to me that you are so kind as to make allowance for me, in consequence of my being so busy a man. The truth is, that could I write with both hands, and with both at the same time,- verse with one, and prose with the other, - I should not, even so, be able to despatch both my poetry and my arrears of correspondence faster than I have need. The only opportunities that I can find for conversing with distant friends are in the early hour, (and that sometimes reduced to half a one,) before breakfast. Neither am I exempt from hind

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