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known me from my cradle. When he returns to town, as he must, alas ! he will pay his respects to you. He has, I assure you, been all in all to us, on this very afflictive occasion. Love him, I charge you, dearly, for my sake. Where could I have found a man, except himself, so necessary to me, in so short a time, that I absolutely know not how to live without him ?”
Mr. Hayley left Weston early in June, at which time many pleasing symptoms of Mrs. Unwin's ultimate recovery began to appear. Cowper's letters to his friend after his departure, which were written almost daily, afford ample proofs of the warmth of his affection for him, and of the deep interest he took in promoting Mrs. Unwin's recovery. He thus commences his first letter to Mr. Hayley :-“ All's well! which words I place as conspicuously as possible, and prefix them to my letter, to save you the pain, my friend and brother, of a moment's anxious speculation. Poor Mary proceeds in her amendment, and improves, I think, even at a swifter rate than when you left her. The stronger she grows, the faster she gathers strength, which is perhaps the natural course of recovery. Yesterday was a noble day with her: speech, almost perfect - eyes, open almost the whole day, without any effort to keep them so — and her step, wonderfully improved! Can I ever honour you enough for your zeal to serve me? Truly F think not. I am, however, so sensible of the love I owe you on this account, that I every day regret the acuteness of your feelings for me, convinced that they expose you to much trouble, mortification, and disappointment. I have, in short, a poor opinion of my destiny, as I told you when you were here; and though I believe, if any man living can do me good, you will, I cannot yet persuade myself that even you will be successful in attempting it. But it is no matter : you are yourself a
good which I can never value enough; and, whether rich or poor in other respects, I shall always account myself better provided for than I deserve, with such a friend as you, that I can call my own. Let it please God to continue to me my William and Mary, and I shall be more reasonable than to grumble. I rose this morning, wrapt round with a cloud of melancholy, and with a heart full of fears; but if I see my Mary's amendment a little advanced, I shall be better.”
“ Of what materials can you suppose me made, if, after all the rapid proofs you have given me of your friendship, I do not love you with all my heart, and regret your absence continually. But you must permit me to be melancholy now and then ; or, if you will not, I must be so without your permission ; for that sable thread is so interwoven with the very thread of my existence as to be inseparable from it, at least while I exist in the body. Be content, therefore : let me sigh and groan, but always be sure that I love you. You will be well assured that I should not have indulged myself in this rhapsody about myself and my melancholy, had my present state of mind been of that complexion, or had not our poor Mary seemed still to advance in her recovery. It is a great blessing to us both, that, feeble as she is, she has a most invincible courage, and a trust in God's goodness that nothing shakes. She is certainly, in some degree, better than she was yesterday; but how to measure the degree I know not, except by saying that it is just perceptible.”
In a letter dated 11th June, 1792, Cowper thus discloses his state of mind to Lady Hesketh. “My dearest cousin, thou art ever in my thoughts, whether I am writing to thee or not, and my correspondence seems to grow upon me at such a rate, that I am not able to address thee so often as I would. In fact, I live only to write letters. Hayley is, as you see, added to the number of my correspondents, and to him I write almost as duly as I rise in the morning. Since I wrote last, Mrs. Unwin has been continually improving in strength, but at so gradual a rate, that I can only mark it by saying that she moves every day with less support than the former. On the whole, I believe she goes on as well as can be expected, though not quite so well as to satisfy me.”
" During the last two months I seem to myself to have been in a dream. It has been a most eventful period, and fruitful to an uncommon degree, both in good and in evil. I have been very ill, and suffered excruciating pain. I recovered, and became quite well again. I received within my doors a man, but lately, an entire stranger, and who now loves me as his brother, and forgets himself to serve me. Mrs. Unwin has been seized with an illness, that for many days threatened to deprive me of her, and to cast a gloom, an impenetrable one, on all my future prospects. She is now granted to me again. A few days since I should have thought the moon might have descended into my purse as likely as any emolument, and now it seems not impossible. All this has come to pass with such rapidity as events move with in romance indeed, but not often in real life. Events of all sorts creep or fly exactly as God pleases."
While Mr. Hayley was at Weston, he had persuaded Cowper and Mrs. Unwin to promise him a visit at Eartham, some time in the summer. Believing it would greatly improve Mrs. Unwin's health, and be an agreeable relaxation to Cowper, after the anxiety of mind he had felt respecting his esteemed invalid. Mr. Hayley wrote several pressing invitations to induce them to come as early as possible. The following extracts will shew the state of Cowper's mind respecting it. To Mr. Bull he writes, “ We are on
the eve of a journey, and a long one. On this very day se'nnight we set out for Eartham, the seat of my brother bard, Mr. Hayley, on the other side of London, nobody knows where, a hundred and twenty miles off. Pray for us, my friend, that we may have a safe going and return. It is a tremendous exploit, and I feel a thousand anxieties when I think of it. But a promise made to him when he was here, that we would go if we could, and a sort of persuasion that we can if we will, oblige us to it. The journey and the change of air, together with the novelty to us of the scene to which we are going, may, I hope, be useful to us both ; especially to Mrs. Unwin, who has most need of restoratives.”
To Mr. Newton he thus discloses his feelings on the subject. “ You may imagine that we, who have been resident in one spot for so many years, do not engage in such an enterprise without some anxiety. Persons accustomed to travel would make themselves merry with mine; it seems so disproportioned to the occasion. Once I have been on the point of determining not to go, and even since we fixed the day, my troubles have been almost insupportable. But it has been made a matter of much prayer, and at last it has pleased God to satisfy me, in some measure, that his will corresponds with our purpose, and that he will afford us his protection. You, I know, will not be unmindful of us during our absence 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 re
covery ; 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 churlish 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 every thing—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 of 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 I 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.