« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
on purpose to secure and hasten the execution of it. My mind, probably, at this time began to be disordered; however it was, I was certainly given up to a strong delusion. I said within myself,
your cruelty shall be gratified; you shall have your revenge;' and iinging down the paper, in a fit of strong passion, I rushed hastily out of the room; directing my way towards the fields, where I intended to find some house to die in; or, if not, determined to poison myself in a ditch, when I should meet with one sufficiently retired.
“ Before I had walked a mile in the fields, a thought struck me that I might yet spare iny life; that I had nothing to do but to sell what I had in the funds, (which might be done in an hour) go on board a ship, and transport myself to France. There, when every other way of maintenance should fail, I promised myself a comfortable asylum in some monastery, an acquisition easily made, by changing my religion. Not a little pleased with this expedient, I returned to my chambers, to pack up all that I could at so short a notice ; but while I was looking over my portmanteau, my mind changed again; and self-murder was recommended to me once more, in all its advantages.
“ Not knowing where to poison myself, for I was liable to con: tinual interruption in my chambers, from my laundress and her husband, I laid aside that intention, and resolved upon drowning. For that purpose, I immediately took a coach, and ordered the man to drive to Tower Wbart; intending to throw myself into the river, from the Custom-house Quay. It would be strange, should I omit to observe here, how I was continually hurried away from such places as were most favourable to my design, to others, where it must be almost impossible to execute it ;—from the fields, where it was ime probable that any thing should happen to prevent me, to the Custom-house Quay, where every thing of that kind was to be expected; and this by a sudden impulse, which lasted just long enough to call me back again to my chambers, and was immediately withdrawn. Nothing ever appeared more feasible, than the project of going to France, till it had served its purpose, and then, in an instant, it appeared impracticable and absurd, even to a degree of ridicule.
My life, which I bad called my own, and claimed a right to dispose of, was kept from me by him whose property indeed it was, and who alone had a right to dispose of it. This is not the only occasion, on which it is proper to make this remark; others will offer themselves in the course of this narrative, so fairly, that the reader cannot overlook them,
“ I left the coach upon the Tower Wharf, intending never to return to it; but upon coming to the Quay, I found the water low, and a porter seated upon some goods there, as if on purpose to prevent me. This passage to the bottomless pit being mercifully shut against me, I returned back to the coach, and ordered it to return to the Temple. I drew up the shutters, once more had recourse to the laudanum, and determined to drink it off directly; but God had otherwise ordained. A conflict, that shook me to pieces, suddenly took place; not properly a trembling, but a convulsive agitation, which deprived me in a manner of the use of my limbs: and my mind was as much shaken as my body.
• Distracted between the desire of death, and the dread of it, twenty times I had the phial to my mouth, and as often received an irresistible check ; and even at the time it seenied to me, that an invisible hand swayed the bottle downwards, as often as I set it against my lips. I well remember, that I took notice of this circumstance with some surprise, though it effected no change in my purpose. Panting for breath, and in an horrible agony, I fung myself back into the corner of the coach. A few drops of laudanum, which had touched my lips, besides the fumes of it, began to have a stupefying effect upon me. Regretting the loss of so fair an opportunity, yet utterly unable to avail myself of it, I determined not to live; and already half dead with anguish, I once more returned to the Temple. Instantly I repaired to my room, and having shut both the outer and inner door, prepared myself for the last scene of the tragedy. I poured the laudanum into a small basin, set it on a chair by the bedside, half undressed myself, and laid down between the blankets, shuddering with horror at what I was about to perpetrate.-I reproached myself bitterly with folly and rank cowardice, for having suffered the fear of death to influence me as it had done, and was filled with disdain at my own pitiful timidity: but still something seemed to overrule me, and to say, 'Think what you are doing! Consider, and live !'
" At length, however, with the most confirmed resolution, I reached forth my hand towards the basin, when the fingers of both hands were as closely contracted, as if bound with a cord, and became entirely useless. Still, indeed, I could have made shift with both hands, dead and lifeless as they were, to have raised the basin to my mouth, for my arms were not at all affected; but this new difficulty struck me with wonder; it had the air of a divine interposition. I lay down in bed again to muse upon it, and while thus employed, heard the key turn in the outer door, and my laundress's husband came in. By this time the use of my fingers was restored to me: I started up hastily, dressed myself, hid the basin, and affecting as composed an air as I could, walked out into the dining-room. In a few minutes I was left alone; and now, unless God had evidently interposed for my preservation, I should certainly have done execution upon myself, having a whole afternoon before me.
“ Both the man and his wife being gpne, outward obstructions were no soouer removed, than new ones arose within. The man had just shut the door behind him, when the convincing Spirit came upon me, and a total alteration in my sentiments took place. The horror of the crime was immediately exhibited to me in so strong a light, that, being seized with a kind of furious indignation, I
snatched up the basin, poured away the laudanum into a phial of foul water, and, not content with that, flung the pbial out of the window. This impulse, having served the present purpose, was withdrawn.
“ I spent the rest of the day in a kind of stupid insensibility; undetermined as to the manner of dying, but still bent on selfmurder, as the only possible deliverance. That sense of the enormity of the crime, which I had just experienced, had entirely left me; and, unless my Eternal Father in Christ Jesus had interposed to disaunul my covenant with death, and my agreement with bell, that I might hereafter be admitted into the covenant of mercy,
I bad, by this time, been a companion of devils, and the just object of his boundless vengeance.
“ In the evening, a most intimate friend called upon me, and fe., licitated me on a happy resolution, which he had heard I had taken, to stand the brunt, and keep the office. I knew not whence this intelligence arose, but did not contradict it. We conversed awhile, with a real cheerfulness on his part, and an affected one on mine ; and when he left me, I said in my heart, I shall see thee no more!
“ Behold, into what extremities a good sort of man may fall!. Such was 1, in the estimation of those who knew me best: a decent outside is all a good-natured world requires. Thus equipped, though all within be rank atheism, rottenness of heart, and rebellion against the blessed God, we are said to be good enough; and if we are damned, alas! who shall be saved! Reverse this charitable reflection, and say, If a good sort of man be saved, who then shall perish ; and it comes much nearer the truth; but this is a hard saying, and the world cannot bear it.
“ I went to bed, as I thought, to take my last sleep in this world. The next morning was to place me at the bar of the House, and I determined not to see it. I slept as usual, and awoke about three o'clock. Immediately I arose, and by the help of a rushlight, found my penknife, took it into bed with me, and lay with it for some hours directly pointed against my heart. Twice, or thrice, I placed it upright under my left breast, leaning all my weight upon it; but the point was broken off, and would not penetrate.
“ In this manner the time passed till the day began to break. I heard the clock strike seven, and instantly it occurred to me, there was no time to be lost: the chambers would soon be opened, and my friend would call upon me to take me with him to Westminster. Now is the time, thought I, • this is the crisis; no more dallving with the love of life. I arose, and, as I thought, bolted the inner door of my chambers, but was mistaken ; my touch deceived me, and I left it as I found it. My preservation, indeed, as it will appear, did not depend upon that incident; but I mention it to show that the good providence of God watched over me, to keep open every way of deliverance, that .nothing might be left to hazard.
"Not one hesitating thought now remained; but I fell greedily to the execution of my purpose. My garter was made of a broad scarlet binding, with a sliding buckle, being sewn together at the ends: by the help of the buckle, I made a noose, and fixed it about my neck, straining it so tight, that I hardly left a passage for my breaih, or for the blood to circulate; the tongue of the buckle. held it fast. At each corner of the bed, was placed a wreath of carved work, fastened by an iron pin, which passed up through the midst of it. The other part of the garter, which made a loop, I slipped over one of these, and hung by it some seconds, drawing up my feet under me, that they might not touch the floor; but the iron bent, the carved work slipped off, and the garter with it. I then fastened it to the frame of the tester, winding it round, and tying it in a strong knot. The frame broke short, and let me down again.
“ The third effort was more likely to succeed. I set the door open, which reached within a foot of the ceiling; by the help of a chair I could command the top of it, and the loop being large enough to admit a large angle of the door, was easily fixed, so as not to slip off again. I pushed away the chair with my feet, and hung at my whole length. While I hung there, I distinctly heard a voice say three times, “ 'Tis over ! Though I am sure of the fact, and was so at the time, yet it did not at all alarm me,
my resolution. I hung so long, that I lost all sense, all consciousness of existence.
“ When I came to myself again, I thought myself in hell; the sound of my own dreadful groans was all that I heard, and a feeling like that of flashes, was just beginning to seize upon my whole body. In a few seconds, I found myself fallen with my face to the floor. In about balf a minute, I recovered my feet; and reeling, and staggering, I stumbled into bed again.
“ By the blessed providence of God, the garter which had held me till the bitterness of temporal death was past, broke, just before eternal death had taken place upon me. The stagnation of the blood under one eye, in a broad crimson spot, and a red circle about any neck, showed plainly that I had been on the brink of eternity. The latter, indeed, might have been occasioned by the pressure of the garter; but the former was certainly the effect of strangulation ; for it was not attended with the sensation of a bruise, as it must have been, had I, in ny fall, received ove in so tender is part. And I rather think the circle round my neck was owing to the same cause; for the part was not excoriated, nor at all in pain:
“ Soon after I got into bed, I was surprised to hear a noise in the dining-room, where the laundress was lighting a fire; she had found the door unbolted, notwithstanding my design to fasten it, and must have passed the bed-chamber door while I was hanging on it, and yet never perceived me. She beard me fall, and presently canie to ask if I was well; adding, she feared I had been in a fit.
" I sent her to a friend, to whom I related the whole affair, and Hispatebed him to my kinsman, at the coffee-house. As soon as the
latter arrived, I pointed to the broken garter, which lay in the middle of the room ; and apprised him also of the attempt I had been making.--His words were, My dear Mr. Cowper, you terrify me; to be sure you cannot hold the office at this rate, where is the deputation ?'. I gave him the key of the drawers, where it was deposited; and his business requiring his immediate attendance, he took it away with him; and thus ended all my connexion with the Parliament House.”
The total perversion of his feelings and the miserable state of alienation of all mankind with regard to him, according to bis distempered fancy, is shewn in the following short paragraph :
“ I never went into the street, but I thought the people stood and laughed at me, and held me in contempt; and could hardly persuade myself, but that the voice of my conscience was loud enough for every one to hear it. They who knew me, seemed to avoid me; and if they spoke to me, seemed to do it in scorn. I bought a ballad of one who was singing it in the street, because I thought it was written on me.”
While he was with Dr. Cotton, his despondency was removed, and the immediate consequence was an ardour of feeling of another kind, which seemed almost equally, from its excess, to endanger the patient. It was however beneficial in its consequences, and he thus relates the circumstances.
My physician, ever watchful and apprehensive for my welfare, was now alarmed, lest the sudden transition from despair to joy, should terminate in a fatal frenzy. But the Lord was my strength and my song, and was become my salvation.' I said, " I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord; he has chastened me sore, but not given me over unto death. O give thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy endureth for ever.'
“ In a short time, Dr. C. became satisfied, and acquiesced in the soundness of my cure; and much sweet communion I had with him, concerning the things of our salvation. He visited me every morning while I staid with him, which was near twelve months after my recovery, and the gospel was the delightful theme of our conversation."
An Appendix is added, consisting of extracts from Mr. Cowper's letters to Lady Hesketh and Mrs. Cowper, intended to illustrate the nature and effects of the change in his religious views and feelings; also some papers which appeared in the Christian Observer, for the year 1805, CRIT. Rev. Vol. IV. July, 1816.