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suffering invalid was too deeply overwhelmed by his depressive malady to shew even the slightest symptoms of satisfaction at the appearance of one whom he had ever been accustomed to welcome with such affectionate delight. His acute anguish had nearly extinguished all the finest faculties of his mind, and annihilated, at least for a time, all the best affections of his heart. He seemed to shrink from every human creature, and if he allowed any one, except his own domestics, to approach him, it was with so much obvious reluctance and aversion, that no benefit could be expected to arise from the interview. The only exception was in the case of Mr. Hayley's son, in whose company he would occasionally, for a short time, seem pleased; which Mr. Hayley “ attributed partly to the peculiar charm which is generally found in the manners of tender ingenuous children; and partly to that uncommon sweetness of character which had inspired Cowper with a degree of parental partiality towards this highly promising youth.” The united efforts, however, of both father and son, could not produce the slightest alleviation of Cowper's sufferings.
Shortly after Mr. Hayley's arrival at Weston, Lady Hesketh embraced the opportunity of leaving her interesting invalids for a few days in his charge, that she might, by a personal interview, consult the eminent Dr. Willis, who had prescribed so successfully in the case of his Majesty George III., on the subject of Cowper's malady. Lord Thurlow had written to the Doctor in Cowper's behalf, and at his and Lady Hesketh's request, he was induced to visit the interesting sufferer at Weston. Here again, however, the expectations of his friends were greatly disappointed ; as the Doctor's skill on this occasion proved wholly unsuccessful.
Mr. Hayley remained at Weston for some weeks, ex
erting all the means that ingenuity could invent, or that affection could dictate, to afford some relief to his suffering friend; he had, however, the mortification to perceive that his well-directed efforts were entirely useless. The circumstances in which Cowper was now placed, were exceedingly unfavourable to mental relief. Associated with one whose daily increasing infirmities were rapidly reducing her to a state of the most affecting imbecility; the constant sight of which was of itself, almost sufficient to have produced melancholy in a tender mind like Cowper's, it was hardly probable that, under such circumstances, he should recover from his most depressive malady. And yet to have separated him from the being with whom he had been so long associated, would have been an act of cruelty, which he would not, in all probability, have survived. All that could be done was to mitigate, as much as possible, the sufferings of each individual, and to persevere in the use of such means, as would be most likely, under such circumstances, to promote the poet's recovery, leaving the event at His disposal who, in a manner altogether unexpected, had formerly appeared for him on several distressing occasions.
One morning in April, 1794, while Mr. Hayley was at Weston, musing, as he and Lady Hesketh were sometimes accustomed to do, over the melancholy scene of Cowper's sufferings, with aching and almost broken hearts, at the utter inefficacy of every measure that had been taken to afford him relief, they were suddenly almost overjoyed at the receipt of a letter from Lord Spencer, announcing it to be his Majesty's gracious intention to allow Cowper the grant of such a pension for life as would secure to him an honourable competence. The only subject of regret, at this pleasing circumstance, was that he whom it was chiefly intended to benefit, and who, if he had been free from his depressive malady, would have been gratified in the highest degree at this instance of royal generosity, was in a condition that rendered it impossible for him to receive, even the faintest glimmering of joy on the occasion. It was, however, fondly hoped by his friends, that he would ultimately recover, and that the day would at length arrive, when he would be able gratefully to acknowledge this princely beneficence. Well was it, indeed, for his friends, that they supported their minds by indulging these hopes of amendment. Had they known that he was doomed to pass six years in the same depressed and melancholy condition, with scarcely a single alleviation, and was, at the expiration of that lengthened period, to leave the world under the influence of this midnight gloom, they would themselves have almost become the subjects of despair. Such, however, was the case; and it is doubtful, though Cowper subsequently recovered in some slight degree from his depression, whether he was ever in a condition fully to appreciate the value of bis Majesty's grant.
Mr. Hayley's departure from Weston, which was now become to him as much a scene of suffering, as it had formerly been of enjoyment, he thus affectingly records :“ After devoting a few weeks at Weston, I was under the painful necessity of forcing myself away from my unhappy friend, who, though he appeared to take no pleasure in my society, expressed extreme reluctance to let me depart. I hardly ever endured an hour more dreadfully distressing than the hour in which I left him. Yet the anguish of it would have been greatly increased, had I been conscious that he was destined to years of this dark depression, and that I should see him no more. I still indulged the hope, from the native vigour of his frame, that as he had formerly struggled through longer fits of the depressive malady, his darkened mine would yet emerge from this calainitous
eclipse, and shine forth again with new lustre. These hopes were considerably increased at a subsequent period : but, alas! they were delusive! for though he recovered sufficient command of his faculties to write a few occasional poems, and to retouch his · Homer,' yet the prospect of his perfect revovery was never realized ; and I had beheld the poet of unrivalled genius, the sympathetic friend, and the delightful companion, for the last time!”
Cowper remained in the same most distressing state, from the time of Mr. Hayley's departure, which was in the spring of 1794, till the summer of 1795. During the whole of this time he was most affectionately watched over by his amiable cousin : she procured for him the best medical advice, and employed every means that promised the slightest chance of proving beneficial. All these, however, were ineffectual to lighten that ponderous burden which incessantly pressed upon and weighed down his spirits. He had now been eighteen months in this deplorable state, and, instead of becoming better, if any alteration had taken place at all, it was evidently for the worse. Lady Hesketh's health was beginning to fail, owing to the intense anxiety of mind she had experienced for so long a period ; and it became at length desirable to try what effect a change of air and of scene would have upon him. Almost all his friends recommended this measure, which was no sooner determined upon, than his highly esteemed relative of Norfolk, the Reverend J. Johnson, who had been several weeks at Weston, assisting Lady Hesketh, voluntarily and generously undertook the charge of both these suffering but interesting individuals. Their removal from Weston to North Tuddenham, in Norfolk, took place under the immediate guidance of Mr. Johnson, on the 28th July, 1795. They performed their journey in safety and ease in three days. Here they were aceommodated with a commo
dious parsonage-house, by the kindness of the Rev. Leonard Shelford, with whom Mr. Johnson had previously made arrangements for their reception, fearing lest the activity and bustle that occasionally prevailed in the vicinity of his own house, situated in the market-place at East Dereham, should harass and perplex the tender mind of Cowper.
They continued in their new residence only a very short time. In the following August Mr. Johnson conducted them to Mundesley, a village on the Norfolk coast, hoping that a situation by the sea-side might prove amusing to Cowper, and become ultimately the means of reviving his spirits. Here they remained till the following October, without appearing to derive any benefit whatever. While in this situation Cowper, who had long discontinued all correspondence with his friends, ventured to write the following letter to the Reverend Mr. Buchanan, which, while it shews the melancholy depression under which he still laboured, proves that he was not without some occasional intermissions of pleasure:-“ I will forget for a moment that, to whomsoever I may address myself, a letter from me can no otherwise be welcome than as a curiosity. To you, Sir, I address this, urged to it by extreme penury of employment, and the desire I feel to learn something of what is doing, and has been done, at Weston (my beloved Weston) since I left it.
“ The coldness of these blasts, even in the hottest days, has been such, that, added to the irritation of the salt spray, with which they are always charged, they have occasioned me an inflammation in the eyelids, which threatened, a few days since, to confine me entirely; but by absenting myself as much as possible from the beach, and guarding my face with an umbrella, that inconvenience is in some degree abated. My chamber commands a very near view of the ocean, and the ships, at high water, ap