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out. At the suggestion of Mrs Unwin, he wrote “ Table Talk," the first poem in the present collection of his works, to which were afterwards added, " The Progress of Error," Truth,” “Expostulation,” “Hope,” “Charity,” “ Conver. sation,” and “Retirement." These were all written in little more than a year, and were published in one volume in 1781. It met with a favourable reception from the critics of the day, and slowly found its way into the esteem of the public. The vein thus opened was not allowed to remain unwrought. Dejection of spirits,” he informs Lady Hesketh, “which may have prevented many a man from becom. ing an author, made me one. I find constant employment necessary, and therefore take care to be constantly em. ployed.” When I can find no other occupation, I think; and when I think, I am very apt to do it in rhyme. Hence it comes to pass, that the season of the year which generally pinches off the flowers of poetry unfolds mine, such as they are, and crowns me with a wintry garland.”

About this time he formed an acquaintance with a highlyaccomplished woman, Lady Austen; she was wealthy, had seen much of the world, and possessed a liveliness of manner which charmed away his melancholy. After three years' intimacy, this friendship was unfortunately broken up by the not unnatural jealousy of Mrs Unwin, who was afraid it might end in a nearer connexion. To Lady Austen we owe the amusing ballad of “ John Gilpin,” and his great poem the “Task.” A merry tale which she told to amuse the poetwas the groundwork of the first; it soon became a universal favourite, though few suspected the melancholy Cowper to be the author. Surprise has been expressed that it should have been written while suffering from despondency; but it is the very nature of this disease to admit of violent alternations from the liveliest gaiety to the deepest gloom.

The “Task” was begun in the summer of 1783, and completed before the close of 1784. Lady Austen, who, as an admirer of Milton, was partial to blank verse, hari often solicited Cowper to try his power in that species of

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composition. To his objection that he knew of no suitable subject, she replied, “Oh, you can never be in want of a subject---you can write upon any; write upon this sofa.” The idea struck him, he took up the pen and began,

“1 sing the Sofa, I who lately sung

Faith, Hope, and Charity."

The poem thus casually suggested grew into six books, and is deservedly the most popular of his larger poems. Many passages in his first volume are not inferior to the best pieces of the “Task;” but in the “Task” he takes a wider range, and flies with freer and bolder wing.

This work brought him into immediate notice, and drew attention to his former publications. His attached usin, Lady Hesketh, who had been abroad, hastened to renew her oorre. spondence. His letters to her are the most finished and delightful specimens of epistolary writing in the language. The strong aversion which John Foster expressed to composition was unknown to Cowper. He wrote from choice, and was quite capable of extracting amusement from the most trivial incidents of daily life; so that, though he was almost a recluse in his habits, and his letters sometimes embraced no other subjects than the death of a viper, or the loss of one of his hares, or the overturning of a market-woman's cart, they are full of wit and sensibility. Lady Hesketh proved a most valuable friend. Finding his residence at Olney neither commodious nor cheerful, she rented and furnished for him a house bordering on a handsome park at the neighbouring village of Western Underwood, and throughout his life her purse and her services were always at his disposal. He says couelingly, on leaving Olner—"I found that I not only had a tenderness for that ruinous abode, because it had once kuown me harrr in the presence of God, but that even the distress I had suffered for so long time on account of His absence, had endeared it to me as much."

In 1785 he began a translation of Homer's Poems, and worked with ynat assistnity and pleasure of the task. It


was finished in 1790, and published in two quarto volumes in 1791. He next undertook to edit an edition of Milton's Poetical Works, and with this view translated his Latin Poems; but the work was never completed. A poem, entitled " The Seven Ages,” was begun, but only a few lines were written. His beautiful lines to Mrs Unwin, beginning

* The twentieth year is well nigh pess

Since first our sky was overcast;
Ah, that this might be the last,

My Mary”

and his lines “On Receipt of his Mother's Picture,” were written at this period, and exhibit the unabated force of his mind and imagination.

Of the remainder of his life we have little to record. Mrs Unwin fell into an infirm state of health, and his own mind became extremely depressed. Lady Hesketh flew to his help, and he rallied so far as to be able to visit his biographer, Hayley ; but he soon relapsed. His relation, Dr Johnson, removed him from Weston to North Tudderham in Norfolk, and from thence to various places, for change of air and scene, but without perceptible advantage to his health. In 1796, Mrs Unwin died. “In the dusk of the evening of her death, he attended Dr Johnson to survey the corpse, and after looking a very tew moments, he started euddenly away, with a vehement but unfinished sentence of passionate sorrow. He spoke of her no more.” Dr John. son's attentions to him were never surpassed in delicacy and self-denial. Any other man would have shrunk fiom undertaking the charge of an infirm hypochondriac, who rarely spoke, and seemed to derive no pleasure from either the world or religion.

The cloud which had now settled over his intellect was never removed. He had long lived under the delusion, that the mercy of God, which is free to all the world besides, was denied to him. There were momentary intervals in which a ray of hope gleamed upon his mind, but they were trap

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sitory; and it is melancholy to record, that that hope of which he had sung so sweetly to others was denied to him. self in his last hours. But though the nature of his disease had banished hope from his mind, his life and writings prove that he had long rested his faith on Christ Jesus as his Saviour, and warrant the assurance that death translated him to eternal glory. His death took place on the 25th April 1800. He was buried in St Edmund's Chapel, in the Church of East Dereham. Lady Hesketh erected a marble tablet to his memory.

Cowper,” says Hayley, was of a middle stature, rather strong than delicate in the form of his limbs; the colour of his hair was a light brown, that of his eyes a bluish-gray, and his complexion ruddy.” In manner he was reserved, but to females he was extremely engaging. His character was a singular compound of strength and delicacy. Manly in his thoughts and writings, he was almost a woman in the readiness with which he surrendered himself to the direction of others in matters of business. With a keen sense of the ludicrous and a sharp pen, he never willingly wounded a single human being; and, rigid himself in his attention to virtue and piety, he judged the actions of other men in a spirit of the most liberal charity.

Cowper's Poems need no panegyric of ours ; they have taken a permanent place among the literary treasures of the English language. They were the genuine utterance of his own heart; and their manly thought, vigour, and simpli. city, their mingled humour and pathos, the variety and the felicity of their descriptions of men and things, and the elevated strain of Christian sentiment by which they are pervaded, have secured their popularity while our language endures.


EDINBURG A, June 1, 1863.

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