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der an insight into the pure recesses of Cowper's wonderful mind, at some remarkable periods of his life, and if my reader's opinion of these Letters is consonant to my own, he will feel concerned, as I do, to find a chasm of ten years, in this valuable correspondence; the more so as it was chiefly occasioned by a new, a long, and severe visitation of that mental malady, which periodically involved in calamitous oppression, the superior faculties of this interesting sufferer. His extreme depression seems not to have recurred immediately on the shock of his Brother's death. In the autumn, of the year in which he sustained that affecting loss, he wrote the following serious, but animated Letter to Mr. Hill.
TO JOSEPH HILL, Esqr.
Sept. 25, 1770. PIAR JOT,
I have not done conversing with terrestrial objects, though I should be happy were I able, to hold more continual converse with a Friend above the skies. He has my heart, but he allows a corner in it, for all, who shew me
kindness, and therefore one for you. The storm of sixty-three, made a wreck of the friendships, I had. contracted in the course of many years, yours excepted, which has survived the tempest.
I thank you for your repeated invitation. Singular thanks are due to you for so singular an instance of your regard. I could not leave Olney, unless in a case of absolute necessity, without much inconvenience to myself and others.
In his sequestered life, he seems to have been much consoled and entertained, by the society of his pious friend Mr. Newton, in whose religious pursuits, he appears to have taken an active part, by the composition of sixty-eight Hymns. Mr. Newton wished, and expected, him to have contributed a much larger number, as he has declared in the Preface to that collection of Hymns, which contains these devotional effusions of Cowper, distinguished by the initial letter of his name. The volume, composed for the inhabitants of Olney, was the joint production of the divine and the poet, and intended, as the former expressly says in his Preface, “ As a monument to
" perpetuate the remembrance of an intimate and “ endeared friendship—With this pleasing view,” (continues Mr. Newton) “ I entered upon my part, " which would have been smaller, than it is, and the • book would have appeared much sooner, and in “ a very different form, if the wise, though mysterious • Providence of God, had not seen fit to cross my “ wishes. We had not proceeded far upon our pro“ posed plan, before my dear friend was prevented " by a long and affecting indisposition, from afford“ ing me any farther assisstance. ” The severe illness of the poet, to which these expressions relate, began in 1773, and extended beyond the date of the Preface (from which they are quoted) February the fifteenth, 1779.
These social labours of the poet, with an exemplary man of God, for the purpose of promoting simple piety, among the lower classes of the people, must have been delightful in a high degree to the benevolent heart of Cowper, and I am persuaded, he alludes to his own feelings on this subject, in the following passage from his Poem on Conversation.
True bliss, if man may reach it, is compos'd
hep Such fellowship in literary labour, for the noblest of purposes, must be delightful indeed, if attended with success, and at all events, it is entitled to respect; yet it may be doubtful if the intense zeal, with which Cowper embarked in this fascinating pursuit, had not a dangerous tendency to undermine his very delicate heal
Such an apprehension naturally arises from a
recollection of what medical writers, of great ability, have said, on the awful subject of mental derangement. Whenever the slightest tendency to that misfortune appears, it seems expedient to guard a tender spirit, from the attractions of Pity herself So fearfully and wonderfully are we made, that man in all conditious ought perhaps to pray, that he never may be led to think of his Creator, and of his Redeemer, either too little, or too much; since human misery is often seen to arise equally from an utter neglect of all spiritual concerns, and from a wild extravagance of devotion,
But if the charitable and religious zeal of the poet led him into any excesses of devotion, injurious to the extreme delicacy of his nervous system, he is only the more entitled to admiration and to pity. Indeed his genius, his virtues, and his misfortunes were calculated to excite those tender and temperate passions in their purest state, and to the highest degree.--It may be questioned, if any mortal could be more sincerely beloved and revered than Cowper was by those, who were best acquainted with his private hours.
· The season was now arrived, when the firm friendship of Mrs. Unwin, was put to the severest