« ElőzőTovább »
stealing our Catharina's praises ; is it possible that she can survive the shame, the mortification of such a discovery? Can she ever see the same company again, or any company that she can suppose, by the re-, motest possibility, may have heard the tidings? If she can, she must have an assurance equal to her vanity. A lady in London stole my song on the broken Rose, or rather would have stolen, and have passed it for her own. But she too was unfortunate in her attempt; for there happened to be a female Cousin of mine in company, who knew that I had written it. It is very flattering to a poet's pride that the ladies should thus hazard every thing for the sake of appropriating his verses. I may say with Milton, that I am fallen on evil tongues, and evil days, being not only plundered of that, which belongs to me, but being charged with that, which does not. Thus it seems, and I have learned it from more quarters than one) that a report is, and has been some time current in this and the neighbouring counties, that though I have given myself the air of declaiming against the Slave Trade in the Task, I am in reality a friend to it; and last night I received a Letter from Joe Rye, to inform me, that I
have been much traduced and calumniated on this . account. Not knowing how I could better, or more
effectually refute the scandal, I have this morning sent a copy to the Northampton paper, prefaced by a short letter to the printer, specifying the occasion. The verses are in honour of Mr. Wilberforce, and sufficiently expressive of my present sentiments on the subject. You are a wicked fair one for disappointing us of our expected visit, and therefore out of mere spite I will not insert them. I have been very ill these ten days, and for the same spite's sake will not tell you what has ailed me. But lest you should die of a fright, I will have the mercy to tell you that I am recovering.
Mrs. G- , and her little ones are gone, but your Brother is still here. He told me that he had some expectations of Sir John at Weston; if he come, I shall most heartily rejoice once more to see him at a table so many years his own,
To William WILBERFORCE, Esqr.
Thy country, Wilberforce, with just disdain, Hears thee, by cruel men and impious, call’d Fanatic, for thy zeal to loose th' enthrall’d From exile, public sale, and slav'ry's chain. Friend of the poor, the wrong'd, the fetter-galld, Fear not lest labour such as thine be vain! Thou hast achiev'd a part; hast gain’d the ear Of Britain's senate to thy glorious cause : Hope smiles, joy springs. and tho'cold caution pause And weave delay, the better hour is near, That shall remunerate thy toils severe By peace for Afric, fenc'd with British laws.
Enjoy what thou hast won, esteem and love
* NOTE BY THE EDITOR.
The following soanet, not printed in the collected Works of Cowper, is the poem he alluded to in this Lettera
To the Revd. J. JEKYLL RYE,
Weston, April 16, 1792.
MY DEAR SIR,
I am truly sorry that you should have suffered any apprehensions, such as your Letter indicates, to molest: you for a moment. I believe you to be as honesta man as lives, and consequently do not believe it possible that you could in your Letter to Mr. Pitts, or any otherwise, wilfully misrepresent me. In fact you did not; my opinions on the subject in question were, when I had the pleasure of seeing you, such as in that Letter you stated them to be, and such they still continue.
If any man concludes because I allow myself the use of sugar and rum, that therefore I am a friend to the Slave Trade, he concludes rashly, and does me great wrong; for the man lives not, who abhors it more than I do. My reasons for my own practice are satisfactory to myself, and they whose practice is contrary, are, I suppose satisfied with their's. So far is good. Let every man act according to his own judgment and conscience, but if we condemn another
for not seeing with our eyes, we are unreasonable, and if we reproach him on that account, we are uncharitable, which is a still greater evil.
I had heard, before I received the favour of your's, that such a report of me, as you mention, had spread about the country. But my informant told me that it was founded thus: The people of Olney petitioned Parliament for the abolition-my name was sought among the subscribers, but was not found ma question was asked, how that happened? Answer was made, that I had once indeed been an enemy to the Slave Trade, but had changed my mind, for that having lately read a history, or an account of Africa, I had seen it there asserted, that till the commencement of that traffic, the Negroes multiplying at a prodigious rate, were necessitated to devour each other; for which reason I had judged it better that the trade should continue, than that they should be again reduced to so horrid a custom.
Now all this is a fable. I have read no such history: I never in my life read any such assertion, nor, had such an assertion presented itself to me, should I have drawn any such conclusion from it: On the contrary, bad as it were, I think it would be better