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some hares. His success he has himself described, and one of the group is immortalized in "The Task." In November, 1776, Cowper resumed his correspondence with Mr. Hill, and that letter, simple as it is, shews a wonderful improvement in the state of his mind. From that time his correspondence is marked by humour and playfulness, without any allusion to those solemn considerations to which every thing had hitherto given place. Hayley passes over the period between 1776 and 1780 in a few words, and has not given any of his letters until the latter year. The deficiency is, however, supplied by the Collection edited by Dr. Johnson, where his correspondence with Mr. Hill occurs. It related chiefly to literature, and contains Cowper's criticism on various books which Hill had lent him.
In January 1778, he wrote to Mr. Hill in reference to his pecuniary affairs: "I shall be glad if you I will let me know whether I am to understand by the sorrow you express, that any part of my former supplies is actually cut off, or whether they are only more tardy in coming in, than usual. It is useful even to the rich, to know, as nearly as may be, the exact amount of their income; but how much more so to a man of my small dimensions. If the former should be the case, I shall have less reason to be surprised, than I have to wonder at the continuance of them so long. Favours are favours indeed, when laid
out upon so barren a soil, where the expense of sowing is never accompanied by the smallest hope of return. What pain there is in gratitude, I have often felt; but the pleasure of requiting an obligation has always been out of my reach."
In April in that year, he thus noticed the death of Sir Thomas Hesketh, the husband of his amiable cousin, who it seems bequeathed him a legacy: "Poor Sir Thomas! I knew that I had a place in his affections, and from his own information, many years ago, a place in his will; but little thought that after the lapse of so many years I should still retain it. His remembrance of me, after so long a season of separation, has done me much honour, and leaves me the more reason to regret his decease."
Great part of Cowper's time was, at this period, spent in reading aloud to Mrs. Unwin; but his garden, in which he took great delight, and manual occupations also amused him. Early in 1780, his friend, Mr. Newton, removed to London, where he obtained the living of St. Mary, Woolnoth.
The state of Cowper's feelings are so well described in two letters from him to Mrs. Cowper, the one dated 20th July, 1780, and the other on the 31st of the next month, that it is impossible to resist making some extracts from them:
"You see me sixteen years older, at the least, than when I saw you last; but the effects of time
seem to have taken place rather on the outside of my head than within it. What was brown has become gray, but what was foolish remains foolish still. Green fruit must rot before it ripens, if the season is such as to afford it nothing but cold winds and dark clouds, that interrupt every ray of sunshine. My days steal away silently, and march on (as poor mad King Lear would have made his soldiers march), as if they were shod with felt; not so silently but that I hear them, yet were it not that I am always listening to their flight, having no infirmity that I had not when I was much younger, I should deceive myself with an imagination that I am still young.
"I am fond of writing, as an amusement, but I do not always find it one. Being rather scantily furnished with subjects, that are good for any thing, and corresponding only with those, who have no relish for such as are good for nothing; I often find myself reduced to the necessity, the disagreeable necessity, of writing about myself. This does not mend the matter much, for though in a description of my own condition, I discover abundant materials to employ my pen upon, yet as the task is not very agreeable to me, so I am sufficiently aware, that it is likely to prove irksome to others. A painter who should confine himself in the exercise of his art to the drawing of his own picture, must be a wonderful coxcomb, if he did not soon grow sick of his occupation,
and be peculiarly fortunate, if he did not make others as sick as himself." "Your time of life is comparatively of a youthful date. You may think of Death as much as you please (you cannot think of it too much); but I hope you will live to think of it many years.
"It costs me not much difficulty to suppose that my friends who were already grown old, when I saw them last, are old still; but it costs me a good deal sometimes to think of those who were at that time young, as being older than they were. Not having been an eye witness of the change that time has made in them, and my former idea of them not being corrected by observation, it remains the same; my memory presents me with this image unimpaired, and while it retains the resemblance of what they were, forgets that by this time the picture may have lost much of its likeness, through the alteration that succeeding years have made in the original. I know not what impressions time may have made upon your person, for while his claws (as our Grannams called them) strike deep furrows in some faces, he seems to sheath them with much tenderness, as if fearful of doing injury to others. But though an enemy to the person, he is a friend to the mind, and you have found him so. Though even in this respect his treatment of us depends upon what he meets with at our hands; if we use him well, and listen to his admonitions, he is a friend indeed, but otherwise the worst of enemies,
who takes from us daily something that we valued, and gives us nothing better in its stead. It is well with them, who like you can stand a tip toe on the mountain top of human life, look down with pleasure upon the valley they have passed, and sometimes stretch their wings in joyful hope of a happy flight into Eternity. Yet a little while, and your hope will be accomplished."
With the exception of fugitive pieces, which he sent in his letters to his correspondents, his muse had as yet produced nothing; and though he was now in his forty-ninth year, not the slightest indications were put forth of his becoming a regular author. In October, 1779, he forwarded to Hill his verses entitled, "The Pine Apple and the Bee," written a few weeks before that gentleman received his lines on the promotion of Lord Thurlow, on which occasion Cowper observed:
"Your approbation of my last Heliconian present encourages me to send you another. I wrote it, indeed, on purpose for you; for my subjects are not always such as I could hope would prove agreeable to you. My mind has always a melancholy cast, and is like some pools I have seen, which, though filled with a black and putrid water, will nevertheless, in a bright day, reflect the sunbeams from their surface."
On sending Mr. Hill an enigma in July, 1780, he thus adverted to his habitual dejection: "My enigma will probably find you out, and you will find out my enigma at some future time. I am