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of the Private Committees, in the House of Lords, appointments of considerable emoluments, became vacant; and his uncle, in whose gift they were, offered the two most profitable places to Cowper. "Dazzled," he observes, "by so splendid a proposal, he at once accepted it without reflecting upon his incapacity to execute an office of so public a nature; and the dread of appearing in so conspicuous a situation, induced him to exchange the appointments of Reading Clerk, and the Clerkship of the private Committees for the less valuable one of Clerkship of the Journals. This sacrifice was not however attended with the result which he expected. His friend's right of nomination was opposed, and his nominee was threatened with a public examination at the bar of the house as to his fitness for the office. Cowper's feeling upon the occasion are best described in his own words:
"All the horror of my fears and perplexities now returned: a thunderbolt would have been as welcome to me as this intelligence. I knew, to demonstration, that upon these terms, the clerkship of the journals was no place for me. To require my attendance at the bar of the house, that I might there publicly entitle myself to the office, was, in effect, to exclude me from it. In the mean time, the interest of my friend, the causes of his choice, and my own reputation and circumstances, all urged me forward, all pressed me to undertake that which I saw to be imprac
ficable. They whose spirits are formed like mine, to whom a public exhibition of themselves, on any occasion, is mortal poison, may have some idea of the horror of my situation; others. can have none. My continual misery at length brought on a nervous fever; quiet forsook me by day, and peace by night; a finger raised against me was more than I could stand against.
"In this posture of mind I attended regularly at the office; where, instead of a soul upon the rack, the most active spirits were essentially necessary to my purpose. I expected no assistance from any one there, all the inferior clerks being under the influence of my opponent; accordingly I received none. The journal books were indeed thrown open to me; a thing which could not be refused; and from which, perhaps, a man in health, and with a head turned to business, might have gained all the information he wanted. But it was not so with me. I read without perception, and was so distressed, that had every clerk in the office been my friend, it would have availed me little; for I was not in a condition to receive instruction, much less to elicit it out of manuscripts without direction. Many months went over me thus employed; constant in the use of means, despairing as to the issue. The feelings of a man, when he arrives at the place of execution, are, probably, much as mine were every time I set my foot in the office, which was every day for more than half a year together."
He availed himself of the vacation to recruit his
spirits by a visit to Margate, where he withdrew
It would be painful to follow him further in his description of his wretchedness, and it is suffi cient to state, that as his day of trial approached, he looked with eager hope to losing his senses, that he might avoid appearing at the bar of the house of Lords; but being disappointed in his expectation, despair made him contemplate self
destruction as the only escape from his misery. His brother, who was a clergyman, and some other friends, endeavoured to soothe him by spiritual consolation, but in vain; and in a violent paroxysm of his disease he suddenly lost his reason. After consulting with his family, his brother resolved to place him at St. Albans, under the care of Dr. Cotton, who kept a house for insane patients, and to the skill and humanity of that gentleman he owed his recovery after a seclusion of several months. The chief symptom of his disorder was a conviction of his unworthiness in reference to religion; "a sense," to use his own expression, "of self-loathing and abhorrence, united to a fear of instantaneous judgment." Cowper continued with Dr. Cotton about eighteen months; and as his views of religion were still tinctured with fanaticism, he refused to return to London on account of its profligacy; and that he might not be tempted to do so by pecuniary considerations, he resigned his Commissionership of Bankrupts, by which he reduced his income to an amount scarcely adequate to his maintenance.
At the suggestion of his brother, he removed, in June, 1765, to Huntingdon; and from that .me Cowper may almost be considered his own biographer, in consequence of his voluminous correspondence, in which he mentions every thing in which he was concerned. His letters, which have long been before the world, are highly appreiated and copions extracts from such of them
as throw light upon his character, his pursuits, his opinions, or which elucidate his history, will be introduced into this Memoir.
He had not been many months at Huntingdon, before he became known to the family of the Rev. William Unwin, the lecturer of two churches in that town; and such was the mutual pleasure which the acquaintance produced, that Cowper became a permanent inmate with them. Unwin's establishment consisted of his wife-the Mary of the Poet-his son, who entered into holy orders, and a daughter. His first letter, after his arrival in Huntingdon, was addressed to Joseph Hill, Esq., an intimate friend who managed his pecuniary affairs, dated on the 24th June, 1765, in which he informed him that he was restored to perfect health both of mind and body; and in October he thus spoke of the Unwins:
"I have added another family to the number of those I was acquainted with, when you were here. Their name is Unwin-the most agreeable people imaginable; quite sociable, and as free from the ceremonious civility of country gentlefolks as any I ever met with. like a near relation than a house is always open to me. carries me to Cambridge in his chaise. man of learning and good sense, and as simple as Parson Adams. His wife has a very uncommon understanding, has read much to excellent pur pose, and is more poiite than a duchess.
They treat me more stranger, and their 'The old gentleman He is a