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he had pursued those which were to have qualified him for a solicitor. It is difficult to imagine how he occupied his time from his twenty-second to his thirtythird year; his very means of maintenance, and the nature of his professional employment, if he had any, being entirely unmentioned by his biographers. We gather from his letters, and other imperfect records, that, during this period, he was familiar with many of the more fashionable literati of the day, and occasionally contributed both prose and verse to popular publications. Colman, Lloyd, Bonnel Thornton, and Churchill, have been particularly named as his companions, with whom he enjoyed the pleasures of the world, as far as the world could please one, so ill prepared, by delicacy of taste and constitutional infirmity, to endure the turbulence either of its mirth or its exasperations. When, from his timidity, as well as negligence, it became evident that he would never excel at the bar, his powerful friends, naturally enough thinking that he might serve his country in some easy, wellpaid post, successively procured for him two offices in the House of Lords. Each of these he was compelled to forego, by the diseased state of his nerves, (whatever was the cause,) which would not permit him to perform tasks less difficult than the daily exercises of a school-boy. Disappointment in this "tide of his affairs," the only one, that, “taken at the flood," promised to "lead on to fortune," induced the first violent paroxysm of that mental derangement, which, with few intervening returns of tranquillity, haunted him to the end of life. Another disappointment, of which little has been said, and almost nothing is known, is understood to have fearfully aggravated his distress, and urged it to despair, at this mysterious crisis. loved, and was beloved again; but whom he chose, and why they parted, cannot be told (it has been said) to the present generation. In all his published works, after this date, we find no hint concerning either his passion, or the object of it; as, on another bereaving occasion, when he had once seen Mrs. Unwin a corpse,
he never afterwards named her; so, on this, he seems to have buried his grief in his bosom, and never allowed it to rise to his lips.
When he had recovered from this first attack, under the skilful care of Dr. Cotton, at St. Albans, he returned no more to his kindred and acquaintance. Having found, not only mental, but spiritual health, he withdrew to Huntingdon, to enjoy in solitude that peace of mind which the world can neither give nor take away. Here he was found by the family of the Unwins, with whom he soon became an inmate, and from whom he was never afterwards separated, till death had taken them one by one away, and left him, a wreck of humanity, sinking in still water, to the care of his own relatives. These, when he became known to all the world, recognized him, after long estrangement, caused less by their neglect than by his voluntary secession from them.
There were some remarkable, though perhaps not very unusual, contrarieties in the temperament, bodily and mental, of Cowper. A natural healthful gaiety, perceptible in all his works, was combined in him with a constitutional disposition to gloom and melancholy, inaccessible to comfort, and invincible by reason; while one of the clearest, strongest, and most acute understandings with which man had ever been gifted, though in no other point vulnerable, was every moment in danger of being prostrated, through all its operations, by one besetting infirmity-an infirmity so exquisitely irrational, that it owned no coherence with any thing which he either knew by experience, or believed upon evidence. Satire was his peculiar forte; but it was the satire of pleasantry, rather than of scorn or indignation. His imagination was playful, and easily delighted with any thing innocently ludicrous; but when roused into "noble rage," he could exchange the shafts of Apollo for the bolts of Jove, and wield the lightnings as fearfully, as he sported skilfully with the
64 sun's arrows.
With regard to his malady, there scarcely needs
any other proof that it was not occasioned by his religion than this, that the error on which he stumbled was in direct contradiction to his creed. He believed that he had been predestinated to life, yet, under this delusion, imagined that God, who could not lie, repent, or change, had, in his sole instance, and in one moment, reversed his own decree which had been in force from all eternity. At the same time, by a perversion of the purest principle of Christian obedience, he was so submitted to the will of God, that, to have saved himself from the very destruction which he dreaded, he would not avail himself of any of the means of grace, (even presuming they might have been efficacious,) because he believed that they were forbidden to him. Yet, in spite of the self-evident impossibility of his faith affecting a sound mind with such a hallucination; though a mind previously diseased might as readily fall into that as any other;-in spite of chronology, his first aberration of reason having taken place before he had "tasted the good word of God;"-in spite of geography, that calamity having befallen him in London, where he had no acquaintance with persons holding the reprobated doctrines of election and sovereign grace; and, in spite of the fact, utterly undeniable, that, till his spirit was revived by the success of his poetry, the only effectual consolations which he knew, after that first access of insanity, were the consolations of the Gospel at St. Albans, at Huntingdon, and at Olney;-in spite of all these unanswerable confutations of the ignorant and malignant falsehood, the enemies of Christian truth persevere in repeating, "that too much religion made poor Cowper mad." If they be sincere, they are themselves under the "strong delusion to believe a lie ;" and it will be well, if it prove not, on their part, a wilful one-it will be well if they have not reached that last perversity of human reason, to believe a lie of its own invention.
Which was the happiest period of Cowper's exis
tence on earth? Unquestionably, when he came from St. Albans to Huntingdon, and during the earlier part of his acquaintance with the Unwins. There, when his soul had escaped, “like a bird from the snare of the fowler," for "the snare was broken," he had escaped, and like the bird, that bursts into song as it takes wing, he experienced love, joy, freedom, and peace in believing. Happily we have his own record of his feelings at the commencement of this sabbatic era, in the two first hymns which he is known to have composed. These were the overflowings of his heart in solitude, while he walked with God, and was a stranger on the earth; having left his own connections, and not yet found new ones in the church-his amiable brother, the Rev. John Cowper, of Cambridge, and Dr. Cotton, of St. Albans, being then his only friends. These hymns are Nos. 44 and 45 in Book III. of the Olney Collection, especially the latter, beginning," Far from the world, O Lord, I flee;" every syllable of which is the direct expression of present personal experience.
"The calm retreat, the silent shade,
There, if thy Spirit touch the soul,
Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love,
She communes with her God!
There like the nightingale she pours
Her solitary lays;
Nor asks a witness of her song,
Nor thirsts for human praise."
This is the language of first love-pure, tender, unreserved; delighting to meditate on itself and its object. More touchingly beautiful even than these strains of voluntary, irrepressible happiness, are some in a hymn of later date, in which he laments the departure of those days of close converse with God:
"Where is the blessedness I knew,
Where is the soul-refreshing view
What peaceful hours I once enjoy'd!
Those who would trace the disease of Cowper's mind, as far as human search can penetrate, must go to a much earlier period of his life than this. There is a memoir of his own writing on the subject, which, some say, ought never to have seen the light; but, having once seen it, can never be withdrawn, while there is either taste, curiosity, or sympathy, in a " Briton born." This inestimable document exhibits one of the most minute and faithful disclosures of individual feeling ever given to mankind,-with such truth, simplicity, and pathos, that love, admiration, pity, alternately warm and melt the soul of the reader, in being thus introduced into the secret of the writer's heart. Seldom has there been a tale of so much sorrow told in so few lines, and with such a light of reality thrown on the darkest and most mysterious impulses and sensibilities of human nature, under its most humbling circumstances. No one, who had not suffered the actual agony, could have so revealed its horrors; every part of the process is beyond invention; while among the thousands who had endured the like, there could hardly be one Cowper found, who had command of ideas and words, delicate, powerful, and simple, to communicate what he had undergone, while the wormwood and the gall were yet had in remembrance by him.
It is a little extraordinary, that, haunted as he was, after its second access, by this tremendous ailment, more or less to the end of life, there is no distinct allusion, in any of his deliberately published poems, to this bosom-mystery of wo, though there are frequent unexplained intimations of some sorrow that bowed down his spirit. Much less is there discernible any occasional defect of intellectual energy, to comprehend and elucidate whatever he pleased to examine and set