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am doing my best to obtain them.” And again, to Lady Hesketh, “I am not ashamed to confess that having commenced author, I am most abundantly desirous to succeed as such. I have (what perhaps you little suspect me of in my nature, an infinite share of ambition. But with its I have at the same time, as you well know, an equal share of diffidence. To this combination of opposite qualities, it has been owing, that till lately, I stole through life without undertaking anything, yet always wishing to distinguish myself.”
During this and the following year, Cowper advanced steadily with his translation, receiving much attention and encouragement from his friends. Through the kindness of Lady Hesketh, and his neighbor, Sir John Throck morton, he and Mrs. Unwin were enabled to remove to the Lodge, at Weston-Underwood, about a mile from Olney, which was far more commodious and healthful, than their habitation at Olney.
Lady Hesketh's occasional visits, at this time, were also a source of much enjoyment to him, and his grateful and affectionate heart was strongly moved and interested by the singular kindness manifested for him by an anonymous correspondent. “ Hours and hours and hours," he writes Lady Hesketh, in reference to this subject, “have I spent in endeavors, altogether fruitless, to trace the writer of the letter that I send, by a minute examination of the character, and never did it strike me, till this moment, that your father wrote it." This suspicion, Lady Hesketh, who was apparently in the secret, did not confirm. The letter in question was, evidently, from somo one minutely acquainted with the circumstances of Cowpper's early life; and after many expressions of kindness and encouragement, the writer concludes by presenting him with an annuity of fifty pounds. After receiving another letter from the same source, Cowper writos “ Anonymous is come again. May God bless him, who ever he may be;" and he adds, in a postscript,“ I kept my letter unsealed to the last moment, that I might give you an account of the expected parcel. It is, at all points, worthy of the letter-writer. Snuff-box, purse, notes Bess, Puss, Tiney-all safe. Again may God bless him!” On the snuff-box, was a view of the “Peasant's Nest,” as described in the Task, with the figures of three hares in the foreground. And for these "womanly presents,” as Southey calls them, he appoints Lady Hesketh his “re. ceiver general of thanks;" as “it is very pleasant, my dear cousin,” he says, 6 to receive presents, so delicately conveyed, but it is also very painful to have nobody to thank for them." “ Alas, the love of woman!" Southey conjeo. tures that Anonymous was no other than Theodora, the object of Cowper's early love, whom he had not seen for five-and-twenty years.
In one of those sincere, affectionate, and inimitably graceful letters, written, about this time, to his favorite cousin, Lady Hesketh, which have secured to Cowper the title of “the best of English letter-writers," he gives the following retrospect of his state of mind :
“ You do not ask me, my dear, for an explanation of what I could mean by anguish of mind. Because you do not ask, and because your reason for not asking consists of a delicacy and tenderness peculiar to yourself; for that very cause I will tell you. A wish suppressed is more irresistible than many wishes plainly uttered. Know then, that in the year 1773, the same scene that was acted at St. Alban's, opened upon me again at Olney, only covered by a still deeper shade of melancholy; and ordained to be of much longer duration. I was suddenly reduced from my wonted rate of understanding, to an almost childish imbe. cility. I did not, indeed, lose my senses, but I lost the niwer to exercise them. I could return a ratiimal answer, even to a difficult question, but a question was necessary, or I never spoke. I believed that every body hated me, and that Mrs. Unwin hated me worst of all,—was convinced that all my food was poisoned, together with ten thousand megrims of the same stamp. I would not be more circumstantial than is necessary. Dr. Cotton was consulted. He recommended particular vigilance lest 1 should attempt my life,-a caution for which there was the greatest occasion. At the same time that I was convinced of Mrs. Unwin's aversion to me, I could endure no other companion. The whole management of me consequently devolved upon her, and a terrible task she had. She per formed it, however, with a cheerfulness hardly ever equal led on such an occasion ; and I have often heard her say, that if she ever praised God in her life, it was when she found that she was to have all the labor. Methinks I hear you ask,-your affection for me, will, I know, make you wish to do so,-Is your nalady removed ?" I reply, in a great measure, but not quite. Occasionally I am much distressed, but that distress becomes continually less fre quent, and, I think, less violent. I find writing, and es pecially poetry my best remedy. Perhaps had I understood music, I had never written verse, but had lived in fiddle. strings instead.
I have been emerging gradually from this pit. As soon as I became capable of action, 1 commenced carpenter, made cupboards, boxes and stools. I grew weary of this in about a twelvemonth, and addressed myself to the making of bird-cages. To this employment succeeded that of gardening, which I intermingled with that of drawing; but finding that the latter occupation injured my eyes, I renounced it, and commenced poeto I have given you, my dear, a little history in short hand. I know it will touch your feelings, but do not let it into rest them too much."
According to Cowper's narrative of his first attack, ho believed that his disease was entirely the work of the Enemy, and that his recovery was supernatural. Mr. Newton and Mrs. Unwin were of the same opinion, and many months elapsed, as we have seen, after the com mencement of the second attack,-much the most violent and protracted,-before they could bring themselves to seek earthly remedies. But Mr. Newton was now away, and Mrs. Unwin, says Southey, “was governed by her natural good sense;" and the rational view of his condition which Cowper took at the time of writing this letter, was such as to induce the reasonable hope of his perfect restoration. Of the religious impulses by which he had been actuated, while at Olney, he thus speaks: “ Good is intended, but harm is done too often, by the zeal with which ! was at that time animated."
But despair of salvation never wholly left him after his second attack; and this feeling discovers itself, more or less strongly, in all his letters to Mr. Newton.
From a sincere, but mistaken zeal for Cowper's spiritual welfare, Mr. Newton seems to have interfered at this time rather unwarrantably in his domestic affairs. He objected to their removal to Weston; and because Cowper and Mrs. Unwin had occasionally visited the Throckmortons and other neighbouring gentry, accused them of deviating into forbidden paths, and seeking worldly amusementard society In reply to one of his letters of censure, Cowper says “ You say well that there was a time when I was happy af Olney, and I am as happy no'y as I expect to be anywhere without the presence of God.” And again: “Be assured, that notwithstanding all rumors to the contrary, we are exactly what we were when you saw us last ;-I miserable on account of God's departure from me, which I believe to be final; and she seeking his return to me in che path of duty, and by continual prayer." This was his constant and abiding impression ;--and so constant was
it, that in time, it lost something of its gloomy effect on his spirits. Scott, in his Demonology, narrates the case of a man, who was so constantly atteaded by a frightfu? spectral illusion, that from the effect of custom, he came at last to speak of it quietly, and was, at times, almost unconscious of its presence. Cowper's case was, in some respects, similar to this. He sometimes adverts to his despair as a matter of course, and without much emotion. "I would,” he writes Mr. Newton, “that I could see some of the mountains that you have seen ; especially, because Dr. Johnson has pronounced that no man is qualified to be a poet, who has never seen a mountain. But mountains I shall never see, unless it be in a dream, or unless there are such in heaven; nor then, unless I receive twice as much mercy as ever yet was shown to any man.
His disease had now been dormant for some years; but in January 1787, (a month which he always dreaded,) it again became active. He now once more attempted suicide, and would have effected it, but for Mrs. Unwin, who finding him suspended by the neck, possessed presence of mind enough to cut him down. His malady was quite as severe as on former occasions, but of much shorter duration. There is no other account of it than the little which his own letters furnish, after his recovery. “My indisposition could not be of a worse kind. The sight of any face, except Mrs. Unwin's, was an insupportable griesance. From this dreadful condition I emerged suddenly." In about seven months, he appears to have renewed his intercourse with his neighbours, and resumed his correspondence. Writing to Lady Hesketh of his renewed health, he says, “I have but little confidence, in truth none, in so flattering a change, but expect, when I least expect it, to wither again. The past is a pledge for the future." And again, to the same: “I continue to write, hough is compassion to my pate, you advised me, for the