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leisurely enough. I wish you a swift progress, and a pleasant one, through the great subject that you have in hand ;* and set that value upon your letters to which they are in themselves entitled, but which is certainly increased by that peculiar attention which the writer of them pays to me. Were I such as I once was, I should say that I have a claim upon your particular notice which nothing ought to supersede. Most of your other connexions you may fairly be said to have formed by your own but your
connexion with me was the work of God. The kine that went up with the ark from Bethshemesh left what they loved behind them, in obedience to an impression which to them was perfectly dark and unintelligible.f Your journey to Huntingdon was not less wonderful. He indeed who sent you knew well wherefore, but you knew not. That dispensation therefore would furnish me, as long as we can both remember it, with a plea for some distinction at your hands, had I occasion to use and urge it, which I have not. altered since that time ; and if your affection for me had ceased, you might very reasonably justify your change by mine. I can cay nothing for myself at present; but this I can venture to foretell, that, should the restoration of which my friends assure me obtain, I shall undoubtedly love those who have continued to love me, even in a state of transforma
But I am
* Mr. Newton was at this time preparing two volumes of Sermons for the press, on the subject of the Messiah, preached on the occasion of the Commemoration of Handel.
+ See 1 Sam. vi. 7-10.
tion from my former self, much more than ever. I doubt not that Nebuchadnezzar had friends in his prosperity; all kings have many. But when his nails became like eagles' claws, and he ate grass like an ox, I suppose he had few to pity him.
We are going to pay Mr. Pomfrett a morning visit. Our errand is to see a fine bed of tulips, a sight that I never saw. Fine painting, and God the artist. Mrs. Unwin has something to say in the
I leave her therefore to make her own courtesy, and only add that I am yours and Mrs. Newton's
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, June 4, 1785. My dear Friend-Mr. Greatheed had
letter the day after we received it. I He is a well-bred, agreeable young man, and one whose eyes have been opened, I doubt not, for the benefit of others, as well as for his own. He preached at Olney a day or two ago, and I have reason to think with acceptance and success. One person, at least, who had been in prison some weeks, received his enlarge
+ The Rector at that time of Emberton, near Olney. • Private Correspondence.
The Rev. Mr. Greatheed was a man of piety and talent, and much respected in his day. He wrote a short and interesting memoir of Cowper.
ment under him. I should have been glad to have been a hearer, but that privilege is not allowed me yet.
My book is at length printed, and I returned the last proof to Johnson on Tuesday. I have ordered a copy to Charles Square, and have directed Johnson to enclose one with it, addressed to John Bacon, Esq. I was obliged to give you this trouble, not being sure of the place of his abode. I have taken the liberty to mention him, as an artist, in terms that he well deserves. The passage was written soon after I received the engraving with which he favoured me,* and while the impression that it made was yet warm. He will therefore excuse the liberty that I have taken, and place it to the account of those feelings which he himself excited.
The walking season is returned. We visit the Wilderness daily. Mr. Throckmorton last summer presented me with a key of his garden. The family are all absent, except the priest and a servant or two; so that the honeysuckles, lilacs, and syringas, are all our own
We are well, and our united love attends yourselves and the young ladies. Yours, my dear friend, With much affection,
“ Bacon there
The Task, Book I.
TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.
Olney, June 25, 1785. My dear Friend—I write in a nook that I call my boudoir. It is a summer-house not much bigger than a sedan-chair, the door of which opens into the garden, that is now crowded with pinks, roses, and honeysuckles, and the window into my neighbour's orchard. It formerly served an apothecary, now dead, as a smoking-room ; and under my feet is a trap-door which once covered a hole in the ground, where he kept his bottles ; at present, however, it is dedicated to sublimer uses. Having lined it with garden-mats, and furnished it with a table and two chairs, here I write all that I write in summer time, whether to my friends or to the public. It is secure from all noise, and a refuge from all intrusion ; for intruders sometimes trouble me in the winter evenings at Olney : but thanks to my boudoir !) I can now hide myself from them. A poet's retreat is sacred : they acknowledge the truth of that proposition, and never presume to violate it. *
Cowper's summer-house is still in existence. It is a small, humble building, situated at the back of the prentises which he occupied at Olney, and commanding a full view of the church and of the vicarage-house. Humble however as it appears, it is approached with those feelings of veneration which the scene of so many interesting recollections cannot fail to inspire. There he wrote “ The Task," and most of his Poems, except during the rigour of the winter months. There too he carried on that epistolary correspondence, which is distinguished by so much wit, ease, and gracefulness, and by the The last sentence puts me in mind to tell you
that I have ordered my volume to your door. My bookseller is the most dilatory of all his fraternity, or you would have received it long since. It is more than a month since I returned him the last proof, and consequently since the printing was finished. I sent him the manuscript at the beginning of last November, that he might publish while the town was full, and he will hit the exact moment when it is entirely empty. Patience (you will perceive) is in no situation exempted from the severest trials; a remark that may serve to comfort you under the numberless trials of your own.
Cowper again feelingly alludes in the letter which follows, to that absence of mental comfort under which he so habitually laboured.
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, June 25, 1785. My dear Friend-A note that we received from Mr. Scott, by your desire, informing us of the amendment of Mrs. Newton's health, demands our thanks, having relieved us from no little anxiety upon her account. The welcome purport of it was soon after confirmed, so that at present we feel ourselves at overflowings of a warm and affectionate heart. No traveller seems to enter without considering it to be the shrine of the Muses, and leaving behind a poetical tribute to the memory of so distinguished an author.
* Private Correspondence.