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has already appeared in the early part of his history.
Their intercourse had been frequent, and endeared by reciprocal esteem in their youthful years; but the vicissitudes of life had separated them far from each other. During Cowper's long retirement, his accomplished cousin had passed some years with her husband abroad, and others, after her return, in a variety of mournful duties. She was at this time a widow, and her indelible regard for her poetical relation being agreeably stimulated by the publication of his recent works, she wrote to him, on that occasion, a very affectionate letter.
It gave rise to many from him, which we shall now introduce to the notice of the reader, because they give a minute account of their amiable author, at a very interesting period of his life; and because they reflect lustre on his character and genius in various points of view, and cannot fail to inspire the conviction that his letters are rivals to his poems,
in the rare excellence of representing life and nature with graceful and endearing fidelity.
TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, Oct. 12, 1785. My dear Cousin—It is no new thing with you to give pleasure. But I will venture to say that you do not often give more than you gave me this morning. When I came down to breakfast, and found upon the table a letter franked by my uncle, and when opening that frank I found that it contained a letter from you, I said within myself—“ This is just as it should be. We are all grown young again, and the days that I thought I should see no more are actually returned." You perceive, therefore, that you judged well, when you conjectured that a line from you would not be disagreeable to me. It could not be otherwise than as in fact it proved—a most agreeable surprise, for I can truly boast of an affection for you, that neither years nor interrupted intercourse have at all abated. I need only recollect how much I valued you once, and with how much cause, immediately to feel a revival of the same value ; if that can be said to revive, which at the most has only been dormant for want of employment. But I slander it when I say that it has slept. A thousands times have I recollected a thousand scenes, in which our two selves have formed the whole of the drama, with the greatest pleasure; at times too when I had no reason to suppose that I should ever hear from you again. I have laughed with you at the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, which afforded us, as you well know, a fund of merriment that deserves never to be forgot. I have walked with you to Netley Abbey, and have scrambled with you over hedges in every direction, and many other feats we have performed together upon the field of my remembrance, and all within these few years. Should I say within this twelvemonth, I should not transgress the truth.
you were among the pleasantest of my former days, and are therefore chronicled in my mind so deeply as to fear no erasure.
Neither do I forget my poor friend, Sir Thomas ; I should remember him indeed at any rate, on account of his personal kindness to myself, but the last testimony that he gave of his regard for you endears him to me still more. With his uncommon understanding (for with many peculiarities he had more sense than any of his acquaintance,) and with his generous sensibilities, it was hardly possible that he should not distinguish you as he has done. As it was the last, so it was the best proof that he could give of a judgment that never deceived him, when he would allow himself leisure to consult it.
have often heard of me; that puzzles me. I cannot imagine from what quarter, but it is no matter. I must tell you, however, my cousin, that your information has been a little defective. That I am happy in my situation is true; I live, and have lived these twenty years, with Mrs. Unwin, to whose affectionate care of me, during the far greater part of that time, it is, under Providence, owing that I live at all. But I do not account myself happy in having been, for thirteen of those years, in a state of mind that has made all that care and attention necessary; an attention and a care that have injured her health, and which, had she not been uncommonly supported, must have brought her to the grave. But I will pass to another subject; it would be cruel to particularize only to give pain, neither would I by any means give a sable hue to
the first letter of a correspondence so unexpectedly renewed.
I am delighted with what you tell me of my uncle's good health. To enjoy any measure of cheerfulness at so late a day is much. But to have that late day enlivened with the vivacity of youth is much more, and in these postdiluvian times a rarity indeed. Happy for the most part are parents who have daughters. Daughters are not apt to outlive their natural affections, which a son has generally survived, even before his boyish years are expired. I rejoice particularly in my uncle's felicity, who has three female descendants from his little leave him nothing to wish for upon that head.
My dear Cousin, dejection of spirits which (I suppose) may have prevented many a man from becoming an author, made me one. I find constant employment necessary, and therefore take care to be constantly employed. Manual occupations do not engage the mind sufficiently, as I know by experience, having tried many. But composition, especially of verse, absorbs it wholly. I write therefore generally three hours in a morning, and in an evening I transcribe. I read also, but less than I write, for I must have bodily exercise, and therefore never pass a day without it.
You ask me where I have been this summer. I answer, at Olney. Should you ask me where I spent the last seventeen summers, I should still answer, at Olney. Ay and the winters also I have seldom left it, except when I attended my brother in his last illness, never I believe a fortnight together. Adieu,
beloved Cousin, I shall not always be thus nimble in reply, but shall always have great pleasure in answering you when I can. Yours, my dear friend and Cousin,
The letters addressed to Mr. Newton by Cowper are frequently characterised by a plaintiveness of feeling that powerfully awakens the emotions of the heart. The following contains some incidental allusions of this kind.
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, Oct. 16, 1785. My dear Friend—To have sent a child to heaven is a great honour and a great blessing, and your feelings on such an occasion may well be such as render you rather an object of congratulation than of condolence. And were it otherwise, yet, having yourself free access to all the sources of genuine consolation, I feel that it would be little better than impertinence in me to suggest any. An escape from a life of suffering to a life of happiness and glory is such a deliverance as leaves no room for the sorrow of survivors, unless they sorrow for themselves. We cannot, indeed, lose what we love without regretting it; but a Christian is in possession of such alleviations of that regret as the world knows nothing of. Their beloveds, when they die, go they know not whither; and if they suppose them, as they
* Private Correspondence.