Abbildungen der Seite





[ocr errors]

LOCAL MEMORIES OF GREAT MEN. of the best translations of 'Terence in the language ;

and Churchill, the satirist, and author of the “ Rosciad," a man of still higher power. On leaving

Westminster, Cowper was articled to a solicitor, in CowPER, one of the most popular of English poets, whose office he had for a fellow-clerk Thurlow, afand a most delightful letter-writer, was born at the terwards lord-chancellor. « There was I and the rectory of Great Berkhamstead, in Hertfordshire, future lord-chancellor,” he says, in a letter to his dear on the 15th of November (old style), 1731. His friend and cousin Lady Hesketh, “ constantly emfather, Dr. Cowper, was chaplain to George II., and ployed from morning to night in giggling and making his grandfather, Spencer Cowper, one of the judges giggle, instead of studying the law.” On leaving of the court of Common Pleas. By the mother's this office, he entered the Middle Temple ; in 1754 side Cowper was connected with the poet Donne's he was called to the bar, and in 1759 received the family, and with the several noble houses of West, appointment of a commissioner of bankrupts. While Knollys, Carey, Bullen, Howard, and Mowbray, and here he fell in love with his cousin Theodora Cow80 by four different lines with Henry III., king of per, the sister of Lady Hesketh, who reciprocated England. Berkhamstead, the poet's birthplace, is a his affection. This circumstance forms one of the town of considerable interest. The Mercian kings most interesting episodes of Cowper's history. The had a palace here, as had also the first of the Plan- lady's father appears to have first looked on with a tagenets, who granted to the inhabitants peculiar favorable eye, but afterwards to have peremptorily liberties and exemptions. In after-times two royal forbidden the connexion, assigning no other reason favorites possessed the honor and castle, which was than the impropriety of marriage between persons so attached to the earldom of Cornwall : Piers Gaves- nearly related. In all probability he saw the incipi- . ton, in the reign of Edward II., and Robert de Vere, ent insanity which broke out shortly afterwards, and in that of Richard II. During the last few years of therefore was compelled to act as he did, and submit her miserable life, Cicely, duchess of York, and the at the same time to the misconstruction which his mother of the last of the Plantagenets, resided here. conduct produced :-he could not tell Cowper what The poet's recollections of this place were saddened he feared. From that time the two cousins never by the loss of his mother, who died at Berkhamstead met; although the affair left on her mind at least an while he was yet but in his sixth year. One of the ineffaceable impression. Many years afterwards, most beautiful of his minor poems records his feelings when his circumstances were not very good, he was on that occasion.

accustomed to receive from time to time gifts from Nearly fifty years after her death, he writes : “Not an anonymous correspondent; who that was, no one a week passes (perhaps I might with equal veracity can doubt : Cowper himself playfully thanked Lady say not a day) in which I do not think of her: such Hesketh (Theodora's sister) for these gifts, on the was the impression her tenderness made upon me, ground that as it was painful to have nobody to though the opportunity she had for showing it was thank,” he must constitute her his “ Thanks-receiverso short."

general.” Cowper was now placed at a boarding-school at During his residence in the Temple he became a Market-Street in the same county, kept by a Dr. member of a club called the “ Nonsense Club," conPitman, where he suffered much from the cruelty of sisting entirely of men educated at Westminster an elder boy. His savage treatment, he says, im- School, and comprising Bonnell Thornton and Colpressed such a dread of his figure on his mind, that man, the principal writers of the “ Connoisseur,” to he was afraid to list his eyes upon him higher which Cowper contributed some papers, as well as than his knees ; and he knew him better by his Lloyd, and other distinguished men. shoe-buckles than by any other part of his dress! In 1763 the offices of clerk of the journals, reading No inconsiderable portion of that frightful malady clerk, and clerk of the committees in the House of which in after years so frequently made life intolera- Lords, all became vacant, and Cowper was offered ble to him, may probably be ascribed to this important the two last by his cousin Major Cooper, “ the paera of the poet's life. Two years were spent at this tentee of these appointments." They were hurriedly school, when, being threatened with blindness, he but gratefully accepted ; and at the same moment he was removed to the house of an oculist, where he felt, as he states, that he had “ received a dagger in spent two years more ; and although he remained his heart.” The offices required that he should frethrough life liable to an occasional inflammation of quently appear before the House of Lords, which he the eyes, they grew so much better, that he was felt was a matter of impossibility to one of his retired enabled to enter Westminster School at the age of nervous excitable temperament. So he begged his ten. Here he remained for eight years, during relative to give him, instead of these offices, the which time he acquired among his contemporaries office of clerk of the journals, an appointment of the character of an accomplished scholar. Among much inferior value ; which was done. But some those contemporaries he formed some close intima- opposition had been raised from the first as to the cies, and with men destined to acquire a poetical right of nomination by Major Cooper; and, to his reputation only inferior to his own. There was poor relative's horror, it was decided that the latter Lloyd, the author of the poem called “The Actor,” should appear at the bar of the House to be examwritten with ease, vigor, and critical discrimination ; ined as to fitness. From this moment his state of Colman, the author of the “ Jealous Wife," and of one mind was most pitiable : quiet, he says, forsook him


[ocr errors]



by day and peace by night. He looked forward with that lady giving him for a subject “ The Progress of a sort of desperate satisfaction to the time when the Error ;" and thus was produced his first important ravages of the mental disease that was preying upon poem, and at the age of forty-five! “ Truth," " Tahim should render it impossible for him to be sub- ble-Talk," and “ Expostulation" immediately foljected to the terrible examination; and at last, find- lowed. Of the " Table-Talk” he says, in a letter to ing that event approach too slowly for his purpose, Mr. Newton, dated February 18, 1781, “ It is a medhe made several attempts to commit suicide. There ley of many things ; some that may be useful, and is nothing on record more painful in the history of some that, for aught I know, may be very diverting. any of our great men than in Cowper's own account I am merry that I may decoy people into my comof these lamentable events. Ultimately the office pany, and grave that they may be the better for it. was resigned on the very day appointed for the ex- Now and then I put on ihe garb of a philosopher, amination, and Cowper was immediately removed to and take the opportunity that disguise procures me St. Alban's, where he was placed under the care of to drop a word in favor of religion. In short, there Dr. Cotton. The form of Cowper's madness was is some froth, and here and there a bit of sweetmeat, that of religious madness : he believed that he was which seems to entitle it justly to the name of a cercut off from all hope of “grace" in this world and tain dish the ladies call a trifle. I did not choose salvation in the next. After a stay of eighteen to be more facetious, lest I should consult the taste months at St. Alban's, he was apparently cured; but of my readers at the expense of my own approbation ; from 1773 to 1776, for half of the year 1787, and for nor more serious than I have been, lest I should fora considerable portion of the last six years of his life, feit theirs. ..... Whether all this management and he again experienced all the unutterable miseries of contrivance be necessary, I do not know, but am inhis awful malady.

clined to suspect that if my muse was to go forth On leaving St. Alban's, Cowper took up his resi- clad in Quaker color, without one bit of riband to dence at Huntingrlon, in order that he might be near enliven her appearance, she might walk from one to a younger brother then at Cambridge. This is end of London to the other as little noticed as if she the place praised by Henry of Huntingdon (who de- were one of the sisterhood indeed.” rived his name from it) for the convenience of the In another letter* Cowper thus describes his fafens just by, and for its great advantages of fishing vorite retreat at Olney, the place in which he comand hunting. “It surpassed,” he adds, "all the posed a considerable portion of his poems :--"I write neighboring towns in the pleasantness of its situa- in a nook that I call my boudoir. It is a summertion, and in its handsomeness and beauty." Cowper house, not much bigger than a sedan-chair, the door gives a somewhat different account of it. “ We have of which opens into the garden, that is now crowded neither woods nor commons, nor pleasant prospects; with pinks, roses, and honey-suckles, and the winall flat and insipid ; in the summer adorned with blue dow into my neighbor's orchard. ... Having willows, and in the winter covered with a flood.”— lined it with garden mats, and furnished it with a “Yet,” says he elsewhere, “ the longer I live here, table and two chairs, here I write all that I write in the better I like the place, and the people who be- summer-time, whether to my friends or to the public. long to it.” These last words explain the secret. It is secure from all noise, and a refuge from all inHe here met with the Unwin family, to a member of trusion.” Here, too, when disinclined for literary which, Mrs. Unwin, England is possibly indebted labor, he was accustomed to amuse himself with the for one of its best poets. With them he took up his freaks of three leverets which he brought up with residence, and, on the death of Mr. Unwin, in 1767, great care, and the last of which he lost only through removed with his widow to Olney in Buckingham- old age, after twelve years companionship. He has shire. In making that place their residence, Cowper immortalized these animals in prose and in poetry, and Mrs. Unwin had been influenced by their esteem English and Latin; they have been represented in for Mr. Newton, the then curate of Olney. Mr. prints, and engraved on seals, and Cowper's account Newton, a man of great moral worth and powerful of them contains more interesting matter on the namind, was of the class called Evangelical, and to his tural history of that timid but playful race, than had guidance Cowper gave himself almost entirely up. ever before been contributed. When we consider Mr. Newton's own remark upon The poems before mentioned, together with some himself—“I believe my name is up about the coun- others written subsequently, were published in 1782, try for preaching people mad !”—we need not won- and another volume, containing the “Task,' in 1785. der at the injurious consequences which Cowper This poem was, as is well known, commenced at the derived from this “ sincere but injudicious friend."* suggestion of another of Cowper's female friends, The poet's life for the next few years was spent in Lady Austen, to whom we are also indebted for the a state of almost continual religious excitement ; nor famous ballad of · John Gilpin. The translation of were matters improved when Mr. Newton induced Homer was begun in 1784, and published in 1791. him to join in the composition of the “Olney Hymns,” During its progress, Cowper had changed his resiwhich ihe former was then preparing, for in 1772 came dence from Olney to Weston, a neighboring village, on the second attack of insanity, which lasted no where was the seat of Sir George and Lady Throckless than four years. About the expiration of that morton, who paid the most marked attention to the time, Mr. Newton removed from Olney; and Cowper poet. By this time his reputation had become firmly was induced by Mrs. Unwin to begin writing a poem, established. An amusing proof that poets, if not . Southey

• To J. Hill, Esq.




[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

prophets, are sometimes honored in their own coun- dreams that possessed him between sleeping and try, is furnished by one of Cowper's delightful letters waking), “such terrors as no language could exto Lady Hesketh :—“On Monday morning last Sam press," and no heart but his own ever knew, he brought me word that there was a man in the kitchen wrote a letter to Hayley, in which he describes a who desired to speak with me. I ordered him in. A dream of a very different kind, in the following explain, decent, elderly figure made its appearance, and, quisite manner : “ Oh, you rogue, what would you being desired to sit, spoke as follows:—“Sir, I am give to have such a dream about Milton as I had clerk of the parish in All Saints, in Northampton, about a week since ? I dreamed that, being in a brother of Mr. Cox, the upholsterer. It is customary house in the city, and with much company, looking for the person in my office to annex to a bill of mor- towards the lower end of the room from the upper tality, which he publishes at Christmas, a copy of end of it, I descried a figure, which I immediately

You will do me a great favor, sir, if you knew to be Milton's. He was very gravely but very will furnish me with one.' To this I replied, — Mr. neatly attired in the fashion of his day, and had a Cox, you have several men of genius in your town, countenance which filled me with those feelings that why have you not applied to some of them? There an affectionate child has for a beloved father ; such, is a narnesake of yours, in particular, Cox, the statu- for instance, as Tom has for you. My first thought ary, who, every person knows, is a first-rate maker was wonder where he could have been concealed so of verses. He, surely, is a man of all the world for many years ; my second, a transport of joy to find your purpose.' "Alas! sir, I have heretofore borrowed him still alive ; my third, another transport to find help from him, but he is a gentleman of so much myself in his company; and my fourth, a resolution reading, that the people of our town cannot under- to accost him. I did so, and he received me with stand him!' I confess to you, my dear, I felt all the a complacence in which I saw equal sweetness and force of the compliment implied in this speech, and dignity. I spoke of his · Paradise Lost' as every was almost ready to answer, Perhaps, my good man must who is worthy to speak of it at all, and friend, they may find me unintelligible for the same told him a long story of the manner in which it

But, on asking him whether he had walked affected me when I first discovered it, being at that over to Weston on purpose to implore the assistance time a schoolboy. He answered me by a smile, and of my muse, and on his replying in the affirmative, a gentle inclination of his head. He then grasped I felt my mortified vanity a little consoled, and, pity- my hand affectionately, and, with a smile that charming the poor man's distress, which appeared to be ed me, said, 'Well, you for your part will do well considerable, promised to supply him. The wagon also. At last, recollecting his great age (for I unhas accordingly gone this day to Northampton, loaded derstood him to be two hundred years old), I feared in part with my effusions in the mortuary style. A that I might fatigue him by too much talking, I took fig for poets who write epitaphs upon individuals. I my leave, and he took his, with an air of the most have written one that serves two hundred persons.” perfect good-breeding. His person, his features, his

Almost immediately after the completion of the manner, were all so perfectly characteristic, that I translation of Homer, he undertook to superintend a am persuaded an apparition of him could not reprenew and splendid edition of Milton's works. In sent him more completely." Who can read this, and 1792, for the first time for twenty years, he took a resist the conclusion that judicious management of journey from home, in order to pay a visit to Hayley, its author at an earlier period would have greatly at Eartham, in Sussex, a place of which Cowper lessened the miseries of his unhappy life, if it could says, “ I had, for my part, no conception that a poet not have altogether prevented them! could be the owner of such a paradise.” He was, Yet,“ sad as Cowper's story is, it is not altogether however, soon glad to get home again. The symp- mournful,” says his admirable biographer, Southey; toms of his disease were continually recurring, and he had never to complain of injustice nor of injuin the beginning of 1794 he was again afflicted with ries, nor even of neglect. Man had no part in bringall its worst horrors. He removed from place to sing on his calamity, and to that very calamity which place, till he stayed at East Dereham, in Norfolk, made him · leave the herd' like a stricken deer it where the faithful companion and most devoted nurse was owing that the genius which had consecrated of so many years, Mrs. Unwin, died. Three dreary his name, which has made him the most popular years followed, when Cowper followed her to the poet of his age, and secures that popularity from grave, on the 25th of April, 1800. He was buried fading away, was developed in retirement; it would in St. Edmund's chapel, Dereham church,-a very have been blighted had he continued in the course ancient collegiate edifice, of which Bonner was once for which he was trained up. He would not have the incumbent.

found the way to fame unless he had missed the way One of the most curious circumstances attending to fortune. He might have been happier in his genCowper's malady was the unerring judgment he ex- eration, but he could never have been so useful ; with hibited on all matters unconnected with religion, that generation his memory would have passed away, the continual stream of playful humor running through and he would have slept with his fathers, instead of his correspondence, at all but the very darkest peri- living with those who are the glory of their countr ods of his life. Thus, in 1793, while he was suffer- and the benefactors of their kind." ing both hy day and by night from what he called his " experiences" (which appear to have been insane

• « Life," vol. ii. p. 313.

[ocr errors]




Christianity in order to lead to civilization-Mr. C. observed

“ Most distinctly with Christianity, in order to the

civilization of a savage people, in any proper sense As the connexion between Christianity and civil- of the term civilization. Of course a good deal will ization may, in the course of the present work, fre- depend upon what is meant by civilization. If civilquently come under our notice, it seems well that ization be intended to mean the moral and social imwe should, at the outset, make the reader acquainted provement of a people, my opinion is, distinctly, that with the view of this important matter which the Christianity is the instrument by which to bring it missionary societies have taken, as well as with that about. I form this opinion from several reasons, which we have ourselves been led to entertain. derived partly from the nature of Christianity itself,

It is obviously of the utmost importance to know and partly from the history of Christianity. to what extent, in what manner, and on what prin- “ I find the preceptive part of Christianity tends to ciples, the various societies are prepared or not pre- make men peaceable, honest, sober, industrious, and pared to undertake, or to assist in, the civilization of orderly. These, in my opinion, are the very elethose nations which, not less in a moral than in a ments of civilization, in the moral sense of it. I find spiritual sense, “ sit in darkness and the shadow of in the Christian scheme the doctrines of man's fallen death."

state through sin, redemption by Christ, renovation Now, the societies have been led by circum- by the power of the Holy Ghost, and the great and stances to make up their minds on the subject, and awful sanction of an eternal judgment. Now it is have been anxious to promulgate the views on which clear to my mind, that the impression of these great they have acted in this matter, and on which they principles on the heart of man tends directly to make still intend to act. Their several secretaries must him humble, self-denying, philanthropic, beneficent, be considered as the organs of their opinions, and apart from the consideration of those effects of the among them we find a remarkable unanimity in the doctrines which may be considered more strictly of principal conclusions—that civilization, beyond a a religious or theological kind. Those principles, I certain limit, is not possible without Christianity- apprehend, cannot exist in force, in any community, that Christianity inevitably leads to civilization, without the moral and social well-being of that comthat civilization is itseli no necessary prepara:ion to munity being greatly promoted. I look again into Christianity—and that, therefore, they will not at the Christian scheme, and observe the very emphatic tempt to prepare barbarous nations for Christianity description of the Gospel : it is declared to be the by civilization, but are willing to promote and foster power of God.' I think that the phrase must be civilization as an effect and consequence of Christi- understood to imply, in any reasonable interpretation anity.

of the words, a Divine influence accompanying the In the year 1836 che secretaries of the several preaching of the gospel. I see, therefore, in that an societies were examined before the select committee arrangement and process by which the human mind of the House of Commons, appointed to “ consider is to be operated upon, in a more powerful manner what measures ought to be adopted with respect to than any other agency that can be imagined. I look the native inhabitants of countries where British further into the Christian scheme, and find it to be settleinents are made, and to the neighboring tribes, a revelation from God: now if God be, as the Bible in order to secure to them the due observance of teaches us that he is, supreme in benevolence and justice, and the protection of their rights; to promote beneficence, as well as in power, wisdom, and civilization among them, and to lead them to the knowledge, then I think the inference is most clear peaceful and voluntary reception of the Christian and irrefragable, that to bring that revelation to bear religion."

upon mankind, is to promote their temporal welfare, The important and valuable evidence given before as well as to provide for their eternal salvation. this committee, of which Mr. (now Sir) T. F. Bux- “But I pass to the second series of reasonston was chairman, will be of great service to us in those which are' derived from the history of Christi. the progress of this inquiry. Among the witnesses anity. This is a branch of the subject of such imexamined were the secretaries of the various mis- mense extent that it would be quite impracticable sionary societies. Mr. Coates, the lay secretary of for me to do more than to glance at it. If I look at the Church Missionary Society, brought the matter the state of the world when, at the rise of Christianforward in an able and luminous statement, to the ity, it found Rome in the zenith of her power and principles contained in which the secretaries of the glory, in the highest state of civilization, as civiliWesleyan and London Societies declared their ad- zation could exist in a heathen land, that mankind was hesion, and which they supported by a variety of ever advanced to, perhaps with the exception of arguments and illustrations. We will endeavor to Greece, which was already on the decline from her produce the substantial matter of this truly “great glory, and therefore I do not more particularly refer argument,” reserving the particular illustrations to be to Greece: in Rome, at this period, among other pracproduced as we come among the various nations by tices which I will not dwell upon, that of selling which they are supplied.

their prisoners of war into slavery prevailed, and that In reply to the question,-does experience lead of exposing their prisoners of war in their public to the belief that it would he advisable to begin with games. I find, too, in Rome, at that period, their civilization in order 19 produce Christianity, or with gladiatorial games-man opposed to man in mortal

[ocr errors][merged small][graphic][merged small]




conflict. And this is not an accidental occurrence, legislation, the glory of which redounds exclusively but an established order of things, exhibited, not in to Christianity." private, not only occasionally, but habitually, at their After this, Mr. Coates proceeds to take up the theatres, and to the most polished and distinguished question under a different aspect-namely, as illusof the whole population. What do I find at the ex- trated by the effects of modern protestant missions. piration of a few ages ? Christianity attains the as- The evidence is clear under this head; but as it is cendency, and these things are extinct.

derived from various nations which in due time we “ I dwell on no other topic of ancient history, but hope to visit, we shall not produce it in this place. come down to modern times. I contrast the state Mr. Coates was then askedof the European nations with, I will not say, those Although you laid the principal stress upon the of Africa, but with the more civilized nations of Asia; introduction of Christianity, you do not overlook and here I trace a distinction so broad and obvious civilization, but you consider that civilization will be that it need not be insisted on. I see clearly that it the natural companion and consequence of the effect is Christianity which has conferred upon the Euro- of the introduction of Christianity? Though I have pean nations this distinction.

a very clear opinion as to the efficacy of Christianity "I would only attempt further to illustrate this as an instrument of civilization, I should not be disbearing of the subject from three or four facts of re- posed to represent Christianity as preceding civilizacent date. At a recent period suttees prevailed tion, because the moment Christian principle begins throughout our possessions in India ; they are now to bear upon the mind of man, from that moment his prohibited. The voice of Christianity in this coun- condition as a civilized being advances, and hence try unquestionably wrought the change. The abom- Christianity and civilization advance pari passu. I! inable pilgrim-tax is suppressed in India by author- is, therefore, I conceive, impossible that civilization ity, and this was effected by the expression of should stand still, or not go on in its due ratio, so Christian opinion and feeling in this country. I long as Christian principle is duly brought to bear look back on the enormous evils of the slave trade : upon the population.” the slave trade is suppressed, and suppressed un

The committee then desired to hear the sentiquestionably by the force of Christianity in this ments, on this subject, of the Rev. John Beecham, country. I come to a still more recent period—a one of the secretaries of the Wesleyan Methodist very recent one indeed : I see slavery abolished Missionary Society. He said :throughout the colonies, and that at the cost of “My attention has been long directed to this sub20,000,0001. of public money; the result, most une-ject, and the firm conviction of my mind that Christiquivocally, of the state of Christian principle and anity must precede civilization, is the result of the feeling in the country—a national act, I will venture inquiries and observation which I have made. So to affirm, unparalleled in the whole history of human far has my experience been from proving that civil

« ZurückWeiter »