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Nicholl, an extensive landowner in beautiful pictures which he has drawn Olney and the district. In his youth of their domestic life; her own long pathe Earl came under the influence of tience under the anxieties of his weak the famous Countess of Huntingdon, mental health,-all these combine to and was, like her, a leader in the Evan- form a picture of human relations so gelical world, in the world of White- full of charm, that those who have once field and Wesley. He does not appear realized it resent any change in the to have resided in his wife's house at arrangement of its lights and shadows. Olney, but he was much interested in If, however, we are to do justice to our the spiritual welfare of the little place; poet, it is due to him to pursue some by his recommendation the Reverend inquiry into the features in his intelJohn Newton was appointed curate at lectual history, in his artistic life, Olney, nor did he withhold his counte- which were introduced or, at any rate nance from Sutcliffe, the great Baptist developed, by the influence of Mrs. preacher, from whose seminary at Ol- Unwin. We may grant as a defect in ney went Carey, the missionary and the poet's organization that he was one orientalist. Five miles off, at New- of those men who cannot walk of themport Pagnell, was one of the earliest selves, who are by the law of their naCongregational churches; on the hill ture dependent upon the judgment of at Clifton Reynes the rector was a some other person, whose affection imnoted Evangelical, Mr. Jones, the
poses upon them a loss of liberty. It brother-in-law of Lady Austen. In was necessary that Cowper should rely those days the line between Noncon- upon somebody; but it was not neces. formist Evangelicals and Church of sary that he should rely upon Mrs. England Evangelicals was not rigidly Unwin. Many a woman has laid upon drawn; what they had in common was the object of her devotion a yoke which more than that in which they differed; was never felt, and never consciously clergymen of the Church of England, attached. The truest affection, result. who were at all earnest, had more sym- ing in mutual self-sacrifice, may exist pathy with the Baptist Sutcliffe and the between husband and wife, and yet the Congregational Bull than with fox- partner who is apparently the gainer, hunting country parsons or the prel- may really be the loser in the partnerates of the court. Thus the Methodist ship; this is particularly apt to be the movement was stronger then in coun- case when one of the partners is an try districts than it is now; it was sup- artist, and the other a very loving, but ported by the wealthy and refined, as only an ordinarily well-informed huwell as by small tradesmen and arti- man being. zans. Not only Lord Dartmouth, but Cowper was by birth and education other country gentlemen and ladies in a member of the English aristocracy; the Olney neighborhood favored the he was a classical scholar of considerMethodists. The result was the soci- able attainments; he was exceptionally ety to which Mrs. Unwin brought Cow- well read in English literature; he was per.
no milksop; as a schoolboy he was disThe virtues of Mrs. Unwin have be- tinguished in athletics; he was humorcome an article of faith with many ous, witty, merry and affectionate, lovers of Cowper. The poet's exquisite with an unusual power of attracting expression of his attachment to her; friendship, especially the friendship the high value which he set upon her of women and young men, and this literary judgment; the tenderness with power he retained to the last years of which he waited on her decline; the his life. It is exceptional for a man of
sixty to love or be loved by a new ac- who was a fellow of Benet College, quaintance; but Cowper won the heart of Cambridge; suitable lodgings could not his distant cousin, John Johnson, a Cam- be found within a shorter distance. At bridge undergraduate, who called on him first he lived alone, except for the atat Weston, when he was nearly sixty; tendance of a man-servant, whom he this
acquaintance afterwards brought with him from the private asycared for and tended him with no less lum in which he had been cured; then assiduity than Mrs. Unwin, and in cir- he was attracted by young William cumstances no less, if not more, pain- Unwin, who was just finishing his ful. Among Cowper's many bright, course at Cambridge and was shortly affectionate letters few are more bright to take orders. He was introduced to and affectionate than those to his the family; the liking was mutual, and young relative.
eventually Cowper begged to be allowed Mrs. Unwin was the daughter of a to take the place of a pupil in the linen-draper at Ely. There is no crime house. A year later Mr. Unwin was in being the daughter of a linen-draper, killed by a fall from his horse. He but distinctions of rank and distinc- seems to have expressed some wish tions of training were much sharper in that in the event of his death, Cowper the middle of the eighteenth century might continue to live with his widow, than they are now. She was by birth and the arrangement was acceptable to and association far removed from the both parties. Cowper speaks of the world in which Cowper had been maternal affection of Mrs. Unwin for brought up. She is said to have been him, and his filial tenderness towards pretty and witty. Her husband was a her. clergyman, very much older than her- Just at this moment John Newton, self, who lived the life of an absentee who had recently been appointed curate rector at Huntingdon, where he took at Olney, happened to come to Huntingprivate pupils, and held the post of don. His preaching attracted Mrs. reader in the church. The immorality Unwin, who made his acquaintance, of absenteeism was not regarded in and asked him to find a house for herthose days with the same rigor that it self and Cowper in Olney or its immeis now; but the Unwins lived the life diate neighborhood. This was done, of Methodists. A day with them was and in 1767 began Cowper's long life divided between public and private at Olney. prayers, pious conversation and pious There could have been no more unreading, enlivened by the singing of fortunate arrangement. Cowper's hymns to the accompaniment of Mrs. malady was that terrible mania of Unwin's harpsichord. It seems strange morbid fear impelling the sufferer to that such good people should not have self-destruction; before and after an thought of their parishioners at Grim- attack he was given to religious quesston, and should not have seen some tionings, not of a particularly gloomy incongruity in the comfortable profes- character, being indeed such as sion of religion at Huntingdon, while often indulged in by those in good they were drawing a stipend from their health. Occupation was good for him, neglected country parish.
was indeed necessary alike for his Two years before Mr. Unwin's sud- bodily and mental health; but exciteden death, Cowper arrived at Hunting- ment was deadly. His first attack was don. He had just recovered from his brought on by dread of having to first severe attack of mania and wished appear in the House of Lords and prove to live in the country near his brother, himself qualified to be a clerk of that
august assembly, for he had a horror Cotton, who had cured him at St. Alof publicity in any form.
bans. This being the case, and Mrs. Unwin This was not the whole of the injury knowing that it was the case, he was which Mrs. Unwin did to Cowper. She taken by her and handed over bodily estranged him from his relations, or, to the care of a revivalist preacher of rather, allowed an estrangement to an energetic and noisy type. John continue which had begun at the period Newton had been a sailor before the of his first illness. What Cowper lost mast; having been a profane swearer by this we may gather from his first like Bunyan, he had been converted by letter written to his cousin, Lady Hesa special interposition of Providence on keth, in reply to one of hers after a silence his behalf in a rescue from shipwreck; of nineteen years. The delight with which he had then been captain of a slaver, Cowper recurs to the innocent pleasures and eventually a tide-surveyor at Liv- of his youth, to the days that were erpool. This post he gave up to take spent in "giggling and making giggle," orders, impelled by a sense of duty and his almost painfully eager anticipations. fitness. He believed in special inter- of the joy of seeing his old friend again, positions of Providence, even in trivial are expressed as though by a matters, in sudden conversions; he was starving for sympathy, who has sudin many respects a Calvinist, but not a denly realized all that he had foregone, gloomy one. His preaching was such and is impatient of any delay in returnthat the people of Olney attributed ing to happier scenes. Newton left cases of insanity to its effects.
Olney, fortunately for Cowper, in 1780, to this Boanerges of a man that Mrs. and the succeeding ten years were the Unwin brought Cowper, the tender, happiest of Cowper's life after his first shrinking, refined, delicate scholar, suf- breakdown. There was another gleam fering from a definite nervous malady. of light, a break in the clouds of Un
Newton, a thoroughly good-hearted winism in which Cowper had allowed and affectionate man, took possession himself to be enveloped. This was the of Cowper; for thirteen years they were intercourse with Lady Austen, which hardly separated for more than twelve began almost immediately after Newhours out of the twenty-four, except ton's departure; it is to this that we when a recurrence of Cowper's insanity owe “The Diverting History of John rendered his seclusion necessary. New- Gilpin" and "The Task.” ton rode about to the different villages There can be no possible doubt that in the neighborhood, holding open-air Mrs. Unwin was jealous of Lady Ausmeetings, preaching in cottages, pray- ten; and there can be no less doubt ing by death-beds. In all these Cowper that she had reason to be jealous. She accompanied him; long prayer-meetings had been engaged to marry Cowper, were held in Lord Dartmouth's empty but the contract was broken off at the house at Olney, and Cowper, to whom time of his madness at Olney. She saw "publicity was poison," was encouraged that "brother William and sister Ann" to take a leading part in them. The could not continue to live on those terms, result was very soon a recurrence of though Cowper might choose to please his malady, which lasted in all for himself with the simile of a three-fold eighteen months, in an acute form for cord of which she was herself one of six; and the pair of well-intentioned the strands. But the moment Cowper blunderers allowed their friend's illness realized that he had entered upon more to grow on him for more than a year than friendly relations with Lady Ausbefore they thought of consulting Dr. ten he broke the connection. Could a
woman desire more than this? Appar- tory by any possible oversight. She ently Mrs. Unwin was not satisfied, for was not, however, permanently cured she allowed Cowper to write as follows of her jealousy; a little postscript to to her son after Lady Austen had left a letter of Cowper, addressed to Lady Olney:
Hesketh, written and signed by Mrs.
Unwin at a later time, shows that You are going to Bristol. A lady, there were still occasional quarrels with not long since our nearest neighbor, is Cowper's friends. probably there, she was
In fact, Mrs. Unwin was not of Cowlately. If you should chance to fall
per's world; she was not of his intelinto her company, remember, if you
lectual world any more than she was of please, that we found the connection in
his social world. Under Newton's insome respects an inconvenient one; that we do not wish to renew it; and
fluence Cowper could only write hymns; conduct yourself accordingly. A char- under Mrs. Unwin's, rather common. acter with which we spend all our place satire or mild preaching; it was time should be made on purpose for us; Lady Austen who showed him what he too much or too little of any ingredi- could do with the incidents of everyday ent spoils all. In the instance in ques
life, and who elicited from him the tion the dissimilitude was too great not
matchless descriptions in "The Task.” to be felt continually, and conse
Mrs. Unwin restricted his reading to quently made our intercourse unpleasant. We have reason, however, to be
the Bible, the newspaper and devolieve that she has given up all thoughts tional works; under Mrs. Unwin's inof a return to Olney.
fluence he pours contempt on geology
and astronomy, and gives advice about It took Cowper three years to find the reading of the Bible which would out the unpleasantness of this painful
inevitably lead us to the abysmal ignodissimilitude. He writes in his own rance of the Boers. Mrs. Unwin tolername and Mrs. Unwin's, who might ated his humorous side, his powers of surely have written to her son herself,
dramatic description; Lady Austen and and spared Cowper the humiliation of
Lady Hesketh enjoyed them. It is to this disingenuous and ungenerous epis- Mrs. Unwin that we owe the popular tle. Cowper had satisfied all that Mrs.
conception of Cowper as a mild, mad Unwin could possibly demand; he had man, who kept tame hares and wore sent Lady Austen away; he had prac- a white cap. But the real Cowper was tically, if not actually, said that he
a finished gentleman, running over with felt himself so bound to Mrs. Unwin fun and laughter, particular about his that he could marry no one else; could personal appearance, able to be acshe not have let the matter be? Cow- cepted on his own terms by the Wrights per could have had no fear that Lady of Gayhurst, the Chesters of Chicheley Austen would attempt to renew the in- and, above all, by his delightful "Mr. tercourse by the mediation of young and Mrs. Frog," the Throgmortons of Unwin; he was a gentleman, and Lady Weston Underwood. Austen was a lady; in fact, Mrs. Un- The excitements of society were too win, like many other beneficent men much for Cowper's delicate nerves, and women, was over-tenacious of her nor had he any sympathy with sport; power, over-apprehensive of its loss. he preferred taming hares to chasing She had made Cowper quarrel with them, watching birds to shooting them; Lady Austen once before, and there had but he also loved the intimate combeen a reconciliation; this time she was
panionship of a few chosen friends, and determined not to risk the fruits of vic- he could always find them. Such intercourse was good for him, better for he has never been surpassed; he is mihim even than visiting the sick in their nute in his observation and yet has the homes, and other active charities in gift of selection; he loved the scenes which he was engaged. Cowper was
in which his innocent life was spent, respecter of persons; he made perhaps more than Dr. Johnson loved friends in all classes of society; he is Fleet Street. as proud of the affection of his man It is a misfortune that the best-known Sam as of that of Mrs. Courtenay portraits of Cowper, those which have "my lady of the ink-bottle," and when been most frequently reproduced, repliving at Olney he would run across the resent him in a strange white cap, and road with his last copy of verses to
have thus contributed to make us think Mr. Wilson, the barber, a genial tonsor, of him solely or chiefly as eccentric. who is still remembered by old resi- The children of Weston Underwood, dents in Olney, and whose shop was during the last years of the poet's resithe informal club of the little town. dence on the Ouse, when his suicidal
We may give Mrs. Unwin her due; mania was talked about in the locality, devoting herself to Cowper as few were much terrified by this cap; but would have done, she nursed and cared we are not children, and even though for him in every way; we may respect Cowper was sometimes insane, have no her devotion, and yet we must regret right to despise his teaching on that acher limitations. She went the wrong count. Dr. Johnson was subject to way to work to effect the restoration melancholy, though in a less degree of his health, and who knows what he than Cowper, but we do not consider might have done had he been in the him effeminate; both were devoutly habit of reading with a woman of pious. The cap in question was worn
profound literary accomplish- by all gentlemen in the time of perukes, ments?
who did not wish to spend the whole In spite of Mrs. Unwin's restrictions, of their day magnificently bewigged. Cowper remains one of the few con- Cowper's was a particularly smart summate masters of the English lan
affair, made for him by Lady Hesketh, guage. His letters are generally ad- and adorned with a ribbon and a bow. mitted to be incomparable, the high- Hogarth has represented himself in a water mark of pure, light, easy English
similar cap; but we do not suspect him prose; the words and the ideas fit like of too much mildness. a glove; both are alike graceful and The best picture of Cowper is probdelicate. Not that Cowper could not
ably that in the National Portrait Galbe stern upon occasion; he is, perhaps,
lery; it was painted by Romney at the the only one of Dr. Johnson's contem- same time as the better-known one, in poraries who could pass an unfavorable
which a stagey effect is produced by criticism upon him with no sense of
the position of the eyes, as of one listemerity. There are strong bits of sa- tening for inspiration. The less-known tire in his poetry, as well as those that portrait represents the poet with a silk are weak, and even when his religios
handkerchief thrown over the back of ity offends us we would do well to re
his head, which is inclined forward; member that what he says is fre- full justice is done to the delicate lips quently worth saying, though the
and the earnest eyes. Romney seems to form in which it is said has have kept this more natural study, and gone out of fashion; nor is he it was sold with the rest of his effects. deficient in shrewdness and strong
At Weston Underwood, Cowper was common sense. As a descriptive poet
well above the Ouse, and could look