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be led to those scaffolds and machines of murder, upon which great kings and glorious queens have shed their blood, amidst the prelates, amidst the nobles, amidst the magistrates, who supported their thrones, may you in those moments feel that consolation which I am persuaded they felt in the critical moments of their dreadful agony!...
My Lords, if you must fall, may you so fall! but if you stand, and stand I trust you will, together with the fortune of this ancient monarchy-together with the ancient laws and liberties of this great and illustrious kingdom, may you stand as unimpeached in honour as in power; may you stand, not as a substitute for virtue, but as an ornament of virtue, as a security for virtue; may you stand long, and long stand the terror of tyrants; may you stand the refuge of afflicted nations; may you stand a sacred temple, for the perpetual residence of an inviolable Justice.-Speech in the impeachment of Warren Hastings, 1794.
WILLIAM COWPER was born in 1731. The death of his mother when he was only six years old deprived him of the care which was needed for the well-being of a delicate and sensitive child; his recollections of this early sorrow are commemorated in one of the most beautiful of his minor poems. He was sent after her death to a private school at Market Street, whence he was removed at the end of two years because of an affection of his sight. At ten years of age he was sent to Westminster, where he continued until he was eighteen. Though he excelled in some youthful sports, and was therefore likely to have been popular with his companions, he appears to have suffered much both at Market Street and at Westminster from the tyranny of his school-fellows, and ever after retained the strongest aversion to any but home education. On leaving Westminster he was articled for three years to a solicitor-his fellow pupil in the office being the future Lord Thurloe. In 1754 he was called to the bar, and resided in the Temple for eleven years. During those years Cowper mixed in the literary society of the day, and had considerable success both as a wit and as the author of various fugitive pieces. Several lucrative offices were obtained for him by the interest of friends, but each one of these in succession was found to require some public appearance, for which his nervous temperament disqualified him. In his last attempt to face an ordeal of the kind he broke down, became insane, and was placed in confinement for eighteen months. He now withdrew from London, and settled at Huntingdon, where he became the friend and soon the inmate of the
family of the Unwins, with whom, there and at Olney, and afterwards at Weston, he found a home for the remainder of his days. Cowper suffered through life from the nervous melancholy which so often defeated his purposes in youth, and which at times amounted to insanity. He died in 1800.
Cowper was the author of Table Talk, Expostulation, The Task, and other poems, besides Hymns contributed to the Olney collection, and translations of the Iliad and Odyssey. His prose writings consist chiefly of letters written to various friends, to whom he was deeply attached. He lived in extreme retirement in the bosom of the religious family with whom, as has been already said, he had made his home, and his letters touch upon such subjects as naturally belong to a quiet and contemplative life; they abound in religious meditations, in descriptions of domestic scenes, and in disclosures of his own feelings and states of mind, besides occasional allusions to his own peculiar trials. Political reflections occasionally occur, given with the modesty of a secluded observer. There is a good deal of literary criticism, especially in later years when he is himself engaged in writing, and when comments upon his own poetry are coming in from the world without. The letters are a perfect pattern of a natural, simple, and refined epistolary style, the gentleness and playfulness of which could only belong to one, who was writing for no eye but that of his friend, and without a thought of publication.
1. His Life at Olney.
I LIVE in a world abounding with incidents, upon which many grave, and perhaps some profitable observations might be made; but those incidents never reaching my unfortunate ears, both the entertaining narrative and the reflection it might suggest are to me annihilated and lost. I look back to the past week, and say, what did it produce? I ask the same question of the week preceding, and duly receive the
same answer from both,-nothing!—A situation like this, in which I am as unknown to the world, as I am ignorant of all that passes in it, in which I have nothing to do but to think, would exactly suit me, were my subjects of meditation as agreeable as my leisure is uninterrupted. My passion for retirement is not at all abated, after so many years spent in the most sequestered state, but rather increased;-a circumstance I should esteem wonderful to a degree not to be accounted for, considering the condition of my mind, did I not know, that we think as we are made to think, and of course approve and prefer, as Providence, who appoints the bounds of our habitation, chooses for us. Thus am I both free and a prisoner at the same time. The world is before me; I am not shut up in the Bastille; there are no moats about my castle, no locks upon my gates, of which I have not the key; but an invisible, uncontrollable agency, a local attachment, an inclination more forcible than I ever felt, even to the place of my birth, serves me for prison-walls, and for bounds which I cannot pass. In former years I have known sorrow, and before I had ever tasted of spiritual trouble. The effect was an abhorrence of the scene in which I had suffered so much, and a weariness of those objects which I had so long looked at with an eye of despondency and dejection. But it is otherwise with me now. The same cause subsisting, and in a much more powerful degree, fails to produce its natural effect. The very stones in the garden-walls are my intimate acquaintance. I should miss almost the minutest object, and be disagreeably affected by its removal, and am persuaded that were it possible I could leave this incommodious nook for a twelvemonth, I should return to it again with rapture, and be transported with the sight of objects which to all the world beside would be at least indifferent; some of them perhaps, such as the ragged
thatch and the tottering walls of the neighbouring cottages, disgusting. But so it is, and it is so, because here is to be my abode, and because such is the appointment of Him that placed me in it.—
Iste terrarum mihi praeter omnes
It is the place of all the world I love the most, not for any happiness it affords me, but because here I can be miserable with most convenience to myself and with the least disturbance to others.-Letter to Rev. J. Newton.
2. Time an Enemy and a Friend.
It costs me not much difficulty to suppose that my friends who were already grown old when I saw them last, are old still; but it costs me a good deal sometimes to think of those who were at that time young, as being older than they were. Not having been an eye-witness of the change that time has made in them, and my former idea of them not being corrected by observation, it remains the same; my memory presents me with this image unimpaired, and while it retains the resemblance of what they were, forgets that by this time the picture may have lost much of its likeness, through the alteration that succeeding years have made in the original. I know not what impressions Time may have made upon. your person, for while his claws, (as our grannams called them) strike deep furrows in some faces, he seems to sheath them with much tenderness, as if fearful of doing injury to others. But though an enemy to the person, he is a friend to the mind, and you have found him so. Though even in this respect his treatment of us depends upon what he meets with at our hands; if we use him well, and listen to his