« PreviousContinue »
singularly elaborate, must be destined for some proportioned purpose. I see, besides, the wonderful temperament of the English political constitution already beginning to serve, not merely a local, but an extended use. It is looked up to as a model, wherever there is a liberal and sober wish to promote the civil happiness of a community. When attention is drawn as much to religious happiness, will not the temperament of our Church be found as worthy of imitation as the temperament of our State? And may it not be manifest, that Britain was separated from the Continent, by Him unto whom are known all his works from the foundation of the world; that, in that laboratory of Providence, effectual means might be prepared for the eventful restoration of the nations to the destined fulness of moral health and happiness ?
By what further methods our Church is to be fitted for this high distinction, I pretend not to pronounce; but sure I am, that our present duty is to keep our treasures and our privilege “ whole and undefiled :” we are wonderfully equidistant from puritanism on the one hand, and from popery on the other. In the Roman Catholic Church, I think I see a mysteriously pernitted Christian Judaism; a renewed yoke of rites and ceremonies for a semi-barbarous Christian public. In the religious system of Puritans (taking that term in its widest sense) I cannot discover more than an analogously renewed baptism of John. In the religion of the Church of England, alone, I perceive Christianity itself, as it appears to me, in the genuine spirit of
its Divine Founder; and yet, rather as if in a rosebud than in that adequate developement to which, if George Herbert's sentiment be felt and acted on, I doubt not, it will in due time be brought.
But, dearest mother (what those miss),
And long may be!
Most truly yours,
LETTER TO JOSEPH COWPER WALKER, ESQ. ON
THE POETRY OF WILLIAM COWPER.
January 19th, 1802.
my conduct toward you were as bad in reality as it is in appearance, I should deserve to have this letter returned to me the moment you saw my name subscribed to it; but the truth is, I have been a very unwilling defaulter. I was much obliged by your first letter informing me of Mr. Hayley's progress in Cowper's Life, and sat down speedily to answer it; but, from increasing indisposition, aggravated by the severity of the winter, I became so incapacitated, that I assure you, I believe I exhausted above half a quire of paper in repeated and abortive attempts to communicate to you the few thoughts which were passing through my mind. I wish I could now say I were better; but I can no longer delay, at least, to ask your forgiveness, and to assign the real cause of so continued an inattention to kindnesses which so justly claimed not only a grateful, but a prompt, acknowledgment.
If I could make any observation respecting Mr. Cowper worth communicating to your friend, it is probably now too late. Facts I had none. My own state of health, when last in England,
prevented me from availing myself of one opportunity, at least, of knowing a good deal of his habits of life. As it was, I gained no knowledge except what was given to the public in a sermon preached at Olney by a dissenting minister, on occasion of Mr. Cowper's death. It is, in some respects, a strange composition; at least, it must appear so to all who hold different sentiments from its author. As, however, it contains several curious particulars which may be new to you, I will send it with this. It will inform you fully about his Sacred Hymns, and afford you two or three specimens.
I have only to add, on this head, that the first edition of this sermon contained some details which (I have understood at the desire of Mr. Cowper's connexion, probably Lady Hesketh) were omitted in the second. They related to his attempts on his own life: and I own, I think they should have been retained, as the excellent man's memory could not, in any respect, suffer from them, being so exclusively the effect of malady. But, even the mental malady of such a man is to the philosophic observer of human nature a subject of curious, though of sympathising, inquiry.
If Mr. Hayley is still open to communications, I imagine the Duncombe family might be applied to with advantage. Possibly you know, that in Duncombe's Horace there are, at least, two satires translated by Cowper. One, the journey to Brundusium; the other, “ Ibam forte viâ sacrâ.” The British Critic (vol. ii. 1798, page 410), in reviewing Boscawen's Horace, quotes a passage from the latter as being “ rendered with great spirit.”
“ Demitto auriculas ut iniquæ mentis asellus
Cum gravius dorso subiit onus”.
As I, or half so like a fool.”
Elegant Epistles,” page 552. It contains a specimen of the doctor's poetry, taken from an epistle written by him, at an early period of life, to the Duke of Chandos. (I think I have seen the whole in another publication of the Duncombes', if I mistake not, “ Hughes' Letters”). It is not as nervous as his son's, but it has much of the same moral spirit, and, indeed, I think other similar characters also. Lest you should not have the collection mentioned above at hand, I will transcribe the passage
“ Good natur'd wit, a talent is from heav'n,
For noblest purposes to mortals giv'n,