10. "Causidice mi" gives himself an air at Southampton.—1753.

A change of scene having been recommended for him, Cowper seized the opportunity to make a visit to Southampton, in company with Mr. Thomas Hesketh (eight years later Sir Thomas), the affianced lover of his cousin Harriet, now "a brilliant beauty," in the height of her charms, who "attracted all eyes on her at Ranelagh" and other places of public resort.

Whilst at Southampton, where he remained several months, the chief pleasures Cowper indulged in were, to use his own words, "a walk to Netley Abbey, or to Freemantle, or to Redbridge, or a book by the fireside." Whatever other amusements the place afforded had but little charm for him. Nevertheless he " Nevertheless he "gave himself an air" and "wore trousers," and not infrequently sailed on the Hampton river with Mr. Hesketh's party. But he had no liking for the sea except in the finest weather, and never sailed so far as Portsmouth without feeling the confinement irksome. Poor Causidice mi (Italian, "My counsel "), indeed-which appellation Mr. Hesketh conferred upon his Templar friend in jest -was as glad to escape from "the good sloop the Harriet" as Noah may be supposed be supposed to have been "when he was enlarged from the ark, or Jonah when he came out of the fish." Little, however, as he distinguished himself on, or even cared for, salt water, he was master of one accomplishment, which even many sailors are unable to boast of he was not a bad swimmer.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

and contemplate the Needle-rock; at least you might have done so twenty years ago, but since that time I think it is fallen from its base and is drowned, and is no longer a visible object of contemplation."

To Samuel Rose, who in August, 1793, was visiting in this neighbourhood, the poet says, "I rejoice that you have had so pleasant an excursion, and have beheld so many beautiful scenes. Except the delightful Upway I have seen them all. I have lived much at Southampton, have slept and caught a sore throat at Lyndhurst, and have swum in the Bay of Weymouth."

II. The Nonsense Club.

At Southampton, after his recovery, Cowper was all gratitude to the Almighty for so graciously accepting his prayers; but the very first thing he did on returning to London was to take those prayers, which had been so carefully composed, so fervently repeated, so signally answered-and throw them on the fire. And what is more, he again gave himself up to a life of carelessness. Not that he made no professions of Christianity. On the contrary, when in the company of deists, and he heard the gospel blasphemed, he never failed to assert the truth of it with much vehemence of disputation, going once so far into a controversy of this kind as to assert that he would gladly submit to have his right hand cut off so that he might be enabled to live according to the gospel.

In respect to the study of the law he took no more pains than previously. As Southey says, "It is pro

[ocr errors][merged small]
« ForrigeFortsett »