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"in the world" without being "of the world," and that, as a matter of fact, during part of his life at the Temple he had himself certainly done so. Then, again, it is undeniable that his being acquainted with these same wits and littérateurs proved afterwards to be of the greatest advantage to him, for all the while, though unconsciously, he was acquiring a masterly command of language, and undergoing the best possible training for the literary work that was to render so memorable his latter years.
13. Death of the Poet's Father.
For some time Cowper's father had been ailing, owing to an attack of palsy, and at the beginning of July, 1756, he was struck a second time. Cowper hurriedly set out for Berkhamsted, but on the 9th, the day before his son's arrival, Dr. Cowper passed away. His age was 61. "Then, and not till then," says the poet, "I felt for the first time that I and my native place were disunited for ever. I sighed a long adieu to fields and woods, from which I once thought I should never be parted, and was at no time so sensible of their beauties as just when I left them all behind me, to return no more."
Some of Cowper's biographers have assumed, because nothing to the contrary appears in his writings, that he was but little affected by his father's death, which, to say the least of it, is a most uncharitable conclusion. In one of his letters to Mrs. King he calls him "most
indulgent," and, as Southey remarks, "If he had not loved his father dearly, and found that home a happy home whenever he went to it, he would not have 'preferred it to a palace."" Moreover, it should also be observed that we have none of Cowper's letters written at or near the time of his father's decease.
Dr. Cowper's second wife, Rebecca, who was a cripple, having broken her leg, late in life, by a fall, survived her husband six years, dying at Bath on July 31, 1762, aged 63, and was buried in Bath Abbey. The poet makes several allusions to her in his letters. To Hill (May 14, 1767) he says, "I shall possibly now often desire you to call at the seed shop, in your way to Westminster, though sparingly. Should I do it often, you would begin to think you had a mother-in-law at Berkhamsted "an allusion, no doubt, to the numerous commissions Cowper was wont to execute for Mrs. Cowper when resident in the Temple. He also refers to her in his letters of May 30, 1789 (to Mrs. King), and April 19, 1790 (to Lady Hesketh).
Dr. Cowper died intestate. On August 3, 1756, Cowper, on the renunciation of the widow, took out letters of administration. Lady Hesketh says that Cowper got little, if anything, by his father's death.
Robert Pope, Dr. Cowper's gardener, who used to take the infant William to school, lived till 1767. His burial is recorded on the 18th of January of that year.
14. The Farewell to Theodora.
Over four years had passed since Cowper first found himself agitated at the name of Theodora, and the knowledge that his love for her was returned had brought many happy hours to his life, but now that happiness was destined to be at an end. His friends had by this time discovered that he was what is usually known as a failure, the result being that Mr. Ashley Cowper set himself dead against the match. And who can blame him? for there was not the slightest likelihood that Cowper would ever be able to support a wife. When, however, confronted by her father the girl showed some spirit. "What will you do," asked the little man, "if you marry "if you marry William Cowper?" "Wash all day," was the reply, "and ride on the great dog at night." However, it was of no avail. Attached as he was to his nephew, and despite his anxiety to promote the happiness of his daughter, the father felt bound to refuse consent. Though the objections were founded first on the near degree of relationship, it is certain that the greatest obstacle was the inadequacy of Cowper's fortune, and the improbability of his ever being able to better himself; nor could any entreaties induce a departure from the resolution. Both Theodora and her lover came at length to see that a union between them would, for a very long time at any rate, be out of all question, so they very sensibly bowed to fate, and agreed to separate. As the lines entitled "To the Same" convey, the lovers were at first greatly distressed ;.
but Cowper treasured in his heart-for a time at any rate her vows and her parting words :
"Yet ere we looked our last farewell,
There is little doubt that Theodora long looked back with regret at these broken hopes, for she never married, and, as we shall hereafter see, the poet in years to come received many proofs of her affection without being aware of even the name of the person to whom he was indebted.
At Westminster, and after he had left it, Cowper's dearest friend was William Russell, since become Sir William, " 8th Baronet of the Russells of Chippenham; " but unhappily young Russell, of whom little is known except that he held a commission in the Guards, was drowned while bathing in the Thames, 1757; and this occurrence, happening so soon after the defeat of his hopes with respect to Theodora, came to Cowper as a terrible blow. In some verses which form part of a letter to one of his female relations he says:
"Doomed as I am, in solitude to waste
The present moments, and regret the past;
My friend torn from me, and my mistress lost.
Subsequently, however, he took the matter, as regards the lady, more philosophically, the simple truth being that, what with the bodily, mental, and pecuniary troubles that presently forced themselves upon him, he forgot all about her, or at any rate thought of her no more than as his cousin Theodora.
15. In Love a Second Time. The
Not only did Cowper allow Theodora to pass from his thoughts, but he fell in love with another young lady, with whose name we are not acquainted, but of whom he gives some account in the earliest of his letters yet discovered-an epistle written in Latin, dated August, 1758, and addressed to his " "delightfully funny friend" (Deliciae et Lepores mei) and fellow Templar, Mr. Clotworthy Rowley, "one of the most benevolent and friendly creatures in the world," who was then on circuit in Ireland. "I lately passed," he says, "three days in Greenwich, a blessed three days; and if they had been three years I should not have envied the gods their immortality. There I found that lovely and beloved little girl, of whom I have often talked to you; she is at that age, sixteen, at which every day brings with it some new beauty to her form. No one can be more modest, nor (what seems wonderful in a woman) more silent; but when she speaks you might believe that a muse was speaking. Woe is me that so bright a star looks to another region, having risen in the West Indies; thither it is