The Task, in the relation of the various incidents, and the introduction of the various characters, which occupy his attention, the same depth of judgment, the same extent and accuracy of information, and, above all, the same practical wisdom and kindliness of feeling, are every where discernible. Thus, without attempting to magnify the talents, or conceal the foibles of Hayley, he contrives to interest us in that writer's character, and to place him in that beautiful situation, where, from the very absence of all literary jealousy, he at once makes his way to our affections. The scene is at Eartham, the beautiful residence of Hayley, in the neighbourhood of the southern coast.* It is in the day of Cowper's literary supremacy; yet he and his Mary are received and entertained there, with a cordiality, and a rejoicing sympathy, unexampled in the history of letters, -and this, by the very man, who feels that his own reputation is, at the same moment, waning before the brightness that encompasseth his guest! In the life of Cowper, few things have struck us so forcibly, as the many delightful friendships, with which Providence, as if to counterbalance the melancholy influence of his mental malady, continued to surround him. As one consoler of his dreary hours died, another invariably sprung up: and it would, perhaps, be difficult to find a piece of biography which brings before us such an assemblage of charming characters as we here meet with. There are Mary Unwin, her son, the Throckmortons, Lady Austin, Lady Hesketh, Johnny of Norfolk, Hill, Rose, Bull, Hayley and his son, Walter Bagot, and the rest. And where, indeed, is the novel, which contains such deeply interesting matter? bright life of the youthful poet in London, with his Temple associates, Thurlow, Hill, and others; his literary associates, Colman, Lloyd, Thornton, and Churchill; those two fair and sunny creatures, his cousins, Harriet and Theodora Cowper; and the attachment between Theodora and himself, which though prevented, by wise parental authority, from proceeding to marriage, produced an indelible impression on the mind of the poet, and, in the lady, one of the most beautiful and inextinguishable instances of devotion united with prudence, upon record. Then the dark chapter of his agony about the office in the House of Lords, and the mental aberration consequent upon it: the attempt at suicide, and the life-long despondency. We know of nothing more romantic, more absorbing, or more solemnly impressive. Again, how lovely are the characters that rise up to console and cheer this sensitive and intellectual being through the retired paths of life. Look at Lady Austin, and see, in her example,

The young what we often owe to woman in the privacy of the world. Without her we should have lost “ The Task, “ John Gilpin,” and the « Translation of Homer;” and Cowper, with all the magnificent stores and feelings of his beauteous inind, would, probably, have passed away into oblivion. Without the unwearied care, and watchful devotion of Mary Unwin, and the open hand and heart of Lady Hesketh, the same result must have followed. These are the women whose names have a title to be recorded, whose portraits, speaking still of the virtues of the departed, deserve to be in the hands of the rising generation. The character of Lady Hesketh in particular, as every where presented in these volumes, full, as it is, of generosity and good-sense, strikes us as one of the most beautiful and finely balanced, which we recollect to have met with. And then, in addition to all this, we have the radiant spirit of Johnny of Norfolk at hand, ready to administer affectionately to all the wishes of his illustrious kinsman; Romney, the artist, and Hurdis, the poet, sharing their society; and Charlotte Smith writing her “Old Manor House” in the morning, and reading the composition of the day for their amusement in the evening.

* It is now the property of Mrs. Huskisson.

But it is time to present our readers with an extract from this interesting work. The following is the substance of a letter to Mr. Southey, from a gentleman who withholds his name for very satisfactory reasons. It is new matter, and of a kind which will show what materials of romance may be found among the incidents of real life.

“John Cowper, the brother of the poet, was, in his boyhood, the schoolfellow and early companion of my own father, and continued to be his most intimate and valued friend, till his early career was terminated, by the death recorded in his brother's letters. My father had the strongest affection for John Cowper's memory, and seldom talked of him without such sorrow for his loss, as made him willing to avoid the subject; but I well remember that, when, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, I once was running with a shilling to the door to have my fortune told by some travelling gipsies, then begging at it, my father stopped me, and, with more seriousness than I expected, besought me to give him my solemn promise, that, as long as I lived, I would never indulge that idle curiosity. Of course I did so, and enquired the reason; as he might be sure I was not superstitious enough to believe, and must know it was, at most, but an idle and innocent piece of nonsense. He told me the reason was, the effect such predictions had in after-life, and in hours of weakness, after some casual circumstance, perhaps, had proved true. He then told me the following story of John Cowper, under circumstances which made such an impression on my mind, that I can trust my memory, spite of the intervening period of nearly fifty years; but, in truth, it has never been out of my thoughts,

" John Cowper and my father, were both, when children, at a preparatory school, at Felstead, in (I think) Esses. They both together enquired their future fortunes, from a travelling gipsey tinker, who came to beg at the school, and in an old soldier's red coat. He was a man, and not an old woman, as it seems the poet Cowper had been told. My father said, that his own share of the prophecy was common-place nonsense, which he forgot; but that it was predicted to Cowper, that he would only remain a very short time at Felstead, and would, after leaving it, be sent to a larger school; that he would go to the University, and, before he left it, would form an attachment strong enough to give him much disappointment, as it would not be mutual ; that he would not marry before he was thirty, but that, after that age, his fate became obscure, and the lines of his hand showed no more prognostics of futurity.” It actually happened, from some family accident which I have forgot, but, I believe, the illness and death of a near relative, that John Cowper was summoned to go home, by a servant who came express. There was nothing very marvellons in this coincidence, even supposing it accidental, or in the itinerant prophet having heard of some such illness. Cowper, too, did not return to Felstead, but was sent, I think, to Eton. My father, who was not an Etonian, continued, I believe, to hear from him; but, at all events, they again met at the University, where their intimacy was not only renewed, but cemented by the most cordial friendship. It continued after my father left Cambridge, where, if I did not misunderstand him, Cowper continued, at least occasionally, to reside. They saw each other continually, corresponded with each other, and belonged to a set of young friends, who, after leaving college, met by agreement annually, for three weeks or a month, at Grantham; and some of them hunted. My father married in a few years, and John Cowper more than once accompanied him and my mother into In these visits, he contrived to accomplish another part of the prediction, by becoming much attached to a younger sister of my father's, who assuredly did not return his affection. All these coincidences made an impression on John Cowper's imagination, and he often reminded my father of their interview with the pedlar at Felstead. When Cowper approached the age of thirty, I think, or at least, that which the gipsey fixed as the term of his prediction, my father saw him again at Cambridge, I believe on bis way to town. Cowper was walking with him in one of the college gardens, in one of the avenues where the gate was open in front of them, and suddenly interrupted the conversation by exclaiming, Did you see that man pass ?' My father, who observed nothing, asked him what man he meant ? John Cowper replied, "The very man you and I met at Felstead, and in a soldier's jacket. I saw him pass the gate.' They both ran to it, but in the public road saw no such person. Cowper said, “It is a warning-you know he could predict nothing of me after my thirtieth year. He mentioned this more than once, while my father remained in Cambridge, though not apparently dejected, and, I believe, in tolerable health. The real circumstances thus detailed, were, probably, known only to themselves; and John Cowper does not seem to have made mention of them, except in such illusions as gave rise to the vague reports which his brother disbelieved. It was, however, the last time that my father saw his friend. He sickened, whether from the prediction, or from some natural cause; and, surrounded by zealous religionists, eager for what is called a conversion, his old and tried friends were never apprised of his danger, or their letters replied to, till they were shocked by the news of his death."

But it is necessary to draw to a conclusion. If, in the early part of this paper, we beheld the literature of the day gradually sinking to repose on the tasteless and meretricious novel of high life,- in the latter portion, we have had the satisfaction to see it rising to vigorous and healthful exertion, and promising to confine the heartless details of still more heartless intrigues to the circles to which they appear to be addressed. As we have already said, we have no fear for the nation. Whatever may be the taste of the idle, the dissolute, and the voluptuous, that of the community is still sound; and, while such books as Southey's Cowper, and the other reprints which we have mentioned, can find a circulation, we have little need to be apprehensive for the literary character of the people.

ART. VI.-1. The Case of Maynooth College considered, with a

History of the first establishment of that Seminary; an
Account of the System of Education pursued in it; and a
Review of the effect it has had on the character of the Roman

Catholic Clergy of Ireland. Dublin. 1836. 2. Maynooth in 1834. By Eugene Francis O'Beirne, late Stu

dent at Maynooth College. New Edition. Dublin, 1835. 3. Eighth Report on Education in Ireland, with the Appendix.

Ördered by the House of Commons to be printed, 19th June

1827. IT is curious to observe the different tone and temper, in which,

as two opposite forces combine to produce a diagonal motion, the writers of the two pamphlets before us struggle towards the same object, openly avowed in the one, and scarcely concealed in the other. The first is a well-made little book, swelled out, by means of large type and spacious margin, to ninety clear pages—professing to draw its information from the most authentic sources, and affecting the utmost moderation in its statements; although, with a due disregard for the ordinary rules of logical deduction, its conclusions are bigoted and unfair in the last degree. The writer has not thought proper to give his name; and we have not heard anything, with regard to the authorship, sufficiently probable to warrant the trouble of a conjecture. The second is the very reverse, in almost every particular. With less of pretension in its exterior, it is all insolence, bluster, and abuse,

VOL. 11.-NO. III.


from the beginning to the end: the statements, almost without an exception, are groundless, or distorted; and a total disregard of truth is visible in every page. Yet, this insolent tirade is in fact a corrected edition, from which, “in deference to the punctilious judgment of the most influential Dublin publishers,”* it was found necessary to exclude a great deal of disgusting ribaldry, which they were ashamed to give the public with the sanction of their names.

In its present form, does it not speak volumes for the punctilious judgment of the “ influential Dublin publishers?"

The pamphlet bears on its title-page the name of Eugene Francis O’Beirne, late student at Maynooth College: but it is commonly believed not to have been written by him, and the report of his own friends pronounces it “ the ingenious device" of a gentleman, who has since given some of his own productions to the public, under a much higher name than that of Eugene Francis O Beirne. The intemperate scurrility, however, which is here put into the mouth of the alleged author, betrays too much knowledge of the rule, "reddere personæ convenientia cuique,” to allow us to suppose, for a moment, that it can have been written by the avowed author of the clumsy “ Encyclical Letter of Gregory the Sixteenth.” How unnatural, how diseased the state of religious feeling in these countries, when a malignant hatred of the Catholic Religion is a sure passport to patronage and reward! No matter how worthless or insignificant the individual —a degraded priest, or an expelled student,--talent can be purchased-character and credit forgot or assumedtruth and virtue dispensed with altogether! Let him but go through the idle ceremony of turning his back on the Church which has already discarded him, and he becomes at once an instrument fitted for all the purposes of its enemies !

Before we proceed to examine the particular merits of the pamphlets before us, it may be as well to enquire, for a moment, into the decency of the attack which we are about to repel. Maynooth College is undoubtedly a public establishment, open to the inspection, and subject to the animadversions, of the public: but if it shall turn out, that the very support which it receives is scarcely better than an insult, that, where much is required, little only is granted, and that, while the religion of one-eighth of the Irish population revels in the luxury of state provision, that of the whole remaining portion is left in comparative wretchedness and destitution, the reader may, perhaps, be tempted to enquire whether the attacks, that have been levelled against this solitary Catholic establishment, come with a very good grace from the members of the favoured minority.

The Catholics of

Preface, p. iv.

« ForrigeFortsett »