« ForrigeFortsett »
To watch the storms, and hear the sky 345
Trust me, the meed of praise, dealt thriftily
What features, form, mien, manners, with
What is there in the vale of life
What Nature, alas! has denied
What portents, from what distant region, ride 398
When Aulus, the nocturnal thief, made prize 505
When Wit and Genius meet their doom
Where Humber pours his rich commercial
While thirteen moons saw smoothly run
Wilds horrid and dark with o'ershadowing
William was once a bashful youth
With no rich viands overcharged, I send
With two spurs, or one, and no great mat-
Ye linnets, let us try, beneath this grove
Ye sister powers, who o'er the sacred groves 450
Ye sons of earth, prepare the plough
You bid me write to amuse the tedious hours 492
You told me, I remember, glory, built. 49
THE works which have formed the materials for this volume are the following, named in the order of their publication :
1. Olney Hymns: 1779. (See Memoir, p. xxxvii.)
2. Poems by William Cowper: 1782. (See p. 45.)
3. The Task, with three other pieces, by the same: 1785. (See p. 181.)
4. The above volumes were published distinctly, No. 3 offering no indication that the author had appeared in print before. But always afterwards Nos. 2 and 3 were issued together, and numbered "Cowper's Poems, Vols. i. and ii.” New editions were published in 1786, 1787, 1788, 1793, 1794, 1798 (two editions in this year, very different in form and appearance), and 1800. The foregoing were all that were printed in the author's lifetime. The various editions contained fresh poems from time to time.
5. Poems translated from the French of Madame de la Mothe Guyon by the late William Cowper, Esq., Author of “The Task," to which are added some Original Poems of Mr. Cowper, not inserted in his Works. Newport-Pagnel,
6. The Life and Letters of William Cowper, Esq., with Remarks on Epistolary Writers. By William Hayley, Esq. 4 vols. 1803.
This work contained many additional poems which had been sent to friends, but not published by the author among his works. These will be found, with others, in pp. 327–402. A brief notice of each poem is given in the Notes at the end. During Cowper's later life, beginning with 1791, Hayley was intimately connected with him and his friends. It was a priceless boon to give Cowper's Letters to the public; two brother poets have pronounced him "the best letter-writer in the English language."* Hayley's work therefore was highly interesting, but it had many serious faults. Not only is its style windy and tiresome, but the writer was so anxious not to give offence to any one, that in dealing with the more painful passages of Cowper's life, he contrives to leave us in utter uncertainty of what the facts were, and invariably assures us that if we knew everything we should see that everybody concerned acted in the most exemplary manner possible. With the same end in view he has made large omissions from the letters, without giving any indication of having done so. The originals of many of the letters which he printed are in the Manuscript Room of the British Museum (Addl. MSS. 24,154 and 21,556), and the omitted passages are mostly crossed with pencil-marks, I presume by his hand. The few passages not so crossed were probably struck out in the proofs. All these letters I have carefully compared with the printed copies.
Hayley's knowledge Cowper, moreover, was confined to his later life. In the earlier part of the biography he has made several mistakes, and to one of the most interesting portions of Cowper's life, his only love affair, he makes no allusion. The references to Hayley's work in the present volume are to the edition of 1812.
* Southey in Life, p. 1, and Alex. Smith in "Encyclopædia Britannica."
7. Latin and Italian Poems of Milton. Translated by Cowper. 1808.
This work was published by Hayley for the benefit of Cowper's godson, W. C. Rose, See! p. lxiv.
8. Memoir of the Early Life of William Cowper. Written by Himself. With an Appendix containing some of Cowper's Religious Letters, and other Documents. London, 1816.
This was written at Huntingdon for the private reading of his friends the Unwins, and its publication was never dreamt of. It was written just when Cowper was in the full conviction of his conversion, and in consequence speaks most severely of his previous life, and rails (it is not too strong a word) against the acquaintances of his youth. Written with all the exaggeration of excitement, and with a morbid dwelling upon the details of his madness, it is a painful work to read, and it is to be regretted that it was ever published. A lady who was on a visit to Newton saw the MS. on his table, unjustifiably took a copy, and lent it to a friend. Of course, it soon found its way into a publisher's hands, through the instrumentality of a "pious character,' to use the expression of one of Cowper's biographers (Grimshawe, v. 262).
9. Adelphi. A Sketch of the Character, and an Account of the Last Illness of the late Rev. John Cowper, who finished his course with joy, March 20, 1770. Written by William Cowper; transcribed from his original MS. by J. Newton. London, 1816.
10. Private Correspondence of William Cowper with several of his most intimate Friends, now first published from the Originals in the possession of John Johnson. 2 vols. London, 1814.
II. Poems by William Cowper, in three volumes, by his Kinsman, John Johnson, LL.D., Rector of Yaxham with Welborne in Norfolk.
The 3d volume comprised "his Posthumous Poetry, with a Sketch of his Life," and contained a few pieces which had not yet appeared. Dr. Johnson was, as will be seen in the Life, a relative very dear to Cowper, and made it his pious care to tend him in his last years. It may be well to mention here that he was no connexion of the Johnson who will also appear often in the memoir as the original publisher of Cowper's works.
12. Poems, the Early Productions of William Cowper, now first published from the Originals in the possession of James Croft. With anecdotes of the Poet, collected from Letters of Lady Hesketh, written during her residence at Olney. London, 1825.
This volume was a deeply interesting one, for in it the public was informed for the first time that the Poet in his early days had been deeply in love with his cousin Theodora Jane Cowper, and had addressed to her verses enough to make a small volume. The editor, Mr. Croft, was the son of Sir Archer Croft, who married the youngest sister of Harriet (Lady Hesketh) and Theodora Cowper. The editing of the volume is very bad. The poems are full of misprints, and the prose part consists of extracts from Lady Hesketh's letters without arrangement or dates, or any indication of the quantity of her correspondence. If these letters are still in existence, the possessor would confer a great boon on literature by publishing them, for the great want in the materials for Cowper's life are the letters of his friends. He appears not to have preserved them; not above two or three have been published. And this volume of Mr. Croft's is still the only one which contains any letters of his cousin and faithful friend, Lady Hesketh.
In 1835 was published Southey's Life of Cowper. At that time the "Private Correspondence " above mentioned (No. 10) was a copyright property, though an unsaleable one. Southey's publishers applied to the possessor of it for leave to purchase both copyright and remaining stock. Instead of granting it, they commissioned a Mr. Grimshawe (brother-in-law of Dr. John Johnson)
to prepare a rival edition to Southey's. Both works therefore came out almost together. Grimshawe's contained the copyright correspondence, but beyond this had no merit. Southey, debarred from printing the correspondence, wove the gist of it into his biographical narrative. There was some disadvantage in this, for it sometimes makes his narrative long and tedious. As soon as the copyright in the Private Correspondence ceased it was placed at the end of Southey's edition as a supplement.
Since Southey's there have been many lives written, the only ones calling for special remark being those of Robert Bell and of Mr. John Bruce. The latter is prefixed to the Aldine Edition. Though it proves that he had taken great pains with his subject, and is written in a vigorous, tasteful style, it does not contain much that is new. But he had collected much fresh matter in the way of letters, which he was preparing to publish when his lamented death took place suddenly, in the autumn of 1869.
Great light has been thrown upon some of the most difficult passages in Cowper's life by a series of papers in the Sunday at Home (1866) by the Rev. William Bull, of Newport-Pagnell. The same gentleman has also published the life of his grandfather, Josiah Bull, one of Cowper's intimate friends, and "Memorials of John Newton" (Religious Tract Society, 1869). I have largely availed myself of the facts which he has brought to light; they will be noticed in their proper place. The present edition contains some new and interesting matter.
 Some lines written on the margin of the Monthly Review. My authority for them is an anonymous correspondent of the Record newspaper of Feb. 20, 1867. Minute examination leaves no doubt of their genuineness. P. 356, and
 "To a Young Lady, with a Present of two Cockscombs." P. 347.  "To a Lady who wore a Lock of his Hair." P. 355. For the two last we are indebted to Mr. Charles Stuart. The MSS. are pasted inside the lid of an edition of 1793, which was given to him by Mrs. Lyon. She vouched for their genuineness, having received them from the Rev. J. A. Knight, to whom they had been given by Lady Austen. The former of them had already reached Mr. Bruce from another source, which is of course an additional proof of genuineness. Of the deep interest attaching to the last piece I have spoken in the Memoir, p. liv.
The arrangement of the Poems in the present edition is as follows:
1. Those written in youth, comprising No. II, as above named, along with a few others (indicated in the Notes), taken from other sources, but placed here as belonging to the same period. This division occupies pp. 1-23 of the present volume.
2. The Olney Hymns, pp. 24-44.
3. The first published volume, pp. 45-179.
4. The second published volume, pp. 181-309.
5. Poems added by the Author in later editions of his works, pp. 311-325.
6. Poems written in middle and later life, but never published by the Author among his works, pp. 327-400.
7. Translations, pp. 403-512.
No notes are placed at the foot of the page, except those that were written by the Author himself. It was thought better to put my own Notes at the end, so as to present an unbroken page—easy to do in this case, because, except in the translations from Milton, there are few recondite allusions in Cowper's works. But I hope it will be found that all needful explanations have been given, and that the Notes are more complete than in any other edition. I have not burdened them with discussion of every variation in reading, only naming these in special cases. But all the editions have been most scrupulously and carefully collated, and each reading has been duly weighed.
In my frequent references to Macaulay's Essays and Mahon's (Lord Stanhope's) History, necessary to explain Cowper's allusions, it may save time to mention that I have always used the "People's Edition" of Macaulay, and the Cabinet of