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with his dejection on Mrs. Unwin's account. In the same year, his services to poetical and religious literature were recognized by a pension of ,£300 per annum. He was now living with Lady Hesketh, and a young relative named Johnson paid much attention to the sufferer. He was removed, for change of scene, to North Tuddenham in Norfolk; then to Mundsley; then to East Dereham, in the same county. Absolute darkness did not as yet close in upon him: there were intervals of lumour, in which he composed some small pieces, and attended to the revision of his Homer. The end was gloomy: religious despair was busy in tormenting his mind, and dropsy his body. He died on the 25th of April 1800.
The eager, sudden-looking, large-eyed, shaven face of Cowper is familiar to us in his portraits—a face sharp-cut and sufficiently well-moulded, without being handsome, nor particularly sympathetic. It is a high-strung, excitable face; as of a man too susceptible and touchy to put himself forward willingly among his fellows, but who, feeling a "vocation" upon him, would be more than merely earnest— self-asserting, aggressive, and unyielding. This is in fact very much the character of his writings. He was an enthusiastic lover of nature, and full of gentle kindliness, and of quiet pleasant good-humour,—and all these loveable qualities appear in ample proportion and measure in passages of his writings: but at the same time his narrow, exclusive, severe, and arbitrary religious creed—a creed which made him as sure that other people were wicked and marked out for damnation as that himself was elected and saved (and even as regards himself this confidence gave way sometimes to utter desperation)—this creed speaks out in his poems in unmistakeable tones of harsh judgment and unqualified denunciation. Few writers are more steadily unsparing of the lash than the shrinkingly sensitive Cowper. It may be that he does not lay it on with the sense of personal power, and indignant paying-off of old scores, which one finds in a Juvenal or a Pope; but the conviction that he is the mouthpiece of Providence, and that, when William Cowper has pronounced a man reprobate, the smoke of his burning is certain to ascend up for ever and ever, stands in stead of much, and lends unction to the hallowed strain. In conformity with this inspiration, his writing is nervous and terse, well stored with vigorous stinging single lines; and his power of expressive characterization, whether in moral declaiming or in descriptive work, is very considerable —and was at any rate in the latter class of passages) even more noticeable in his own day than it is in ours. Apart from his religion, Cowper (as has just been said) was eminently humane and gentle-hearted; the interest which he took in his tame hares will perhaps be remembered when much of his wielding of the divine thunderbolts against the profane shall have been forgotten. It was in 1774, during one of his periods of great mental depression, that the first of his leverets was presented to him, in the hope of diverting his mind from more moody thoughts: two others followed afterwards; and the diverse characters and manners of the three formed an engaging study to him for years. Puss, the latest to survive, expired in March 1785.
In point of literary or poetic style, Cowper was mainly independent, and the pioneer of a simpler and more natural method than he found prevailing: his didactic or censorial poems may be regarded as formed on the writings of Churchill rather than of anyother predecessor. Besides his merits as a poet, his excellences as a letter-writer have deserved and received very high praise. His correspondence is unaffected, facile, and often playful. Religion of course forms a substantial part of this, as it so conspicuously did of the author's mind : but it has been noticed, and has been made matter of some reproach from certain quarters, that the religious tone of the letters diminishes very observably after 1785, when Cowper had become an eminent man in literature, and more open consequently to the entanglements of "the world."
W. M. ROSSETTI.
Si te forte mex gravis uret sarcina chartx
Abjicito. Hoi;, lib. i. epis. 13
A. You told me, I remember, glory built
B. I grant, that men continuing what they are,
To him that fights with justice on his side.
Let laurels, drenched in pure Parnassian dews,
But let eternal infamy pursue
Who, for the sake of filling with one blast
The post-horns of all Europe, lays her waste.
Think yourself stationed on a towering rock,
To see a people scattered like a flock,
Some royal mastiff panting at their heels,
With all the savage thirst a tiger feels,
Then view him self-proclaimed in a gazette,
Chief monster that has plagued the nations yet!
The globe and sceptre in such hands misplaced,
Those ensigns of dominion, how disgraced!
The glass that bids man mark the fleeting hour,
And death's own scythe would better speak his power.
Then grace the bony phantom in their stead
With the king's shoulder knot and gay cockade,
Clothe the twin brethren in each other's dress,
The same their occupation and success.
A. 'Tis your belief the world was made for man; Kings do but reason on the selfsame plan: Maintaining yours, you cannot theirs condemn, Who think, or seem to think, man made for them.
B. Seldom, alas! the power of logic reigns
Such reasoning falls like an inverted cone,
A. Guard what you say; the patriotic tribe
A. Your smooth eulogium to one crown addressed,
B. Quevedo, as he tells his sober tale,
"But where, good sir, do you confine your kings?"
Wit undistinguishing is apt to strike
A. Kings then at last have but the lot of all;
I pity kings whom worship waits upon