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ment of his comforts. She now came to him at Olney; and, as she determined on residing with him, Mrs. Unwin provided for the accommodation of her augmented family by removing it to a larger house in the neighbouring village of Weston.
In the November of this year (1786) the death of Mr. Unwin, the Rector of Stock, overwhelmed Mrs. Unwin and Cowper with affliction, as it deprived the former of an only son and the latter of a beloved friend.
The shock from this incident was of stunning severity to our author's spirits; and they did not recover from its effects till the autumn of 1787; when they were so far restored as to allow him to resume his translation of Homer. In the execution of this arduous task, his industry was now as steady as his facility of composition was great; and, in the September of 1788, he had not only completed the first sketch of his version of the Ilias, but had brought that of the Odyssey to the close of the seventeenth book. His young maternal relation, Mr. Johnson of Norfolk, who had recently introduced himself at Weston, where he now usually passed his Cambridge vacations, assisted our poet in the transcription of his long work; and on its accomplishment, in the autumn of 1790, conveyed it to the London bookseller for publication. It issued from the press in the July of the following year; and the friends of the translator were gratified by finding that his assiduous application to this great labour of composition had proved beneficial rather than injurious to the health of his mind. Though weakened, however, his afflicting malady was not overcome. During some of its intermissions, indeed, he could be present at domestic prayer: but it does not appear that, since the last access of his disorder, he ever offered up his solitary supplications, and it is certain that he never
so far recovered as to join in the public devotions of the church.
In the close of the year 1791 his affectionately attached friend, Mrs. Unwin, became the subject of a paralytic attack. But she was soon apparently relieved from its effects; and the alarm of Cowper, in the present instance, was happily of very short duration.
In the March of 1792 commenced his acquaintance and friendship with Hayley, the author of several poems which had acquired much temporary celebrity. On the suggestion of his London bookseller, Cowper had undertaken to prepare a complete edition of Milton's poetic works, and to supply the translations of all this great author's Latin and Italian poems. As soon as he was informed of this engagement of our poet's, Hayley, who was then similarly employed, immediately suspended his own work in submission to the bard of Weston; and accompanied the communication of his relinquished design with a sonnet of compliment, and with the offer of some rare books which had reference to the life and the studies of Milton. These attentions, on the part of Hayley, excited correspondent kindness on that of Cowper; and, after mutual invitations, the two poets met, in the following May, at Weston, where a friendship was confirmed between them which continued in warm efficiency till they were separated by death. During this visit of Hayley's for a fortnight at Weston, Mrs. Unwin experienced a second attack of paralysis of a more alarming character than the first; and the affecting circumstance very forcibly excited the sensibilities of Cowper. She so far, however, recovered her bodily and her mental faculties as to be able, in the succeeding August, to accompany her friend and his young relation, Mr. Johnson, on a visit to Hayley at Eartham
in Sussex. This was the first absence of any continuance from his home, to which our author had submitted during the last two and twenty years of his life; and the requisite exertion, together with the pleasures of his friend's society and place, proved to be salutary to his spirits. On his return, however, to Weston, whence the hospitality of Eartham had detained him for seven weeks, he found himself unable to proceed with his Milton engagement, and he confined the efforts of his intellect to the revision of his Homer. The greater part of his day was occupied, indeed, by his attentions to Mrs. Unwin; for she was now reduced to a state of total imbecility of body and of mind; and her place, as manager of the little family of Weston, was supplied by the kindness of Lady Hesketh.
In the beginning of 1794, poor Cowper's disease increased in intensity, and baffled all the exertions of his friends for its mitigation. By the interest of Earl Spencer, importuned and urged into effect by the friendly Hayley, our suffering author now became the subject of the royal bounty, and obtained from it the grant of a pension of three hundred pounds a year. But this accession of income brought no comfort with it to his afflicted mind, which was as insusceptible of impression from any of the circumstances of external fortune, as it was unrelenting to the arguments and consolations that were offered to it by those who were the most zealous for the alleviation of its pains. Hayley, who at this juncture was at Weston, left it in despair; and Lady Hesketh, under the compulsion of impaired health, was forced also in the course of a few subsequent months, to retire from the melancholy scene. The wretched invalid was now left to the sole care of his kinsman, Mr. Johnson; from whose tender and affectionate hands he received whatever could contribute to the
promotion of his comforts. For the purpose of keeping the object of his pious regard more immediately and constantly within his view, Mr. Johnson, who had entered the church about two years before, and had the charge of the parish of East Dereham in Norfolk, undertook to remove the two distressed friends from Weston to some place in his own neighbourhood; and he happily succeeded in the execution of his benevolent purpose. After some removals from North Tuddenham, where they were accommodated with the parsonage house, to Mundsley, a village contiguous to the sea, and from thence to Dunham Lodge in the vicinity of Shaffham, they were finally settled by Mr. Johnson in his own mansion at Dereham.
On the 17th of December, 1796, the infirmities of Mrs. Unwin were terminated by death; and an event, which in a preceding period would have overwhelmed Cowper with wretchedness, was now witnessed by him with calmness, and even with apparent insensibility. His attentions to her, while she yet breathed, were not ever remitted. He was with her just before she expired. He subsequently looked upon her corpse. He passed from the spectacle in silence, and never afterwards gave utterance to her
In the June of the following year he relieved the despair of his friends by appearing to revive. He could now attend to the correction of his Homer, and he perseveringly applied to it till he brought his work to its completion in the March of 1799. During this relatively tranquil and unclouded interval, he corresponded also with some of his friends; and, besides a few short translations, he composed two original poems, one in English, with the title of 'The Castaway;' and one in Latin, on the appear
ance of some ice-islands in the German sea, which he called Montes Glaciales.'
In the January of 1800, he began to suffer from symptoms of dropsy; and under the increase of this disorder, with a gradual diminution of his strength, he faded, as it were, from mortality; and, on the 25th of the following April, concluded his virtuous and afflicted life, without the least bodily pain, but amid gloom and terrors, with a mind barred against the consolations of religion, and in the full, though still, agony of despair.
As we are informed by his biographer Mr. Greatheed, the person of the amiable and unhappy Cowper, whose mind united the weaknss of infancy with the power of genius, was of the middle height, with a well proportioned form rather strongly than delicately fashioned; his hair was light brown; his eyes bluish gray; his complexion ruddy, and his countenance full of expression and sensibility.
The poems of this excellent man have so frequently been made the subjects of critical remark, and the judgment, passed on them by their different readers, has been of so opposite a character, that it is difficult to speak of them with any semblance of novelty, or with any chance of obtaining, for the opinions which we may express of their proportion of merit, the general concurrence of the public to whom we address ourselves. Cowper is at the head of a particular school of poetry which yet lingers in existence; and the ardent spirit of devotion, which pervades his compositions, has conciliated the peculiar regard of that sect of religionists which, at this moment, embraces a large part of the population of our island. The circulation of these works has consequently been great; and the voice of praise hras