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THE

LETTERS

or

WILLIAM COWPER. ESQ.

TO HIS FRIENDS.

TO LADY HESKETH.

what do you think will ensue, cousin ? I know The Temple, Aug. 9, 1763. what you expect, but ever since I was born I have MY DEAR COUSIN,

been good at disappointing the most natural exHaving promised to write to you, I make haste pectations. Many years ago, cousin, there was a to be as good as my word. I have a pleasure in possibility I might prove a very different thing writing to you at any time, but especially at the from what I am at present. My character is now present, when my days are spent in reading the fixed, and riveted fast upon me; and, between Journals, and my nights in dreaming of them;* friends, is not a very splendid one, or likely to be an employment not very agreeable to a head that guilty of much fascination. has long been habituated to the luxury of choosing Adieu, my dear cousin! So much as I love you, its subject, and has been as little employed upon I wonder how the deuce has happened I was business as if it had grown upon the shoulders of never in love with you. Thank heaven that I a much wealthier gentleman. But the numskull never was, for at this time I have had a pleasure pays for it now, and will not presently forget the in writing to you which in that case I should have discipline it has undergone lately. If I succeed forfeited. Let me hear from you, or I shall reap in this doubtful piece of promotion, I shall have at but half the reward that is due to my noble indifleast this satisfaction to reflect upon, that the ference. volumes I write will be treasured up with the ut

Yours ever, and evermore,

W.C. most care for ages, and will last as long as the English constitution: a duration which ought to

TO JOSEPH HILL, Esq. satisfy the vanity of any author who has a spark of love for his country. O! my good cousin! if I DEAR JOE, Huntingdon, Junc 24, 1765. was to open my heart to you, I could show you The only recompense I can make you for your strange sights; nothing, I filatter myself, that would kind attention to my affairs during my illness, is shock you, but a great deal that would make you to tell you, that by the mercy of God I am restored wonder. I am of a very singular temper, and very to perfect health both of mind and body. This I unlike all the men that I have ever conversed with. believe will give you pleasure, and I would gladly Certainly I am not an absolute fool; but I have do any thing from which you could receive it. more weaknesses than the greatest of all the fools

I left St. Alban's on the seventeenth, and arI can recollect at present. In short, if I was as rived that day at Cambridge, spent some time there fit for the next world as I am unfit for this, and with my brother, and came hither on the twentyGod forbid I should speak it in vanity, I would second. I have a lodging that puts me continually not change conditions with any saint in Christen- in mind of our summer excursions; we have had dom.

many worse, and except the size of it (which howMy destination is settled at last, and I have ob- ever is sufficient for a single man) but few better. tained a furlough. Margate is the word, and I am not quite alone, having brought a servant

with me from St. Alban's, who is the very mirror *The writer had been recently appointed Clerk of the Jour. of fidelity and affection for his master. And

whereas the Turkish Spy says, he kept no serYours ever,

nals in the House of Lords.

vant, because he would not have an enemy in his more than sufficient to compensate for the loss of house, I hired mine, because I would have a friend. every otner blessing. Men do not usually bestow these encomiums on You may now inform all those whom you think their lackeys, nor do they usually deserve them; really interested in my welfare, that they have no but I have had experience of mine, both in sick- need to be apprehensive on the score of my hapness and in health, and never saw his fellow. piness at present. And you yourself will believe

The river Ouse, I forget how they spell it, is that my happiness is no dream, because I have the most agreeable circunstance in this part of the told you the foundation on which it is built. What world; at this town it is I believe as wide as the I have written would appear like enthusiasm to Thames at Windsor; nor does the silver Thames many, for we are apt to give that name to every better deserve that epithet, nor has it more flowers warm affection of the mind in others which we upon its banks, these being attributes which in have not experienced in ourselves; but to you, strict truth belong to neither. Fluellin would say, who have so much to be thankful for, and a temthey are as like as my fingers to my fingers, and per inclined to gratitude, it will not appear so. there is salmon in both. It is a noble stream to I beg you will give my love to Sir Thomas, bathe in, and I shall make that use of it three and believe that I am obliged to you both for intimes a week, having introduced myself to it for quiring after nie at St. Alban’s. the first time this morning.

W.C. I beg you will remember me to all my friends, which is a task will cost you no great pains to execute-particularly remember me to those of

TO LADY HESKETH. your own house, and believe me

Huntingdon, July 4, 1765. Your very affectionate, W. C.

Being just emerged from the Ouse, I sit down to thank you, my dear cousin, for your friendly

and comfortable letter. What could you think of TO LADY HESKETH.

my unaccountable behaviour to you in that visit I Huntingdon, July 1, 1765. mentioned in my last? I remember I neither spoke MY DEAR LADY HESKETH,

to you, nor looked at you. The solution of the SINCE the visit you were so kind as to pay me mystery indeed followed soon after, but at the in the Temple (the only time I ever saw you with time it must have been inexplicable. The uproar out pleasure,) what have I not suffered! And within was even then begun, and my silence was since it has pleased God to restore me to the use only the sulkiness of a thunderstorm before it of my reason, what have I not enjoyed! You opens. I am glad, however, that the only instance know, by experience, how pleasant it is to feel the in which I knew not how to value your company first approaches of health after a fever; but, Oh was, when I was not in my senses. It was the the fever of the brain! To feel the quenching of first of the kind, and I trust in God it will be the that fire is indeed a blessing which I think it im- last. possible to receive without the most consummate Ilow naturally does affliction make us Chrisgratitude. Terrible as this chastisement is, I ac- tians! and how impossible is it when all human knowledge in it the hand of an infinite justice; help is vain and the whole earth too poor and trinor is it at all more difficult for me to perceive in fling to furnish us with one moment's peace, how it the hand of an infinite mercy likewise: when impossible is it then to avoid looking at the gospel! I consider the effect it has had upon me, I am ex- It gives me some concern, though at the same time it ceedingly thankful for it, and, without hypocrisy, increases my gratitude, to reflect that a convert made esteem it the greatest blessing, next to life itself, I in Bedlam is more likely to be a stumbling block ever received from the divine bounty. I pray God to others, than to advance their faith. But if it that I may ever retain this sense of it, and then I has that effect upon any, it is owing to their reaam sure I shall continue to be, as I am at present, soning amiss, and drawing their conclusions from really happy.

false premises. He who can ascribe an amendI write thus to you that you may not think me ment of life and manners, and a reformation of the a forlorn and wretched creature; which you might heart itself, to madness, is guilty of an absurdity be apt to do considering my very distant removal that in any other case would fasten the imputation from every friend I have in the world—a circum- of madness upon himself; for by so doing he asstance which, before this event befel me, would un-'cribes a reasonable effect to an unreasonable cause, doubtedly have made me so; but my affliction has and a positive effect to a negative. But when taught me a road to happiness which without it I Christianity only is to be sacrificed, he that stabs should never have found; and I know, and have deepest is always the wisest man. You, my dear experience of it every day, that the mercy of God, cousin, yourself will be apt to think I carry the to him who believes himself the object of it, is matter too far, and that in the present warınth of my heart I make too ample a concession in saying we have not met even by letter almost these two that I am only nono a convert. You think I al- years, which will account in some measure for ways believed, and I thought so too; but you were my pestering you in this manner; besides, my last deceived, and so was I. I called myself indeed a was no answer to yours, and therefore I consider Christian, but He who knows my heart knows myself as still in your debt. To say truth, I have that I never did a right thing, nor abstained from this long time promised myself a correspondence a wrong one, because I was so. But if I did ei- with you as one of my principal pleasures. ther, it was under the influence of some other mo- I should have written to you from St. Alban's tive. And it is such seeming Christians, such long since, but was willing to perform quarantine pretending believers, that do most mischief to the first, both for my own sake and because I thought cause, and furnish the strongest arguments to sup- my letters would be more satisfactory to you from port the infidelity of their enemies: unless profes- any other quarter. You will perceive I allowed sion and conduct go together, the man's life is a myself a very sufficient time for the purpose, for I lie, and the validity of what he professes itself is date my recovery from the twenty-fifth of last July, called in question. The difference between a having been ill seven months, and well twelve Christian and an Unbeliever would be so striking, months. It was on that day my brother came to if the treacherous allies of the church would go see me. I was far from well when he came in; over at once to the other side, that I am satisfied yet though he only staid one day with me, his religion would be no loser by the bargain. company served to put to flight a thousand deliri

I reckon it one instance of the providence that ums and delusions which I sill laboured under, has attended me throughout this whole event, that and the next morning I found myself a new creainstead of being delivered into the hands of one of ture.' But to the present purpose. the London physicians, who were so much nearer As far as I am acquainted with this place, I like that I wonder I was not, I was carried to Doctor it extremely. Mr. Hodgson, the minister of the Cotton. I was not only treated by him with the parish, made me a visit the day before yesterday. greatest tenderness while I was ill, and attended He is very sensible, a good preacher, and consciwith the utmost diligence, but when my reason entious in the discharge of his duty. He is very was restored to me, and I had so much need of a well known to Doctor Newton, Bishop of Bristol, religious friend to converse with, to whom I could the author of the treatise on the Prophecies, one open my mind upon the subject without reserve, I of our best bishops, and who has written the could hardly have found a fitter person for the most demonstrative proof of the truth of Chi purpose. My eagerness and anxiety to settle my tianity, in my mind, that ever was published. opinions upon that long neglected point made it There is a village called Hertford, about a mile necessary that, while my mind was yet weak, and and a half from hence. The church there is very my spirits uncertain, I should have some assist- prettily situated upon a rising ground, so close to

The doctor was as ready to administer the river that it washes the wall of the churchyard. relief to me in this article likewise, and as well I found an epitaph there, the other morning, the qualified to do it, as in that which was more imme- two first lines of which being better than any thing diately his province. How many physicians would else I saw there I made shift to reinember. It have thought this an irregular appetite, and a is by a widow on her husband. symptom of remaining madness! But if it were

"Thou wast too good to live on earth with me, so, my friend was as mad as myself, and it is well

And I not good enough to die with thee." for me that he was so. My dear cousin, you know not half the deliver

The distance of this place from Cambridge is ances I have received; my brother is the only one the worst circumstance belonging to it. My broin the family who does. My recovery is indeed a ther and I are fifteen miles asunder, which, consignal one, but a greater if possible went before it. sidering that I came hither for the sake of being My future life must express my thankfulness, for near him, is rather too much. I wish that young by words I can not do it.

man was better known in the family. He has as I pray God to bless you and my friend sir Tho

many good qualities as his nearest kindred could Yours ever, W.C.

wish to find in him.

As Mr. Quin very roundly expressed himself

upon some such occasion, 'here is very plentiful TO LADY HESKETH.

accommodation, and great happiness of provision.' Huntingdon, July 5, 1765. So that if I starve, it must be through forgetfulMY DEAR LADY HESKETH,

ness, rather than scarcity. My pen runs so fast you will begin to wish you Fare thee well, my good and dear cousin. had not put it in motion, but you must consider)

Ever yours, W.C.

ance.

mas,

that I am

you with

and you are so fond of that which is so, TO LADY HESKETH.

sure you will like it. MY DEAR COUSIN,

July 12, 1776.

My dear cousin, how happy am I in having a You are very good to me, and if you will only friend to whom I can open my heart upon these continue to write at such intervals as you find con- subjects! I have many intimates in the world, venient, I shall receive all that pleasure which I and have had many more than I shall have hereproposed to myself from our correspondence. I after, to whom a long letter on these most impordesire no more than that you would never drop tant articles would appear tiresome, at least, if not me for any great length of time together, for I shall impertinent. But I am not afraid of meeting with then think you only write because something hap- that reception from you, who have never yet made pened to put you in mind of me, or for some other it your interest that there should be no truth in the reason equally mortifying. I am not however so word of God. May this everlasting truth be

your unreasonable as to expect you should perform this comfort while you live, and attend

peace act of friendship so frequently as myself, for you and joy in your last moments! I love you too live in a world swarming with engagements, and well not to make this a part of my prayers, and my hours are almost all my own. You must every when I remember my friends on these occasions, day be employed in doing what is expected from there is no likelihood that you can be forgotten. Fou by a thousand others, and I have nothing to

Yours ever, W.C. do but what is most agrecable to myself.

P.S. Cambridge.-I add this postscript at my Our mentioning Newton's treatise on the Pro

brother's rooms. phecies brings to my mind an anecdote of Dr. remembered to you, and if you are in town about

He desires to be affectionately Young, who, you know, died lately at Welwyn.

a fortnight hence, when he proposes to be there Dr. Cotton, who was intimate with him, paid him a visit about a fortnight before he was seized with himself

, will take a breakfast with you. his last illness. The old man was then in perfect health; the antiquity of his person, the gravity of utterance, and the earnestness with which he dis

TO LADY HESKETH. coursed about religion, gave him, in the doctor's

Huntingdon, August 1, 1763. eye, the appearance of a prophet. They had been MY DEAR COUSIN, delivering their sentiments upon this book of New- If I was to measure your obligation to write by ton, when Young closed the conference thus :- my own desire to hear from you, I should call you *My friend, there are two considerations upon an idle correspondent if a post went by without which my faith in Christ is built upon a rock: the bringing me a letter, but I am not so unreasonafall of man, the redemption of man, and the resur- ble; on the contrary, I think myself very happy in rection of man, the three cardinal articles of our hearing from you upon your own terms, as you find religion, are such as human ingenuity could never most convenient. Your short history of my family have invented, therefore they must be divine.- is a very acceptable part of your letter; if they The other argument is this-If the Prophecies really interest themselves in my welfare, it is a have been fulfilled (of which there is abundant mark of their great charity for one who has been demonstration) the scripture must be the word of a disappointment and a vexation to them ever God; and if the scripture is the word of God, since he has been of consequence to be either. My christianity must be true.'

friend, the major's behaviour to me, after all he This treatise on the prophecies serves a double suffered by my abandoning his interest and my purpose ; it not only proves the truth of religion, own in so miserable a manner, is a noble instance in a manner that never has been nor ever can be of generosity, and true greatness of mind; and incontroverted, but it proves likewise, that the Ro- deed I know no man in whom those qualities are man catholic is the apostate and antichristian more conspicuous; one need only furnish him with church, so frequently foretold both in the old and an opportunity to display them, and they are alnew testaments. Indeed, so fatally connected is ways ready to show themselves in his words and the refutation of popery with the truth of christi- actions, and even in his countenance at a moment's anity, when the latter is evinced by the completion warning. I have great reason to be thankful-I of the prophecies, that in proportion as light is have lost none of my acquaintance but those whom thrown upon the one, the deformities and errors I determined not to keep. I am sorry this class is of the other are more plainly exhibited. But I so numerous. What would I not give, that every leave you to the book itself; there are parts of it friend I have in the world were not almost but which may possibly afford you less entertainment altogether christians! My dear cousin, I am half than the rest, because you have never been a afraid to talk in this style, lest I should seem to school-boy; but in the main it is so interesting, indulge a censorious humour, instead of hoping, as

12

I ought, the best for all men. But what can be tal parts of it; but the matter of it is that upon said against ocular proof? and what is hope when which it principally stakes its credit with us, and it is built upon presumption ? To use the most the style, however excellent and peculiar to itself, holy name in the universe for no purpose, or a bad is only one of those many external evidences by one, contrary to his own express commandment: which it recommends itself to our belief. to pass the day, and the succeeding days, weeks, I shall be very much obliged to you for the book and months, and years, without one act of private you mention; you could not have sent me any devotion, one confession of our sins, or one thanks- thing that would have been more welcome, unless giving for the numberless blessings we enjoy; to you had sent me your own meditations instead of hear the word of God in public with a distracted them, attention, or with none at all; to absent ourselves

Yours, 'W.C. voluntarily from the blessed communion, and to live in the total neglect of it, though our Saviour has charged it upon us with an express injunction,

TO LADY HESKETH. are the common and ordinary liberties which the

Huntingdon, August 17, 1765. generality of professors allow themselves: and You told me, my dear cousin, that I need not what is this but to live without God in the world! fear writing too often, and you perceive I take you Many causes may be assigned for this antichris- at your word. At present, however, I shall do tian spirit, so prevalent among Christians; but one little more than thank you for the Meditations, of the principal I take to be their utter forgetful- which I admire exceedingly: the author of them ness that they have the word of God in their pos- manifestly loved the truth with an undissembled session.

affection, had made a great progress in the knowMy friend sir William Russell was distantly ledge of it, and experienced all the happiness that related to a very accomplished man, who, though naturally results from that noblest of attainments. he never believed the gospel, admired the scrip- There is one circumstance, which he gives us fretures as the sublimest compositions in the world, quent occasion to observe in him, which I believe and read them often. I have been intimate myself will ever be found in the philosophy of every true with a man of fine taste, who has confessed to me Christian. I mean the eminent rank which he that, though he could not subscribe to the truth assigns to faith among the virtues, as the source of christianity itself, yet he never could read St. and parent of them all. There is nothing more Luke's acconnt of our Saviour's appearance to the infallibly true than this, and doubtless it is with a two disciples going to Emmaus, without being view to the purifying and sanctifying nature of a wonderfully affected by it; and he thought that true faith, that our Saviour says, 'He that beif the stamp of divinity was any where to be found lieveth in me hath everlasting life,' with many in scripture, it was strongly marked and visibly other expressions to the same purpose. Consiimpressed upon that passage. If these men, whose dered in this light, no wonder it has the power of hearts were chilled with the darkness of infidelity, salvation ascribed to it! Considered in any other, could find such charms in the mere style of the we must suppose it to operate like an oriental talis scripture, what must they find there, whose eye man, if it obtains for us the least advantage, which penetrates deeper than the letter, and who firmly is an affront to him who insists upon our having believe themselves interested in all the invaluable it, and will on no other terms admit us to his faprivileges of the gospel ? · He that believeth on vour. I mention this distinguishing article in his me is passed from death unto life,' though it be as Reflections the rather, because it serves for a solid plain a sentence as words can form, has more foundation to the distinction I made, in my last, beauties in it for such a person than all the labours between the specious professor and the true beantiquity can boast of. If my poor man of taste, liever, between him whose faith is his Sundaywhom I have just mentioned, bad searched a little suit and him who never puts it off at all—a disfurther, he might have found other parts of the tinction I am a little fearful sometimes of making, sacred history as strongly marked with the cha- because it is a heavy stroke upon the practice of racters of divinity as that he mentioned. The more than half the Christians in the world. parable of the prodigal son, the most beautiful fic- My dear cousin, I told you I read the book with tion that ever was invented; our Saviour's speech great pleasure, which may be accounted for from to his disciples, with which he closes his earthly its own merit, but perhaps it pleased me the more ministration, full of the sublimest dignity and ten- because you had travelled the same road before derest affection, surpass every thing that I ever me. You know there is such a pleasure as this, read, and, like the spirit by which they were dic- which would want great explanation to some folks, tated, fly directly to the heart. If the scripture being perhaps a mystery to those whose hearts are did not disdain all affectation of ornament, one a mere muscle, and serve only for the purposes of should call these, and such as these, the ornamen- an even circulation.

WC.

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