« PoprzedniaDalej »
man, the Rev. John Newton, then curate of that parish. This friendship brought to light that esteemed collection of hymns, called • Olney Hymns,' as a monument of their congenial piety and joint labours.
In February 1770, Cowper's fraternal feelings received another shock, by a summon to attend the death-bed of his beloved brother, John, whose eyes he closed, and whom he saw die full of faith and hope in the gospel.
In 1780, he lost the company of Mr. Newton, who was called to the rectory of St. Mary Woolnoth, in London: but this vacuum in friendship was supplied by the Rev. William Bull, of Newton Pagnel, a learned and worthy dissenting minister, at whose suggestion Cowper translated Madame Guin's Poems. In the spring of 1782, he published the first volume of his Poems. Notwithstanding the gloom of mind into which he had relapsed at the death of his brother, in 1785 he published that beautiful poem the Task, which was undertaken in compliance with the request of a lady, who gave him for a subject the Sofa. This work established his reputation. In 1787, to divert his melancholy, he received an invitation from Mr. Throckmorton, to reside at his seat at Weston Underwood, about a mile from Olney, whether he was accompanied by his tender friend, Mrs. Unwin, whose affectionate friendship neither time nor circumstance could diminish.
In 1790, he completed his translations of the Iliad and Odyssey. In 1792, the death of his friend, Sir Robert Throckmorton, occasioned the removal of the family to a seat in Oxfordshire, when he was introduced to his amiable biographer, Mr. Hayley, his kinsman, the Rev. Mr. Johnson, and other literary acquaintances, who kept his mind continually engaged in poetical avocations.
Owing to the interest of friends, his finances were now incrcased by a grant from royal munificence of three hundred pounds a year ; but such was the state of his mind, that he was disabled from receiving any enjoyment at the disclosure of the circumstance.
In the summer of 1795, the poet and his aged companion, Mrs. Unwin, who had had a shock of the palsy, was taken by their friends, by gentle stages, to Mundsley, on the Norfolk coast. Here one of his greatest comforts was in the family devotions, the church being at a great distance. From Mundsley, the two invalids retired to Dereham, where, on the 17th December, the excellent Mrs. Unwin closed a long and exemplary life; the best part of which had been devoted to alleviate the sufferings, and sooth the wounded spirit, of our poet.
At the close of the winter, 1799, his unhappy despondency brought on a rapid decline; and on the 25th of April, 1800, after remaining several hours in a state of insensibility, he resigned his spirit into the hands of God who gave it,' in the sixty-ninth year of his age. His remains were buried in St. Edmund's Chapel, in the Church of East Dereham, on the 2nd of May, and a monument was erected over his grave, on which was inscribed the following elegant epitaph, from the pen of his friend Mr. Hayley :-