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In August 1795, Mr. Johnson conducted his two invalides to Mundsley, a village on the Norfolk coast, in the hope, that a situation by the sea-side might prove salutary and amusing to Cowper. They continued to reside there till October, but without any apparent benefit to the health of the interesting sufferer.
He had long relinquished epistolary intercourse with his most intimate friends, but his tender solicitude to hear some tidings of his favourite Weston induced him in September, to write a Letter to Mr. Buchanan. It shews the severity of his depression, but shews also, that faint gleams of pleasure could occasionally break through the settled darkness of melancholy.
He begins with a poetical quotation.
“ To interpose a little ease,
"I will forget, for a moment, that to whomsoever I may address myself, a Letter from me can no otherwise be welcome, than as a curiosity. To you, Sir, I address this; urged to it by extreme penury of employment, and the desire I feel to learn something of what is doing, and has been done, at Weston, (my beloved Weston !) since I left it.
“ The coldness of these blasts, even in the hottest days, has been such, that added to the irritation of the salt-spray, with which they are always charged, they have occasioned me an inflammation in the eye-lids, which threatened a few days since to confine me entirely, but by absenting myself as much as possible from the beach, and guarding my face with an umbrella, that inconvenience is in some degree abated. My chamber commands a very near view of the ocean, and the ships at high water approach the coast so closely, that a man furnished with better eyes than mine, might, I doubt not, discern the sailors from the window. No situation, at least when the weather is clear, and bright, can be pleasanter; which you will easily credit, when I add, that it imparts something a little resembling pleaşure even to me.—Gratify me with news of Weston ! If Mr. Gregson, and your neighbours the Courtenays are there, mention me to them in such terms as you see good. Tell me if my poor birds are living ! I never see the herbs I used to give them, without a recollection of them, and sometimes am ready to ga
ther them, forgeting that I am not at home. Pardon this instrusion !
“ Mrs. Unwin continues much as usual.
“ Mundsley, Sept. 5, 1795."
The compassionate and accomplished clergyman, to whom this Letter is addressed, endeavoured, with great tenderness and ingenuity, to allure his dejected friend to prolong a correspondence, that seemed to promise some little alleviation to his melancholy; but that cruel distemper baffled all the various expedients that could be devised to counteract its overwhelming influence.
Much hope was entertained from air and exercise, with a frequent change of scene. - In September, Mr. Johnson conducted his kinsman (to the promotion of whose recovery he devoted all the faculties of his affectionate spirit) to take a survey of DunhamLodge, a seat that happened to be vacant; it is situated on high ground, in a park, about four miles from Swaffham. Cowper spoke of it as a house rather too spacious for him, yet such as he was not unwilling to
inhabit. A remark which induced Mr. Johnson at a subsequent period, to become the tenant of this mansion, as a scene more eligible for Cowper, than the town of Dereham. This town they also surveyed in their excursion; and after passing a night there, returned to Mundsley, which they quitted for the season on the seventh of October.
They removed immediately to Dereham ; but left it in the course of a month for Dunham-Lodge, which now became their settled residence.
The spirits of Cowper were not sufficiently revived to allow him to resume either his pen or his books; but the kindness of his young kinsman continued to furnish him with inexhaustible amusement, by reading to him, almost incessantly, a series of novels, which, although they did not lead him to converse on what he heard, yet failed not to rivet his attention; and so to prevent his afflicted mind from preying on itself.
In April 1796, the good, infirm old lady, whose infirmities continued to engage the tender attention of Cowper, even in his darkest periods of depression, received a visit from her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Powley. On their departure, Mr. Johnson assumed the office which Mrs.
Powley had tenderly performed for her venerable parent, and regularly read a chapter in the Bible every morning to Mrs. Unwin before she rose. It was the invariable custom of Cowper to visit his poor old friend the moment he had finished his breakfast, and to remain in her apartment while the chapter was read.
In June the pressure of his melancholy appeared in some degree alleviated, for on Mr. Johnson's receiving the edition of Pope's Homer published by Mr. Wakefield, Cowper eagerly seized the book, and began to read the notes to himself with visible interest. They awakened his attention to his own version of Homer. In August he deliberately engaged in a revisal of the whole, and for some time produced almost sixty new lines a day.
This mental occupation animated all his inci mate friends with a most lively hope of his speedy and perfect recovery. But autumn repressed the hope that summer had excited.
In September the family removed from Dunham-Lodge to try again the influence of the sea-side, in their favourite village of Mundsley.
Cowper walked frequently by the sea ; but no apparent benefit arose, no mild relief from the inces