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It was her custom on these occasions, to try all the resources of her sprightly powers for his immediate relief. She told him the story of John Gilpin (which had been treasured in her memory from her childhood) to dissipate the gloom of the passing hour. Its effect on the fancy of Cowper had the air of enchantment: he informed her the next morning, that convulsions of laughter, brought on by his recollection of her story, had kept him waking during the greatest part of the night, and that he had turned it into a ballad.-So arose the pleasant poem of John Gilpin. It was eagerly copied, and, finding its way rapidly to the newspapers, it was seized by the lively spirit of Henderson the comedian, a man, like the Yorick described by Shakspeare, "of infinite jest and most excellent fancy.' By him it was selected as a proper subject for the display of his own comic powers, and, by reciting it in his public readings, he gave uncommon celebrity to the ballad, before the public suspected to what poet they were indebted for the sudden burst of ludicrous amusement. Many readers were astonished when the poem made its first authentic appearance in the second volume of Cowper.


Olney, Sept. 6, 1782. My dear Friend,-Yesterday, and not be fore, I received your letter, dated the 11th of June, from the hands of Mr. Small. I should have been happy to have known him sooner; but whether being afraid of that horned monster, a Methodist, or whether from a principle of delicacy, or deterred by a flood, which has rolled for some weeks between Clifton and Olney, I know not,-he has favored me only with a taste of his company, and will leave me on Saturday evening, to regret that our acquaintance, so lately begun, must be so soon suspended. He will dine with us that day, which I reckon a fortunate circumstance, as I shall have an opportunity to introduce him to the liveliest and most entertaining woman in the country. I have seen him but for half an hour, yet, without boasting of much discernment, I see that he is polite, easy, cheerful, and sensible. An old man thus qualified, cannot fail to charm the lady in question. As to his religion, I leave it-I am neither his bishop nor his confessor. A man of his character, and recommended by you, would be welcome here, were he a Gentoo or a Mahometan.

I learn from him that certain friends of mine, whom I have been afraid to inquire about by letter, are alive and well. The current of twenty years has swept away so many whom I once knew, that I doubted whether

* Private correspondence. Lady Austen.

it might be advisable to send my love to your mother and your sisters. They may have thought my silence strange, but they have here the reason of it. Assure them of my affectionate remembrance, and that nothing would make me happier than to receive you all in my greenhouse, your own Mrs. Hill included. It is fronted with myrtles, and lined with mats, and would just hold us, for Mr. Small informs me your dimensions are much the same as usual. W. C.

Yours, my dear Friend,

TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. Olney, Nov. 4, 1782. My dear Friend,-You are too modest; though your last consisted of three sides only, I am certainly a letter in your debt. It is possible that this present writing may prove as short. Yet, short as it may be, it will be a letter, and make me creditor, and you my debtor. A letter, indeed, ought not to be estimated by the length of it, but by the contents, and how can the contents of any letter be more agreeable than your last.

You tell me that John Gilpin made you laugh tears, and that the ladies at court are delighted with my poems. Much good may they do them! May they become as wise as the writer wishes them, and they will be much happier than he! I know there is in the book that wisdom which cometh from above, because it was from above that I received it. May they receive it too! For. whether they drink it out of the cistern, or whether it falls upon them immediately from the clouds, as it did on me, it is all one. It is the water of life, which whosoever drinketh shall thirst no more. As to the famous horseman above mentioned, he and his feats are an inexhaustible source of merriment. At least we find him so, and seldom meet without refreshing ourselves with the recollection of them. You are perfectly at liberty to deal with them as you please. Auctore tantium anonymo, imprimantur; and when printed send me a copy.

I congratulate you on the discharge of your duty and your conscience by the pains you have taken for the relief of the prisoners.You proceeded wisely, yet courageously, and deserved better success. Your labors, however, will be remembered elsewhere, when you shall be forgotten here; and, if the poor folks at Chelmsford should never receive the benefit of them, you will yourself receive it in heaven. It is pity that men of fortune should be determined to acts of benefience, sometimes by popular whim or prejudice, and sometimes by motives still more unworthy. The liberal subscription, raised in behalf of the widows of seamen lost in the Royal


George was an instanee of the former. At least a plain, short and sensible letter in the newspaper, convinced me at the time that it was an unnecessary and injudicious collection: and the difficulty you found in effectuating your benevolent intentions on this occasion, constrains me to think that, had it been an affair of more notoriety than merely to furnish a few poor fellows with a little fuel to preserve their extremities from the frost, you would have succeeded better. Men really pious delight in doing good by stealth. But nothing less than an ostentatious display of bounty will satisfy mankind in general. feel myself disposed to furnish you with an opportunity to shine in secret. We do what we can. But that can is little. You have rich friends, are eloquent on all occasions, and know how to be pathetic on a proper one. The winter will be severely felt at Olney by many, whose sobriety, industry, and honesty, recommended them to charitable notice; and You may not, perhaps, live to see your we think we could tell such persons as Mr. trees attain to the dignity of timber: I neveror Mr. half a dozen tales of dis-theless approve of your planting, and the distress, that would find their way into hearts as interested spirit that prompts you to it. Few feeling as theirs. You will do as you see people plant when they are young; a thougood; and we in the meantime shall remain sand other less profitable amusements divert convinced that you will do your best. Lady their attention; and most people, when the Austen will, no doubt, do something, for she date of youth is once expired, think it too late has great sensibility aud compassion. to begin. I can tell you, however, for your Yours, my dear Unwin, comfort and encouragement, that when a grove which Major Cowper had planted was of eighteen years' growth, it was no small ornament to his grounds, and afforded as Were complete a shade as could be desired. I as old as your mother, in whose longevity I rejoice, and the more because I consider it as in some sort a pledge and assurance of yours, and should come to the possession of land worth planting, I would begin to-morrow, and even without previously insisting upon a bond from Providence that I should live five years longer.

W. C.

Olney, Nov. 5, 1782.
Charissime Taurorum-
Quot sunt, vel fuerunt, vel posthac aliis erunt in

I saw last week a gentleman who was
lately at Hastings. I asked him where he
lodged. He replied at P's. I next in-
quired after the poor man's wife, whether
alive or dead. He answered, dead. So then,
said I, she has scolded her last; and a sensi-
ble old man will go down to his grave in
to be sure, is of no great
peace. Mr. P-
consequence either to you or to me; but,
having so fair an opportunity to inform my-
self about him, I could not neglect it. It
gives me pleasure to learn somewhat of a
man I knew a little of so many years since,
and for that reason merely I mention the cir-
cumstance to you.

We shall rejoice to see you, and I just write to tell you so. Whatever else I want, I have, at least, this quality in common with publicans and sinners, that I love those that love me, and for that reason, you in particular. Your warm and affectionate manner demands

it of me. And, though I consider your love as growing out of a mistaken expectation that you shall see me a spiritual man hereafter, I do not love you much the less for it. I only regret that I did not know you intimately in those happier days, when the frame of my heart and mind was such as might have made a connexion with me not altogether unworthy

of you.

as you term it, was however a very welcome one. The character indeed has not quite the neatness and beauty of an engraving; but if it cost me some pains to decipher it, they were well rewarded by the minute information it conveyed. I am glad your health is such that you have nothing more to complain of than may be expected on the down-hill side of life. If mine is better than yours, it is to be attributed, I suppose, principally to the constant enjoyment of country air and retirement; the most perfect regularity in matters of eating, drinking, and sleeping; and a happy emancipation from everything that wears the face of business. I lead the life I always wished for, and, the single circumstance of dependence excepted, (which, between ourselves, is very contrary to my predominant humor and disposition,) have no want left broad enough for another wish to stand upon.

I add only Mrs. Unwin's remembrances, and that I am glad you believe me to be, what I truly am,

Your faithful and affectionate, W. C.


I find a single expression in your letter which needs correction. You say I carefully avoid paying you a visit at Wargrave. Not so; but connected as I happily am, and rooted My dear Friend,-Your shocking scrawl, where I am, and not having travelled these twenty years-being besides of an indolent

Olney, Nov. 11, 1782.

• Private correspondence.

temper, and having spirits that cannot bear a
bustle-all these are so many insuperables in
the way.
They are not however in yours;
and if you and Mrs. Hill will make the ex-
periment, you shall find yourselves as wel-
come here, both to me and to Mrs. Unwin, as
it is possible you can be anywhere.
Yours affectionately,

W. C.

Olney, Nov., 1782.

My dear Friend,-I am to thank you for a very fine cod, which came most opportunely to make a figure on our table, on an occasion that made him singularly welcome. write, and you send me a fish. This is very well, but not altogether what I want. I wish to hear from you, because the fish, though he serves to convince me that you have me still in remembrance, says not a word of those that sent him; and, with respect to your and Mrs. Hill's health, prosperity, and happiness, leaves me as much in the dark as before. You are aware, like

acknowledgements, such as the occasion calls
for, to our beneficent friend, Mr. — !
call him ours, because, having experienced
his kindness to myself, in a former instance,
and in the present his disinterested readiness
to succor the distressed, my ambition will
be satisfied with nothing less. He may de-
pend upon the strictest secrecy; no creature
shall hear him mentioned, either now or
hereafter, as the person from whom we have
received this bounty. But when I speak of
him, or hear him spoken of by others, which
sometimes happens, I shall not forget what
is due to so rare a character. I wish, and
your mother wishes too, that he could some-
-: he will
times take us in his way to
find us happy to receive a person whom we
must needs account it an honor to know.
We shall exercise our best discretion in the
where the gospel has been preached so many
disposal of the money; but in this town,
years, where the people have been favored
so long with laborious and conscientious
ministers, it is not an easy thing to find
those who make no profession of religion at


ters it is much easier to write. But I know the multiplicity of your affairs, and therefore perform my part of the correspondence as well as I can, convinced that you would not omit yours, if you could help it.

Three days since I received a note from old Mr. Small, which was more than civilit was warm and friendly. The good veteran excuses himself for not calling upon me, on account of the feeble state in which a fit of the gout had left him. He tells me however that he has seen Mrs. Hill, and your improvements at Wargrave, which will soon become an ornament to the place. May they, and may you both live long to enjoy them! I shall be sensibly mortified if the season and his gout together should deprive me of the pleasure of receiving him here; for he is a man much to my taste, and quite an unique in this country.

wise, that where there is an exchange of let-all, and are yet proper objects of charity. The profane are so profane, so drunken, dissolute, and in every respect worthless, that to make them partakers of his bounty would be to abuse it. We promise, however, that none shall touch it but such as are miserably poor, yet at the same time industrious and honest, two characters frequently united here, where the most watchful and unremitting labor will hardly procure them bread. We make none but the cheapest laces, and the price of them is fallen almost to nothing. Thanks are due to yourself likewise, and are hereby accordingly rendered, for waiving your claim in behalf of your own parishionYou are always with them, and they are always, at least some of them, the better for your residence among them. Olney is a populous place, inhabited chiefly by the halfstarved and the ragged of the earth, and it is not possible for our small party and small ability to extend their operations so far as to be much felt among such numbers. Accept, therefore, your share of their gratitude, and be convinced that, when they pray for a blessing upon those who relieved their wants, he that answers that prayer, and when he answers it, will remember his servant at Stock.


My eyes are in general better than I remember them to have been since I first opened them upon this sublunary stage, which is now a little more than half a century ago. We are growing old; but this is between ourselves: the world knows nothing of the matter. Mr. Small tells me you look much as you did; and as for me, being grown rather plump, the ladies tell me I am as young as W. C.


Yours ever,


Olney, Nov. 18, 1782.

My dear William,-On the part of the poor, and on our part, be pleased to make * Private correspondence.

I little thought when I was writing the history of John Gilpin, that he would appear in print-I intended to laugh, and to make two or three others laugh, of whom you were one. But now all the world laugh, at lenst if they have the same relish for a tale ridiculous in itself, and quaintly told, as we have. Well, they do not always laugh so innocently, and at so small an expense, for in a world like this, abounding with subjects

for satire, and with satirical wits to mark them, a laugh that hurts nobody has at least the grace of novelty to recommend it. Swift's darling motto was, Vive la bagatelle a good wish for a philosopher of his complexion, the greater part of whose wisdom, whencesoever it came, most certainly came not from above. La bagatelle has no enemy in me, though it has neither so warm a friend nor so able a one as it had in him. If I trifle, and merely trifle, it is because I am reduced to it by necessity-a melancholy that nothing else so effectually disperses engages me sometimes in the arduous task of being merry by force. And, strange as it may seem, the most ludicrous lines I ever wrote have been written in the saddest mood, and but for that saddest mood, perhaps, had never been written at all.

I hear from Mrs. Newton that some great persons have spoken with great approbation of a certain book-who they are, and what they have said, I am to be told in a future letter. The Monthly Reviewers, in the meantime, have satisfied ine well enough. Yours, my dear William,

W. C.


My dear William,-Dr. Beattie is a respectable character.* I account him a man of sense, a philosopher, a scholar, a person of distinguished genius, and a good writer. I believe him too a Christian; with a profound reverence for the scripture, with great zeal and ability to enforce the belief of it, both which he exerts with the candor and good manners of a gentleman: he seems well entitled to that allowance; and to deny it him, would impeach one's right to the appellation. With all these good things to recommend him, there can be no dearth of suflicient reasons to read his writings. You favored me some years since with one of his volumes; by which I was both pleased and instructed: and I beg you will send me the new one, when you can conveniently spire it, or rather bring it yourself, while the swallows are yet upon the wing: for the summer is going down apace.

You tell me you have been asked, if I am intent upon another volume? I reply, not at present, not being convinced that I have met with sufficient encouragement. I account myself happy in having pleased a few, but am not rich enough to despise the many. I do not know what sort of market my commodity has found, but, if a slack one, I must beware how I make a second attempt. My book-eller will not be willing to incur a certain loss; and I can as little afford it. Notwithstanding what I have said, I write, and

The well-known author of "The Minstrel."

am even now writing, for the press. I told you that I had translated several of the poems of Madame Guion. I told you too, or I am mistakeu, that Mr. Bull designed to print them. That gentleman is gone to the sea-side with Mrs. Wilberforce, and will be absent six weeks. My intention is to surprise him at his return with the addition of as much more translation as I have already given him. This, however, is still less likely to be a popular work than my former. Men that have no religion would despise it; and men that have no religious experience would not understand it. But the strain of simple and unaffected piety in the original is sweet beyond expression. She sings like an angel, and for that very reason has found but few admirers. Other things I write too, as you will see on the other side, but these merely for my amusement.*


Olney, Nov. 23, 1782.

My dear Madam,-Accept my thanks for the trouble you take in vending my poems, and still more for the interest you take in their success. My authorship is undoubt edly pleased, when I hear that they are approved either by the great or the small; but to be approved by the great, as Horace observed many years ago, is fame indeed. Haying met with encouragement, I consequently wish to write again; but wishes are a very small part of the qualifications necessary for such a purpose. Many a man, who has succeeded tolerably well in his first attempt, has spoiled all by the second. But it just occurs to me that I told you so once before, and, if my memory had served me with the intelligence a minute sooner, I would not have repeated the observation now.

The winter sets in with great severity. The rigor of the season, and the advanced price of grain, are very threatening to the poor. It is well with those that can feed upon a promise, and wrap themselves up warm in the robe of salvation. A good fireside and a well-spread table are but very indifferent substitutes for these better accommodations; so very indifferent, that I would gladly exchange them both for the rags and the unsatisfied hunger of the poorest creature that looks forward with hope to a better world, and weeps tears of joy in the midst of penury and distress. What a world is this! How mysteriously governed, and in appearance left to itself! One man, having squandered thousands at finds it convenient to travel; gives his estate a gaming-table, to somebody to manage for him; amuses

*This letter closed with the English and Latin verses on the loss of the Royal George, inserted before. † Private correspondence.


himself a few years in France and Italy; returns, perhaps, wiser than he went, having acquired knowledge which, but for his follies, he would never have acquired; again makes a splendid figure at home, shines in the senate, governs his country as its minister, is admired for his abilities, and, if successful, adored at least by a party. When he dies he is praised as a demi-god, and his monument records everything but his vices. exact contrast of such a picture is to be found in many cottages at Olney. I have no need to describe them; you know the characters I mean. They love God, they trust him, they pray to him in secret, and, though he means to reward them openly, the day of recompense is delayed. In the meantime they suffer everything that infirmity and poverty can inflict upon them. Who would suspect, that has not a spiritual eye to discern it, that the fine gentleman was one whom his Maker had in abhorrence, and the wretch last-mentioned dear to him as the apple of his eye! It is no wonder that the world, who are not in the secret, find themselves obliged, some of them, to doubt a Providence, and others absolutely to deny it, when almost all the real virtue there is in it is to be found living and dying in a state of neglected obscurity, and all the vices of others cannot exclude them from the privilege of worship and honor! But behind the curtain the matter is explained; very little, however, to the satisfaction of the great.

If you ask me why I have written thus, and to you especially, to whom there was no need to write thus, I can only reply, that, having a letter to write, and no news to communicate, I picked up the first subject I found, and pursued it as far as was convenient for my purpose.

Mr. Newton and I are of one mind on the subject of patriotism. Our dispute was no sooner begun than it ended. It would be well. perhaps, if, when two disputants begin to engage, their friends would hurry each into a separate chaise, and order them to opposite points of the compass. Let one travel twenty miles east, the other as many west; then let them write their opinions by the post. Much altercation and chafing of the spirit would be prevented; they would sooner come to a right understanding, and running away from each other, would carry on the combat more judiciously, in exact proportion to the dis


My love to that gentleman, if you please; and tell him that, like him, though I love my country, I hate its follies and its sins, and had rather see it scourged in mercy than judicially hardened by prosperity.

Yours, dear Madam, as ever,

W. C.

TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.* Olney, Dec. 7, 1782. My dear Friend,-At seven o'clock this evening, being the seventh of December, I imagine I see you in your box at the coffeehouse. No doubt the waiter, as ingenious and adroit as his predecessors were before him, raises the tea-pot to the ceiling with his right hand, while in his left the tea-cup descending almost to the floor, receives a limpid stream; limpid in its descent, but no sooner has it reached its destination, than frothing and foaming to the view, it becomes a roaring syllabub. This is the nineteenth winter since I saw you in this situation; and if nineteen more pass over me before I die, I shall still remember a circumstance we have often laughed at.

How different is the complexion of your evenings and mine!-yours, spent amid the ceaseless hum that proceeds from the inside of fifty noisy and busy periwigs; mine, by a domestic fire-side, in a retreat as silent as retirement can make it, where no noise is made but what we make for our own amusement. For instance, here are two rustics and your humble servant in company. One of the ladies has been playing on the harpsichord, while I with the other have been playing at battledore and shuttlecock. A little dog, in the meantime, howling under the chair of the former, performed in the vocal way to admiration. This entertainment over, I began my letter, and, having nothing more important to communicate, have given you an account of it. I know you love dearly to be idle, when you opportunities are rare with you, I thought it can find an opportunity to be so; but, as such possible that a short description of the idleness I enjoy might give you pleasure. The happiness we cannot call our own we yet seem to possess, while we sympathize with our friends who can.

The papers tell me that peace is at hand, and that it is at a great distance; that the siege of Gibralter is abandoned, and that it is to be still continued. It is happy for me, that, though I love my country, I have but little curiosity. There was a time when these contradictions would have distressed me; but I have learned by experience that it is best for little people like myself to be patient, and to wait till time affords the intelligence which no speculations of theirs can ever furnish.

I thank you for a fine cod with oysters, and hope that ere long I shall have to thank you for procuring me Elliott's medicines. Every time I feel the least uneasiness in either eye, I tremble lest, my Esculapius being departed, my infallible remedy should be lost forever. Adieu. My respects to Mrs. Hill. Yours, faithfully, W. C.

* Private correspondence.

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