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COWPER AND BLAKE 



M ^aptt 



Read at the 13th Annual Meeting of the 

COWPER SOCIETY, 

Held at the Mansion House, London, 25rd April, 1915 



BY 

Dr. HUBERT J. NORMAN 



With a Summary of the other Papers read 
on that occasion. 



Olney : 
Thomas Wright 



THE 



COWPER SOCIETY 

(Founded «5th April, 1900, the C«nten«ry of Cowper's Death.) 
First President, the late Earl Cowper. 

President : The Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Durham 



" God moves in a mysterious way." 

Olney Hymns. 

" He lives who lives to God alone." 

Hill of Mortality Stanzas, 1793, 



(gufee. 



1. — Object. To increase the public interest in the poet Cowper, 
and to encourage the publication of manuscripts or scarce works 
relating to him and his circle. 

2. — Membership Ticket, Minimum, Seven Shillings every 
Two Years. This will entitle the Member to admittance to the 
Society's meetings, and a copy of the Society's publications as 
issued during the two years. 

3. — Life Membership Ticket, Three Guineas. 

4. — Place of Meeting. At some town associated with Cowper, 
or with his most intimate friends, on Cowper Day (the 25th of 
April), every year. 



Biet of (WlemBere. 



The Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Durham 

The Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Oxford. 
The Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Litchfield. 
The Right Rev. Bishop Weildon. 
The Very Rev. the Dean of Canterbury. 
The IMaster of Trinity Coilege, Cambridge. 

^tcvttAx^ : 
Thomas Wright, Cowper School, Oiney, Buclcs. 

Alexander, Miss, Underwood House, Hornsey Lane, Highgate, 

N. 
Bates, Madison C, M.A., South Dakota State College, Brook- 
ings, South Dakota, U.S.A. 
Bowyer, Lieutenant-Colonel, Weston Manor, Olney. 
Brighton Public Library. 
Bull, Miss, Oak Lodge, Newport Pagnell. 
Burton, Charles, 13 Westbourne Terrace Road, Paddington, W. 
Butterworth, Major S., Cheviot House, Carlisle. 
CalliS, Rev. John, M.A., 66 Christchurch Street, Ipswich. 
Cameron, F., 24 Matthews Street, Kimberley, South Africa. 
Carlile, W. W., J. P., Gayhurst, Bucks. 
Coales, J. L., The Lodge, Newport Pagnell. 
Cotton, Miss A., 21 East Park Terrace, Southampton. 
Couper, Miss Annie, Craigholm, 6 The Ridgeway, Golder's 

Green, N.W. 
Cowper, Cecil, Barrister of the Inner Temple, J. P., and Editor 

of " The Academy," Olney, East Molesey, Surrey. 
CulShaw, Rev. G. H., M.A., The Rectory, Iver Heath, Uxbridge. 
Doveton, Rev. E., M.A., Aston Sub Edge Rectory, Weston 

Sub Edge Broadway, r.s.o., Worcestershire. 
Evans, Miss, c/o Mr. S. Laington Evans, J. P., Richmond Hill, 

Taunton. 
Fry, Joseph Storrs (Life Member), Union Street, Bristol. 
Ginn, Mrs. S. R., Brookfield, Trumpington Road, Cambridge. 
Gregory, J. H. S., 151 High Street, Harborne, Birmingham 
Hainsworth, L., Oakwell Cottage, Parsley, near Leeds. 
Harris, J. Rendell, M.A., Litt. D., Chetwynd House, Selly Oak, 

near Birmingham. 
HIiborne, A. E., Olney. 
Hipwell, Mrs. A., Olney. 
Hipweli, S. E., Olney. 
Holder Brothers, Fingal, Tasmania. 

Hooper, Rev. Henry, Harptree, Hatherley Road, Sidcup, Kent. 
Hooper, T. Rowland, Redhill. 

Hooper, Wilfrid, LL.D., Market Hill Buildings, Redhill, Surrey. 
Howard, Sir Frederick, The Abbey Close, Bedford 



LIST OF MEMBERS— CoHtinutd 

Hughes, Rev. Arthur, M.A., Bramcote Vicarage, Nottingham. 

Hughes, T. Cann, M.A., F.S.A., 78 Church Street, Lancaster, 

Jones, Francis, Comber, Ontario, Canada. 

Kennaway, L. Mark, St. Helens, Teignmouth, Devon. 

Kennaway, Mrs. Mary, St. Helens, Teignmouth. 

Latham, Rev. W. J., M.A., Holy Trinity Vicarage, Leonard 

Road, Penge, S..E 
Lawrence, Dr. J., 5 Hikawa Cho, Akasaka, Tokio, Japan. 
Lewisham, The Right Hon. Lord, c/o Messrs. Thynne and 

Thynne of Victoria Street, Westminster, 
Lillie, Thomas, J. P., Fordel, 6 Westfield Terrace, Aberdeen. 
Little, Ernest Muirhead, Collett Hall, Ware, Herts. 
Lock, Joseph, Fern Bank, 8 Bromar Road, Denmark Park, S.W. 
Lock, T. B., 22 Byrne Road, Balham, S.W. 
Lucas, The Right Hon. Lord, 4 St. James' Square, London. 
Marston, Rev. H. J. R., M.A., 22 Chapel Street, London, S.W. 
Wilier, The Rev. David, The Manse, Armagh 
Mountford, Dr., Palmerston House, Chapelizod, Co. Dublin, 
Newton, Mrs., 44 Durley Road, Amhurst Park, Stamford Hill, 

London, N. 
Norman, Dr., Camberwell House, Peckham Rd., London, S.E, 
Northampton, The Right Hon., The Marquis of Castle Ashby. 
Oakes, Walter, 57 West Beech Road, Noel Park, Wood Green, 

London, N. 
Oke, W. Alfred, B.A,, LL.B., F.S.A. (Life Member), 32 Denmark 

Villas, Hove. 
Oldham, T. Staveley, M.A., 440 Strand, London. 
Owlett, F. C, c/o Mr. May hew, Bookseller, Charing Cross 

Road, London 
Pearson, Rev. Samuel, Percy Park, Tynemouth. 
Priestman, T., Westcott House, Hull. 

Rogers, Frederick, 29 Bousfield Road, New Cross, London, S.E. 
Roy, James A., m.a., The University, St. Andrew's 
Samways, Dr. D. W., Knowle Clyst, St. George, Topsham, 
Shand, A. Allan, 77 Lombard Street, London, E.C. [Devon. 
Sneiling, W. W., 14 Semley Road, Brighton. 
Sowman, Mr. J. W., Olney. 
Sowman, Mrs. J. W., Olney. 
Spencer, T., St. Neots, Hunts. 
Stokes, Rev. Dr., St. Paul's Vicarage, Cambridge. 
Styles, Rev. W. Jeyes, Elmscroft, 10 Melrose Road, West 

Wandsworth, S.W. 
Tanner, Lawrence E., M.A., 2 Little Dean's Yard, Westminster, 

S.E. 
Tomkins, Miss, Rees Cottage, Kempston, Beds. 
TredgOld, Miss, 128 Holland Road, London, W. 
Tregastis, James, Lawn House, Hampstead Square, Hamp- 

stead, N.W, 
Unwin, T, Fisher, i Adelphi Terrace, London, W,C, 
Wells, Prof. J. E., 911 Park Avenue, Beloit, Wisconsin, U.S.A. 
West, Walter, The Vane, Northwood, Middlesex. 



LIST OF MEMBERS— CoH««MMe<i 

Wetherfieid, Fred, i Gresham Buildings, Guildhall, E.G. 
Whyte, Mrs. Alexander, 7 Charles Street, Edinburgh. 
Williams, Dr. Geo. Rowland, Sinclair Lodge, i Sinclair Gardens, 

Kensington, W. 
Williamson, Dr. G. C., Burgh House, Well Walk, Hampstead, 

N.W. 
Wood, Herbert G., 56 St. John's Park, London, N. 
Worth, Ernest H., Pond View, Chislehurst, Kent. 
Wright, J. C, Holmedene, Arundel Road, Eastbourne. 
Wright, Thomas, The Orchard, Sharnbrook, Beds. 
Wright, Miss Bessie, Margery Hall, 15 Margery Park Road 

Forest Gate, E. 
Wright, Wm., 52 Church Road, Moseley, Birmingham. 




Meetings. 

1901— Olney 1908— Edmonton 

1902— St. Albans 1909— Cambridge 

1903 — Huntingdon 1910 — Lincoln's Inn, London 

1904 — Westmintter School 1911 — Northampton 

1905— Dereham 1912— Weston Underwood 

1906 — Berkhamsted 1913 — The Mansion House, London 

1907— Olney 1914— Bedford 



The following works have b«en published und*r ths 

auspices of the Society : 

" Teedon's Diary," 2/6 

" Cowper's Memorials," 3/6 

" Cowper in London," 2/6 

" Olney Hymns." edited by His Honour Judge Willis, 2/6 

"Cowper and Blake, ' by Dr. H. J. Norman, 2/6 

Anyone wishing to join the Society should write to the Secretary, 
Mr. Thomas Wright, Cowper School, Olney, from whom copies 
of the Society's publications can be obtained. 



The Cowper Museum » Olney. 

The Cowper Museum, at Olney (Cowper's House), presented to 
the town and nation by Mr. W. H. Collingridge, is open every 
day. Secretary, Mr. Thomas Wright, Olney. 



The William Wright Library. 

The William Wright Library was presented to the Museum by 
Mr. William Wright of Moseley, near Birmingham. The books 
are of a miscellaneous character. The Secretary will at any time 
be pleased to receive gifts of books (which need not have any 
connection with Cowper) for this library. 

▼i 



CONTENTS. 

PAOB 

Rules of the Society .... 2 

Speech of the Lord Mayor of London (Sir David Burnett) 9 

Address of the Secretary of the Cowper Society 

(Mr. Thomas Wright) ... 10 

Cowper and Blake, by Dr. Hubert Norman - 18 

The Urbanity of Cowper. by Sir W. Ryland Adkins. M.P. 38 

Cowper as a Letter Writer, by Mr. Cecil Cowper, J. P. - 58 

Concluding Remarks by the Lord Mayor - - 39 

Appendix - - - - - 61 



pOR the correction of certain errors and 
inadvertent mis-statements in this brief 
survey of the relationship between Cowper 
and Blake, and for assistance generally during 
the writing of this essay and its preparation 
for the press, I am much indebted to Mr. 
Thomas Wright, the indefatigable Secretary 
of the Cowper and of the Blake Societies. 
At the same time I feel that in fairness to 
Mr. Wright it should be stated that mine is 
the responsibility for the opinions expressed 
in this essay, and that Mr. Wright is in no 
way to blame for those opinions, nor for the 
manner in which they are expressed, 

Hubert J. Norman 




I'oi/hiH hv Koiiiiwy 



WILLIAM GOWPER 

From Hayley's Life of Cowper 



Euiiravfd by II'. liiake 




Pliotoiiyafh by Emery Walker 

WILLIAM BLAKE 

From a Paiiitiiin (iSoy) by Thomas Phillips. R.A. Orig^iiial in the 
Xalioiial Portrait Gallery, 



THE 

Meeting of the Cowper Society 

AT THE 

Mansion House, London, 23rd April, 1913 

The thirteenth annual meeting of the Cowper Society 
was held at the Mansion House, the Lord Mayor, Sir David 
Burnett, being in the chair. There were about 300 present. 



The Lord Mayor said: 

It gives me great pleasure to meet those who 
read with delight the writings of one of the most 
distinguished poets of the eighteenth century — one 
who has done so much to enrich English literature. 
In particular, Cowper's hymns are a joy and an inspiration 
to multitudes. Some years ago the poet's house at Olney 
was acquired, through the generosity of the late Mr. W. H. 
CoUingridge, of the City Press, London, and the object 
of this meeting is to provide the necessary funds to restore 
the interior, and to provide for future maintenance on a 
wider basis. I earnestly hope that the result of the 
meeting will be the achievement of that object. 



10 SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 

The Secretary 

(Mr. THOMAS WRIGHT) said : 

My Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Will you permit me first to observe that it is a very 
great pleasure to the trustees of the Cowper and Newton 
Museum, and to the members of the Cowper Society, to 
be able to meet in this historic place ; to see your lordship 
in the chair this afternoon ; and to see gathered here so 
many lovers of literature — so many lovers of William 
Cowper. They are glad to be supported on this occasion 
by Mr. John Collingridge, one of the sons of the munificent 
donor of the Cowper Museum, Sir Ryland Adkins, M.P., 
Mr. Cecil Cowper, and others. Our President, the 
Bishop of Durham, is unable to attend, but he sends warm 
greetings and hearty good wishes for the success of the 
gathering. The late Bishop of Lichfield had hoped to 
be with us. He told me so in a letter which I received 
on March 15th ; but at the very moment I was reading 
it, its writer was passing away. His Master had called 
him. He left the Cowper Society in order to go into the 
company of Cowper himself, and into the company of 
those other holy men whom he loved so well, and whose 
memory you and I so dearly love. We always get a 
number of artists at our meetings, partly on account of 
the connection between those two sweet Williams — 
William Cowper and William Blake. One who is some- 
times with us, and whose pictures are often seen in 
London, Mr. Walter West, has gone abroad, with the 
object, in Cowper's words, of throwing " Italian light on 
English walls." He sends us greetings, however, and 
reminds me that the artist Constable had an intense 
admiration for Cowper. Constable wrote, " I have all 
Cowper's works on my table. I mostly read his letters. 



SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 11 

He is an author I prefer to almost any other, and when 

with him I always feel the better for it How 

delighted I am that you are fond of Cowper. But how 
could it be otherwise ? For he is the poet of religion and 
nature." 

With Cowper's name will for ever be linked that of the 
noble and holy John Newton, and perhaps you will allow 
me to remind you that the hall in which we are now 
assembled is in the parish of St. Mary Woolnoth, John 
Newton's church. It is not for me to praise Newton's 
hymns, " How sweet the name of Jesus sounds," " Begone 
unbelief," " Glorious things of thee are spoken," and 
others, for they are loved of all Christians. I came across 
the other day, a reference to Newton in the Letters of 
William Huntington, author of The Bank of Faith, who, 
by the by, married the widow of a Lord Mayor of London, 
and the centenary of whose death is to be celebrated on 
July 1st of this year. It emphasises the fact that ; 
Huntington was greatly impressed with " old Newton," 
as he calls him, because Newton was in the habit of 
warning his hearers against " dead formalists," and of 
advising them to hold fast to that which is good. You 
will visit St. Mary Woolnoth's presently, and when there 
you may imagine, if you like, John Newton, who was then 
close on eighty, holding forth on this subject, and William 
Huntington listening with delight in one of the pews — 
that is to say, the greatest Nonconformist preacher of 
the day listening with approval to the greatest Anglican 
preacher of the day. The fact that John Newton preached 
the pure gospel (his church was always crowded) did not 
prevent him from being vituperated. But that was good 
for him ; for how is a man to know that he is a prophet 
if he is not stoned ! It is unnecessary for me to praise 
John Newton's prose works, The Authentic Narrative and 



12 SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 

Letters to a Wife, for Edward FitzGerald, one of the finest 
of literary critics has been before me. I referred just 
now to William Blake. Of the links between Cowper and 
Blake, Dr. Norman, whose papers have been the delight 
of previous Cowper Society meetings, will presently have 
something to tell you. In the meantime let me say that 
Mr. Frank Palmer, of Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, has 
promised to publish a Blake Calendar, and I hope that 
a Cowper Calendar will follow. 

I now come to the principal object of this meeting. 
Thirteen years ago, Mr. William Hill CoUingridge, of the 
City Press, Aldersgate Street, London, presented to the 
town of Olney and the nation the house at Olney in which 
the poet Cowper resided for nineteen years, and in which 
he wrote The Task, John Gilpin, many other poems, and 
very many of his charming letters ; and with the house 
Mr. CoUingridge presented a very valuable collection of 
Cowper and Newton manuscripts and relics. On the 
same day was founded the Cowper Society. Cowper's 
House at once became the Cowper and Newton Museum. 
Two of the rooms were filled with manuscripts and relics 
of Cowper, Newton, Mrs. Unwin, Lady Hesketh, Lady 
Austen, the Rev. William Bull, and other members of 
Cowper's circle. There you may see the originals of many 
of the letters of Cowper and Newton, of Cowper's poem 
on Yardley Oak, and the lines " To Mary." the diaries 
of Newton and Teedon, and a whole host of relics of the 
poet and his friends. The remainder of the house was 
occupied by the curator. In 1908 funds were raised, 
and the exterior of the building was restored. It is now 
proposed to restore the interior and to devote the whole 
of the house to the use of the public. Up to the present, 
things have gone on admirably, for though the endowment 
is only £18 a year, derived from the rents of two cottages, 



SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 13 

yet on the other hand the curator was willing to give the 
whole of his time — ^that is seven hours a day — -without 
any charge whatever. For the whole of those thirteen 
years, from January ist to December 31st, he has been 
at his post. And not only so, but he has painted and 
presented to the Museum a number of pictures. My 
father (it is to my father I refer) is now eighty-one years 
of age, and he will continue his labour of love as long as 
his strength allows ; but it would be difficult to find 
anyone — I do not think it would be fair to ask anyone — 
to take his place on the same moderate terms. Therefore 
the trustees are endeavouring to raise £2,000 in order to 
provide the institution with a small endowment. The 
Bishop of Durham, who, I reminded you, is president of 
the Cowper Society, wrote to me a few weeks ago as 
follows : — 

" With much interest and pleasure I learn that it is 
proposed to restore the interior of the Cowper Memorial 
at Olney, and to dedicate the whole of the house to the 
purpose of the Museum. To all lovers of the poet, and 
to his friends, and to all who have seen the admirable use 
made of the present restricted premises for the Exhibition 
o* the Collection, this will be welcome news. 

" The result will be that the house will be a worthy 
counterpart of Dove Cottage, Grasmere, so admirably 
restored to the state in which Wordsworth knew it, and 
filled with collections intensely interesting, but not more 
interesting, I venture to say, to students of English 
literature and English religion than those at Olney. 

" I understand that £2000 is required to secure a 
small endowment for maintenance. For such a purpose 
this should surely be no formidable task, and I earnestly 



14 SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 

hope that through the proposed meeting at the Mansion 
House and otherwise you may soon have the pleasure of 
reporting the receipt of at least that sum." 

Colonel F. T. H. Bernard wrote : " Dear Mr. Wright, — I 
go into the Museum whenever I am in Olney with 
a few minutes to spare, and I have always felt that 
it was not quite adequate. At the same time it is simple, 
with an atmosphere of the poet about it, and I hope this 
will not be changed. There is a great charm to me in 
Olney and the country round, which blends itself naturally 
with the life of Cowper." 

In regard to the proposed restoration of the interior, 
let me assure you that nothing that existed in Cowper's 
time will be altered. The main features of the house are 
as he left them. The rooms are precisely the same in 
shape. The staircase, which ascends from the parlour, is 
unaltered. Nearly all the old doors retain the original 
L-shaped hinges ; the old cupboards and parts of the 
floors are just as they were in Cowper's time, and in the 
top storey are the original fire-grates. In the parlour 
may be seen the original panelling, and the actual shutters 
referred to in the lines : 

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, 
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, 
And while the bubbling and loud hissing urn 
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups 
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each, 
So let us welcome peaceful evening in. 

The walls are covered with modern wall-paper. This 
we propose to remove, in the hope of discovering beneath 
it remains of the original colouring, which we shall 
endeavour to imitate. Then, too, wherever deal has 
been used to repair the oak floors, etc., it should, I judge, 
give place to oak. I will not weary you with other 



SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 15 

particulars, but I will simply say that everything will be 
done with loving care, and that our architect considers 
that the cost would be about a hundred pounds. 

I mentioned that we have in the Museum several 
unpublished letters of Cowper. It may give you pleasure 
to hear one — -and I always think that an unpublished 
letter reads like a voice from the dead. It is to Joseph 
Hill, who lived in London ; it bears the date 30th Nov- 
ember, 1792, and, as there are a number of admirers of 
Blake here to-day, I may observe that it contains a 
reference to Cowper's visit to Hayley — -the visit during 
which was made the well-known sketch which Romney 
drew and Blake idealised. The letter runs : — 



Weston, 30th Nov., 1792. 
To Mr. Joseph Hill, 

I find myself in want of many things but chiefly of money, 
and shall be obliged to you for a draft to such amount as my 
budget will supply. Among other extraordinaries incidental 
to the present year I have found it necessary to be my own 
dairyman and to purchase cows. For your great city devours 
everything, so that it is impossible any longer to find a pound 
of butter or cream to our tea in all the country. 

I have found that it is possible to change the air and the 
scene, and to derive no benefit from either. In the hope of it, 
however, both to Mrs. Unwin and myself, I journeyed last 
summer into Sussex, as probably you have heard. I was 
extremely low in spirits when I went and had been so for some 
time, and my poor fellow-traveller had been almost deprived 
of the use of her limbs by something like a paralytic stroke in 
the spring. There we spent 6 weeks breathing the purest air, in 
the neighbourhood of the sea, and in a country most magnifi- 
cent. But I returned the miserable thing I went, and poor 
Mrs. Unwin little better. My spirits, however, have improved 
within the last week or ten days, quite contrary to my 
expectations, for I assured myself that as we sunk deeper into 
the winter I should grow worse. December and January have 
long been my terrors, for when I have plunged into greater 
depths of melancholy than usual, these months have always 
been the fatal season. It will give me true pleasure to hear 
that you are well and cheerful and that Mrs. Hill is so likewise. 
I beg my compliments to her and remain sincerely and 
affectionately yours, ^,^_ Cowper. 



16 SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 

Another unpublished letter, which is written to his 
cousin, Mrs. Cowper, is also on the subject of money. He 
says : — 

2 1st Jan., 1789. 

I thank you for your congratulations on the subject of my 
annuity. I was bom to subsist at the expense of my friends ; 
in that and in that alone God knows, resembling my Lord 
and Master. I shall ever, I hope, retain a grateful sense of the 
kindness of Lord Cowper, to whom I was entirely a stranger ; 
but his bounty is a proof that he did not account me one. 

It would be easy for me to deliver many eulogiums on 
Cowper's works, whether in poetry or prose, but their 
praise is in all the books on English literature and in all 
the churches. Let us not, however, in regarding Cowper's 
life and work, lose sight of the first Great Cause. 
God performs a work, and man gets the credit for it. 
Cowper, however, was one who regarded himself as only 
an instrument. Then the thought intrudes — ^How about 
God's attitude to Cowper and to us. We know that 
Cowper did not attain to the summit of his wishes. We 
know that we cannot attain to the summit of ours. Let 
us bear in mind, however, that we are not necessary to 
Omnipotence. God regards our intentions, not our 
achievements. 

I observed that the living praise Cowper. Many 
distinguished men and women who have passed into 
eternity have praised him too. Just now I mentioned 
Constable ; but Robert Burns, Carlyle, Macaulay, George 
Eliot and a host of others paid tributes to his genius. 
Cowper has been loved by the humble as well as by the 
great. Dying men have repeated, and have been cheered 
in repeating, the lines of his beautiful hymn : — 

God moves in a mysterious way 

His wonders to perform ; 
He plants His footsteps in the sea 

And rides upon the storm. 



SECRETARY'S ADDRESS 17 

To return to the Cowper Museum. I am sure you will 
agree with me that an institution of this kind ought not 
to suffer for want of the moderate amount which we are 
asking. A few minutes ago I read you a letter from 
Cowper, in which he said, " I find myself in want of many 
things, but chiefly in want of money." It is perhaps a 
curious coincidence that we, the trustees of the Cowper 
Museum, should find ourselves, 120 years afterwards, in 
precisely the same predicament. 

£2,000 would satisfy all needs. The editor of a London 
illustrated weekly once observed in its columns that he 
was quite sure we should get the money we require, but 
that it would be the gift of one man. That was five years 
ago, but as that one munificent person has not yet 
revealed himself, the trustees feel that they must ask 
many men to contribute. Donations should be sent to 
me at Olney, and they will be officially acknowledged. 
Mr. Frank Littleboy of Messrs. Barclay's Bank, Newport 
Pagnell, is treasurer. 

In the name of Cowper, who has conferred benefits 
on every lover of our best literature — in the name of him 
whose letters are admired wherever the English language 
is spoken ; whose poems are among the most precious 
heirlooms of the race ; whose hymns are sung in all the 
churches — in the name of religion which breathes in 
everything he wrote — I most earnestly trust that our 
appeal to this audience — ^that our appeal to the British 
nation — will not be made in vain. 



Dr. HUBERT J. NORMAN then read a paper on 

Cowper and Blake 

It is not difficult to imagine what would be the sentiment 
of a disciple of the school of Samuel Smiles if he were 
asked to deal with the biographical presentment of two 
such men as William Cowper and William Blake. They 
would probably be consigned with all s^^eed to the limbo 
of the unsuccessful, as men who had failed to achieve 
that standard of material prosperity whereto the heroes 
who helped themselves so strenuously attained. From 
a strictly utilitarian point of view, it must be confessed 
that there is little to be said in their defence : though 
taking that doctrine in its ethical aspect, it might well be 
be maintained that both Cowper and Blake in their 
writings did much to add to the happiness of large numbers 
of their readers. In any case, we may refuse to judge 
them by such a criterion as that of pecuniary success : 
indeed it is almost axiomatic that the value of literary 
work is inversely proportionate to the reward popularly 
adjudged to it. Nor is this true of literature only : it 
may be observed in many other spheres of activity. The 
inadequate reward is, however, one of the least regrettable 
facts : though as Huxley cogently remarked when 
(and just then he was in straitened circumstances) 
certain awards, not of a pecuniary nature, had been made 
to him, " Man cannot live by praise alone ! " : the matter 



COWPER AND BLAKE 19 

for greatest sorrow is the persistent disregard of the 
value of the aesthetic and intellectual factors in human 
life. On the other hand it may be said that a more 
optimistic attitude is justifiable ; and that, instead of 
lamenting the paucity of those who are fully cognisant 
of the worth of higher intellectual activity, we should 
rather rejoice that their number is comparatively so great, 
when there are taken into consideration the efforts 
required of the individual by society barely to attain the 
means of subsistence. The struggle for individual 
existence and for that of the family leaves the majority 
of the people with little leisure to cultivate higher things : 
and even when a respite from toil comes, the energy 
absorbed in the labour of the day has been so great that 
the body fails to supply the requisite increase of power. 
There is a pernicious doctrine — enunciated originally, one 
may be sure, by affluence — that poverty has provided 
the stimulus for all the finest achievement the world has 
known. " Poverty," says Heine, " sits by the cradle of 
all our great men, and rocks them up to manhood ": but 
into how many cradles does Poverty pass her skinny 
hand and draw forth the shrunken occupants — dead. 
Johnson spoke a truer word when he said, " This mournful 
truth is everywhere confessed, 

SLOW RISES WORTH 

by poverty depressed." And Johnson knew, if ever a 
man did, the baleful influence of penury. There may 
have been rare instances where poverty has been the 
parent of high intellectual effort, as the lily will spring 
from the rottenness and decay around it : but many a 
fair flower of the intellect has been blighted by the 
mephitic vapours of the Slough of Despond of poverty, 
or the blossoms have been perverted and evil. 



so COWPER AND BLAKE 

Neither for Cowper nor for Blake had the world any 
adequate pecuniary reward to offer : both well knew 
what straitened circumstances meant, and, indeed, 
for Blake there was certainly for a time stringent poverty. 
Both were alike in this, that they knew not the efficient 
instrument for opening that oyster, the world. But as 
will be seen, they differed in this that, whereas 
Blake was able strenuously to front adversity and 
to wrest from it his pittance, Cowper, timorous as 
one of the hares he loved so much, had to flee from the 
world and to trust to the support of his faithful friends. 
Without such aid, poverty, it is likely, would have been 
Cowper's lot : and poverty would have broken him. 
With all the tender solicitude and fostering care, Cowper 
was just able to continue as he did, and to produce so 
relatively large an amount of literary work. He was, 
however, unfitted by his nervous instability from making 
the constant and strenuous effort which the need of 
earning his living would have entailed ; and it is a well- 
known fact that the thought of undertaking official work 
was sufficient to prostrate him. Nor was poverty the 
efficient factor in so far as Blake's literary and artistic 
work were concerned : what he did was done in spite of 
it and in the face of it. And it may safely be surmised 
that easier circumstances would have made possible 
better results for Blake. Blake said to Crabb Robinson 
that he hated money, and in a certain sense perchance he 
did — in a sense that all reasonable men hate money because 
so many people spend their lives in striving to heap up 
material wealth to the exclusion of all other interests, 
and because of the dire results which wealth may bring 
to those who are unable to make a right use of it. But 

THE REASONABLE MAN LIKES MONEY 
because it will buy food for his family and for himself, 



COWPKR AND BLAKE II 

because with it he can purchase the materials on which 
he wants to work in order to produce his books, his 
pictures, or whatever he may decide to do, and because 
with it he may satisfy those importunate demands of the 
community of which he is a member, which are like the 
voices of the daughters of the horse-leech ! 

That is a poor conception of genius which holds that 
the stimulus of poverty must be present in order that 
brilliant results may be achieved, and there is certainly 
slight evidence that such a factor was in any way res- 
ponsible for the best work either of Cowper or of Blake. 

What may have been the cause that brought about the 
reaction against the stilted and artificial style in poetry 
towards the end of the eighteenth century, it is not needful 
here to discuss. This much is, however, certain, that no 
mercenary considerations were responsible for it : it was 
as if some crystal spring had suddenly welled forth 
where previously none but sluggish streams were known. 
In the poetry of Cowper and of Blake, of Burns and of 
Crabbe, the beginning of the new movement is well 
exemplified. " The natural style of the Elizabethan 
poets had passed," says Stopford Brooke, " into a style 
which erred against the simplicity of natural expression. 
In reaction from this the critical poets set aside natural 
feeling, and wrote according to intellectual rules of art. 
Their style lost life and fire ; and losing these, lost art 
and gained artifice." 

THE MUCH-ABUSED HAYLEY, 

in his " Triumphs of Temper," illustrates very well the 
versifier who wrote according to the rules ; and the 
instance is the more interesting in that Hayley was so 
intimate a link between Cowper and Blake. It is an 
edifying and instructive occupation to peruse the 



aa COWPER AND BLAKE 

adventures of the fair Serena as set forth by Wilham 
Hay ley and thence to pass to the " Songs of Innocence " 
or to the shorter poems of Cowper ! At the same time it 
may safely be asserted that many writers have done less 
than justice to Hayley both as poet and as man : and the 
partisans of Blake have been the worst offenders in this 
respect. 

" The fact of a new idea having come to one man is 
a sign that it is in the air," says Morley : and there is 
little doubt but that the idea of a less hampered movement 
in versification was very much in the air in the latter 
part of the eighteenth century. The new methods found 
their chief adherents, as has been stated, in Cowper, 
Crabbe, and Blake ; while from the utterances of the 
gifted Ayrshire peasant came fire and fervour and even 
amorous abandonment to make more sure the advance 
of poetry into the realms of simplicity and naturalness. 
I n the earlier poetry of Blake and generally in the poems 
of Burns, the characteristic feature is 

SPONTANEITY. 

even to a greater degree than in the rather more mannered 
writings of Crabbe and Cowper ; though the difierence 
arose rather from dissimilarity of culture than from 
deviation in tendency. 

It is interesting to recall the fact that it was in the 
eighth decade of the eighteenth century that these four 
authors first published poetry which brought them fame, 
which, it is likely, will endure. Cowper, the eldest of 
the four by about a quarter of a century, did not see the 
volume entitled Poems in print until 1782 ; Blake's 
Poetical Sketches appeared in 1783 ; Crabbe's The Village 
also in 1783 (his poem entitled The Library had been 
published in 1781) ; while the famous Kilmarnock 



COWPEK AND BLAKE 23 

edition of Burns' poems was dated 1786. Truly a remark- 
able decade, and one which will stand as an epoch in 
English poetical literature. At the risk of mentioning 
it in the same breath with the others, it may be stated 
that Hayley's The Triumphs of Temper appeared in 1781 ? 

But for the nervous instability which was the prime 
factor in bringing about Cowper's retiral from the busy 
scenes of London, it is probable that the relationship 
between him and Blake would have been of a more intimate 
and personal character. As it was, the seclusion in which 
Cowper lived at Olney, and later at Weston, and his 
disinclination to make even the comparatively short 
journey to London, precluded him from becoming a 
member of any of the literary coteries which were then so 
flourishing. Had Cowper been in the habit of visiting his 
publisher Johnson in St. Paul's Churchyard, it is almost 
certain that he would have met Blake there among 
others who have since become famous, and some of whom 
were indeed even then notabilities. 

" BOOKSELLER JOHNSON," 

says Gilchrist, " was a favourable specimen of a class of 
booksellers and men now a tradition : an open-hearted 
tradesman of the eighteenth century, of strict probity, 
simple habits, liberal in his dealings, living by his shop 
and in it, not at a suburban mansion. He was, for 
nearly forty years, Fuseli's fast and intimate friend, his 
first and best ; the kind patron of Mary Wollstonecraft 
and of many another. He encouraged Cowper over 
The Task, after the first volume of the poems had been 
received with indifference. To Blake, also, Johnson was 
friendly, and tried to help him, as far as he could help so 
unmarketable a talent." 



t4 COWPER AND BLAKE 

It was in the year 1871 that Cowper first came into 
touch with Johnson, who pubUshed for him the volume 
which included " Table Talk." " Expostulation," and 
other poems : and in 1785 Johnson it was who published 
The Task. Writing of Johnson in March, 1793, after 
the winding up of the accounts for the Homer, Cowper 
says, " Few of my concerns have been so happily con- 
cluded. I am now satisfied with my bookseller, as I 
have substantial cause to be, and account myself in good 
hands ": while in April he writes, " He has made me a 
present, an act of liberality which I take every opportunity 
to blazon, as it well deserves." Hayley also pays a tribute 
to Johnson in his magniloquent way, and after designating 
him as " the literary merchant," goes on to say, " The 
great author of the Rambler has said, ' That a bookseller 
is the only Mecaenas of the modern world.' " Without 
assenting to all the eulogy and all the satire implied in 
this remarkable sentiment, we may take a pleasure in 
observing that in the class of men so magnificently and 
sportively commended there are several individuals, 
each of whom a writer of the most delicate manners and 
exalted mind may justly esteem as a pleasing associate, 
and as a liberal friend. In this light Cowper regarded 
his bookseller, Mr. Johnson."* 

Had Cowper been in London about this period, it is 
likely that he would have attended some of Johnson's 
" plain but hospitable weekly dinners " to which came 
" Drs. Price and Priestley, and occasionally Blake"; and 
among others Fuseli, Godwin, and Tom Paine, Carlyle's 
" rebellious needleman."t He was not, however, at all 
disposed at this time in particular to leave the quietude 
of the country : rather was he praying for a " lodge in 

* The Life of Cowper, by William Hayley, vol. III., p. 310. 
t Gilchrist's Life of Blake, vol. I., p. 92. 




WILLIAM HAYLEY 

From the enj^ravitifl by Caroline Watson, after a portrait by Romney. 
Frotitispiece to the 2nd volume of ' Hayley's Memoirs 




JOSEPH JOHNSON, the Bookseller 

From an engraving by W. Sharpe of the portrait by Moses Houghton 
(By permission of the Authorities' at the British Museum) 



COWPER AND BLAKE 25 

some vast wilderness " where he might be even further 
isolated from the reports of carnage and of horror which 
were coming from France. Among those who met at 
Johnson's at this time there was for a time at least, much 
sympathy with the Revolutionary movement. Paine, as 
is well known, had issued the first part of his Rights 
of Man in 1791 ; and the manuscript of this was offered 
to Johnson, who, however, " prudently declined to 
publish it." In 1792 the second part appeared, and 
thereafter it became necessary for Paine to leave England 
with all possible speed : and according to Gilchrist, it 
was Blake who gave that ardent republican timeous 
warning of his danger of arrest.* Priestley was shortly 
to be mobbed for his revolutionary ideas, and compelled 
likewise to flee the country, the clamourers for freedom 
of speech for themselves taking very good care as usual 
that a like freedom should not be allowed to those whose 
opinions ran counter to their own. To Blake also 

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 

was " the herald of the millenium, of a new age of light 
and reason. He courageousl}^ donned the famous symbol 
of liberty and equality — the bonnet-rouge — in open day, 
and philosophically walked the streets with the same on 
his head." Not only this : he celebrated the occasion 
in an epic which fell coldly on the world. " In 1791," 
says Gilchrist, " he even found a publisher for the first 
and last time in his life, in Johnson of St. Paul's Church- 
yard, to whom Fuseli had originally introduced him, and 
for whom he had aheady engraved. Johnson in this year 
— the same in which he published Mary Wollstonecraft's 
Rights of Women — issued, without Blake's name, and 
unillustrated, a thin quarto by Blake, entitled The 
French Revolution." f 

* Life of Blake, vol. I., p. 95. t Life of Blake, p. 91, et seq. 



M COWPER AND BLAKE 

Later Johnson was to publish Hayley's Life of Cowper, 
for which Blake did the engravings, in 1802 : and this 
forms another link between the two poets. Johnson 
lived until 1809, when, Gilchrist informs us, he died of 
asthma, and ended an arduous and benevolent career. 

Crabb Robinson knew Johnson, and shared in the 
general good opinion which appears to have been enter- 
tained in regard to him. " I called on Johnson several 
times," he says, " and profited by his advice. He was 
a wise man, and his remarks on the evil of indulging in 
melancholy forebodings were applicable to a habit of 
my own."* 

HENRY FUSELI, 

another frequenter of the meetings at Johnson's, had 
become friendly with Blake in 1780. " Fuseli, then 
thirty-nine, and just returned from eight years' sojourn 
in Italy, became a neighbour "f: and the friendship then 
initiated continued until Fuseli's death in 1825. Indeed 
it was one of the few amicable associations which remained 
unimpaired for so long a period in Blake's life. With 
many of his other friends, as his biographers have noted, 
friction arose which was certainly due in certain instances 
to Blake's impetuosity and to the irritability which arose 
from ideas of persecution to which he was at times subject, 
and from the influence of " voices," as for instance at 
Felpham. But in regard to Fuseli an exception was 
made, because, says Mr. Ellis, " he had original powers of 

imagination Fuseli, like Blake, had dignity, 

impressiveness, massive movement in his art, the poetic 
style, knowledge of the nude, a power of serious and 

♦ Diary and Reminiscences, of Henry Crabb Robinson, vol. I., p. 32. 
I Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 34. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 27 

almost sublime composition."* It was of Fuseli, too, that 
Blake wrote the appreciatory lines, more forcible than 
polite, but still quite characteristic of a certain aspect 
of Blake's character, which are well-known to students of 
the painter-poet. 

It was at a later date, in 1786, that the acquaintance of 

COWPER AND FUSELI 

began, and the occasion was the writing by Fuseli of some 
criticisms of Cowper's Homer. " Upon perusal of the 
criticisms, Cowper discovered that the learning and ability 
of their author, whose name he did not yet know, bad not 
at all been overrated, and willingly consented to submit 

to him the whole of his MS With Fuseli, who at 

first teased sadly with his numerous criticisms, Cowper 
by and by got on admirably. The Swiss had scarcely his 
equal in "an accurate and familiar acquaintance with 
the original "; moreover, " foreigner as he is," says the 
poet, " he has an exquisite taste in English verse. The 
man is all fire, and an enthusiast in the highest degree 
on the subject of Homer, and has given me more than 
once a jog when I have been inclined to nap with my 
author. By his assistance I have improved many 
passages, siipplied many oversights, and corrected many 
mistakes, such as will of course escape the most diligent 
and attentive labourer in such a work."t Surely a 
remarkable talent is indicated by such a tribute from so 
discriminating a critic as Cowper himself was ; for, 
though he was unwilling to give pain to anyone by word 
or by deed, yet was he no praiser of puerilities, and he 
had a caustic comment for the necessary occasion. 

* The Real Blake, by Edward J. Ellis, p. 47. 

f The Life of William Cowper, by Thomas Wright, p. 412. 



M COWPER AND BLAKE 

There is apparently no record of Cowper and Fusel i 
having met, and the association between them is, therefore, 
slight compared with that which existed between Fuseli 
and Blake ; but there is little doubt that Cowper's name 
must have been frequently mentioned by the two artists 
in the course of their conversations, and it is quite possible 
that they may even have discussed the Homer among 
their other topics. 

" As a painter," it has been said, " Fuseli had a daring 
invention, was original, fertile in resource, and ever 
aspiring after the highest forms of excellence. His mind 
was capable of grasping and realizing the loftiest con- 
ceptions, which, however, he often spoiled on the canvas 
by exaggerating the due proportions of the parts, and 
throwing his figures into attitudes of fantastic and over- 
strained contortion. He delighted to select from the region 
of the supernatural, and pitched everything upon an ideal 
scale, believing a certain amount of exaggeration necessary 
in the higher branches of historical painting." The 
candid critic is bound to admit that such a criticism might 
in certain instances have been written as applicable to 
Blake as well as to his friend ! The writer continues : 
" His general powers of mind were large. He was a 
thorough master of French, Italian, English, and German, 
and could write in all these tongues with equal facility 
and vigour, though he preferred German as the vehicle of 
his thoughts. His writings contain passages of the best 
art criticism that English literature can show." The 
conclusion is also exceedingly suggestive of the descrip- 
tions which we have of Blake. " He was a man of abrupt 
temper, sharp of tongue, energetic in all his ways, in stature 
short, but robust, with a head full of fire and character."* 

*Encyclopadia Britannica (ninth edition) Article "Fuseli" 



COWPER AND BLAKE 29 

Bookseller Johnson had a keen interest in Cowper and 
in his work — from a financial as well as a literary point 
of view — and it is certain that he would introduce such 
a topic among the other subjects discussed in his shop 
and round his hospitable table. It is not difficult to 
imagine the two friends, Blake and Fuseli, stepping home- 
wards together after some such causerie at the house in 
St. Paul's Churchyard. 

About the same period at which Blake became 
acquainted with Fuseli, Stothard introduced him to one 
who, as Gilchrist says, " proved — despite some passing 
clouds which for a time obscured their friendship at a 
later era — one of the best and firmest friends Blake ever 
had."* This was 

JOHN FLAXMAN. 

one of the greatest — if not indeed the greatest — sculptors 
England has ever produced. In the early days of their 
friendship both Blake and Flaxman worked for a time 
for Wedgwood, Blake doing " the illustrations to a 
show-list of Wedgwood's productions," while " for twelve 
years, from his twentieth to his thirty-second (1775 — 1787) 
Flaxman subsisted chiefly by his work for the firm of 
Wedgwood," says Sidney Colvin. The same authority 
informs us that after Flaxman was married in 1782, he 

and his wife " set up house in Wardour Street 

spending their summer holidays once and again in the 
house of the hospitable poet Hayley, at Eartham in 
Sussex. "t It was, of course, not until later that Cowper 
visited Hayley in Sussex ; for he did not make the 
journey, which caused him so much trepidation in 
anticipating it, until 1792. When he did, he met at 

* Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 33, vol. I. 

t Encyclopadia Britannica (ninth edition) ; article on " Flaxman." 



30 COWPER AND BLAKE 

Eartham an old friend and helper of Flaxman, 

GEORGE ROMNEY. 

This meeting was of exceeding interest in that it was on 
this occasion that Romney made his admirable portrait of 
Cowper — ^the portrait which evoked Cowper's sonnet to 
the painter. Cowper thought it a faithful presentment 
of himself, and in this opinion he was in agreement with 
his friends, though with his suggestion in the sonnet that 
no signs of sorrow or of mental stress are apparent they 
could not so readily concur. 

But this I mark, that symptoms none of woe 

In thy incomparable v.ork appear : 

Well ! I am satisfied, it should be so, 

Since on maturer thought, the cause is clear ; 

For in my looks what sorrow could 'st thou see. 

While I was Hayley's guest, and sat to thee ? 

Hayley, writing of this portrait in his Life of Romney, 
says that the artist " worked with uncommon diligence, 
zeal, and success, producing a resemblance so powerful 
that spectators, who contemplated the portrait with the 
original by its side, thought it hardly possible for any 
similitude to be more striking, or more exact."* 

It was this portrait which Blake engraved for Hayley's 
Life of Cowper which appeared in 1802, the year in which 
Romney, decrepit and disordered in mind, died. Both 
artist and subject were the victims of their defective 
nervous organisations, and were both at times during 
their lives prostrated by attacks of morbid melancholy. 
Romney 's history is indeed a strange one. Born in the 
year 1734, the son of a carpenter, he married at the 
age of twenty-two : five years later he left his wife and 
two children in Kendal and journeyed to London to 
enter upon the profession of a portrait painter. 

• Life of Romney, by William Hayley, p. 177. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 31 

Many weary years elapsed before he returned to his 
home again ; but during his long absence he continued 
to provide for his wife and children, for, in spite of the 
rivalry of such men as Reynolds and Gainsborough, and 
although his fits of depression militated against his working 
steadily, he achieved, as is well known, great success. 
" According to his friend Hayley, the painter laboured 
under a frequent dread that his talent would utterly 
desert him, and in the height of his fame his depression 
was such that he thought of relinquishing his art 
altogether. Romney, in his letters, speaks of his own 
' distempered mind and body,' and in view of his friend's 
irexplicable fits of depression, Hayley remarks : ' What 
can be more pitiable than to see great talents rendered 
frequently inactive by those wonderful variations in the 
nervous system that throw a shadowy darkness over the 
mind and fill it with phantoms of apprehension ! ' " 
About the age of sixty, Romney had a paralytic stroke 
which affected both his eye and his hand, and from this 
time impairment of his faculties proceeded rapidly. He 
built 

A WHIMSICAL DWELLING 

at Hampstead, acting as his own architect ; but this 
indulgence of an eccentric fancy brought him neither rest 
nor satisfaction. His dejection increased, and although 
he still busied himself with his paints and brushes, it was 
noticed that his skill had departed. By-and-by he ceased 
to recognise his friends or relatives, and thenceforward 
until his death at sixty-eight remained, as Hayley puts 
it, "in that state of existence which is infinitely more 
afflicting to the friends who behold than to the mortal 
who endures it."* 

* The Insanity of Genius, by J. F. Nisbet, p. i8o : Life of Romney, 
by William Hayley. 



32 COWPER AND BLAKE 

It was only in his later days that he returned to the 
north of England. " After seven and thirty years of 
desertion he returned to Kendal," says Southey, " an old 
man, famous indeed and rich, but broken in health and 
spirits, and perhaps at heart, to be nursed by her [his 
wife] during eighteen months of bodily decay, and two 
years more of mental imbecility."* Truly if indeed it be 
as the Turkish proverb says that " Patience is the key of 
Paradise," there was a woman in Kendal then who had 
found that key ! 

Southey thus describes him as he appeared about the 
time when he met Cowper. " His countenance was 
intellectual, with strong marks of feeling, and a cast of 
melancholy. His eyes were large, quick, and significant. 
At the sight of distress or at a pathetic tale his lips would 
quiver. He was indeed sensitive to excess."t This 
hypersensitiveness appears strange when we consider the 
fact that it was an attribute of one who could so desert 
his wife and family ; but it is not inexplicable for anyone 
who is acquainted with the strange conduct exhibited 
by those with unstable nervous equilibrium. Cowper^ 
in spite of his deep religious convictions, yet attempted 
his life on more than one occasion ; and many other 
distinguished men have exhibited eccentricity of behaviour 
which has indubitably arisen from the same morbid 
instability. 

Flaxman, as it has already been noted, was also a 
visitor at Hayley's house in Sussex ; but at the time of 
Cowper's visit there he was still in Rome. It was about 
that date that Flaxman produced his magnificent series 
of illustrations to the Iliad and to the Odyssey ; and in 
1793 " Hayley suggested that Cowper's forthcoming 

* Life and Worhi of Cowper, by Robert Southey, vol. III., p. 82, 
t Southey : op. cit., vol. III., p. 80. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 33 

second edition of Homer should be illustrated with the 

engravings from them."* This was not, however, carried 

out, as Cowper thought that their shape and size were 

such that " no book of the usual form could possibly 

receive them, save in a folded state." The objection 

does not seem a very cogent one, and it is indeed to be 

regretted that Hayley's suggestion was not carried out. 

Flaxman did, however, at a later date, in 1808, furnish 

some designs in outline for Cowper's commentary on the 

first three books of Paradise Lost, which was published 

by Hayley for the benefit of the second son of Samuel 

Rose.t 

Flaxman remained friendly to Blake, and just to his 

genius throughout his life, Gilchrist informs us, though 

Blake did not always choose to think so.f* The association 

between the painter and the sculptor was an intimate 

one ; whereas with Cowper the connection was but slight 

as far as Flaxman is concerned. Flaxman continued to 

do whatever lay in his power to accomplish in the way of 

helping Blake, and as late as 1816 Gilchrist notes that 

he obtained work for Blake from Longman's. Of Flaxman 

Blake writes for the most part enthusiastically, calling 

him " Dear Sculptor of Eternity," and anon describing 

him as a " sublime archangel "; whilst in a letter which 

he wrote to the sculptor in 1800 he addresses a poem to 

him which commences : 

I bless thee, O Father of Heaven and Earth, that ever I saw 
Flaxman 's face. ft 

Gilchrist relates a characteristic incident of Flaxman's 
staunch attitude in regard to Blake. Gary (the translator 

♦Wright: op. cit., p. 611. 

t Wright : op. cit., p. 623. 

t* Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 246. 

It Letters of William Blake, pp. 71, 74, 76. 



34 COWPER AND BLAKE 

of Dante) chanced to remark to him once of Blake, " But 

BLAKE IS A WILD ENTHUSIAST. ISN'T HE ? " 

Ever loyal to his friend, the sculptor drew himself up, 
half offended, saying, " Some think me an enthusiast."* 
From the same source we learn that until the year of 
Flaxman's death, 1826, Mr. and Mrs. Blake were " in 
the habit of exchanging visits as of old."t 

In view of these facts it is difficult to understand the 
perverse attitude of one of the biographers of Blake in 
regard to Flaxman ; and because he has failed to under- 
stand the irregular workings of Blake's mental processes 
at certain times, he has thought well to blame indiscrimin- 
ately certain associates of Blake^ — Flaxman and Hayley 
in particular. Mr. Ellis disparages Flaxman for intro- 
ducing Blake to Hajdey without first explaining to him 
Blake's peculiarities ; but, apart from the fact that 
Hayley was certain to have heard about Blake and his 
ways, the normal and sane person is supposed to make 
the endeavour to adapt himself to his surroundings. 
Consequently it is difficult to see why it should have been 
necessary for such a warning to be sent to Hayley, for 
Mr. Ellis labours the point of Blake's sanity. Again 
Hayley is attacked because, according to Mr. Ellis, he did 
not understand Blake, for the reason that he (Hayley) was 
unacquainted with Swedenborgianism : while Flaxman 
does not escape under that heading, for " His tasteless 
and sodden Swedenborgianism probably did not dare to 
venture into daylight. If Hayley ever heard of it, he 
only had to put up his eyebrows. Flaxman would have 
been quite certain never to renew the subject. Not having 

• Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 246. 
I Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 353. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 33 

been born a gentleman, he was always peculiarly at the 
mercy of a superior look from any one above him in 
position."* 

Mr. Ellis's strictures in this instance can certainly not 
be described as " tasteless "; and no further comment 
will be made upon them other than simply to quote the 
opinion of Henry Crabb Robinson in regard to Flaxraan, 
whom he knew intimately. He is speaking of Flaxman's 
dislike to Southey, and this he says " originates in the 
latter's account of Swedenborg and the doctrines of the 
sect in his Espriella. Flaxman cannot forgive derision 
on such a subject."t ^"^ another place he remarks that 
" One of the salt of the earth will be lost whenever this 
great and good man leaves it."t* 

These statements, taken in conjunction with the Gary 
incident, are surely sufficient to show that Flaxman 
certainly had the courage of his convictions. 

No one who associated with Blake has, however, 
received such rough handling at the hands of his critics 
as William Hayley, friend and biographer of Cowper, 
friend also of many of the distinguished men of the period. 
Born in the year 1745, Hayley was consequently fourteen 
years younger than Cowper, while he was twelve years 
older than Blake : Cowper and Hayley were respectively 
sixty-one and forty-seven when they first became 
acquainted in 1792. In the spring of that year Hayley 
wrote to Cowper regarding Milton, on which they were 
both engaged. Certain newspapers had represented that 
Cowper and Hayley were rivals, whereupon the generous 
Hayley, " as soon as he found what was hinted abroad, 
wrote a graceful sonnet addressed to Cowper, and inclosed 

* The Real Blake, by Edwin J. Ellis, pp. 188-189. 

f Diary and Reminiscences of Henry Crabb Robinson, vol. II., p. 6. 

\* Crabb Robinson : op. cit., vol. I., p. 413. 



36 COWPER AND BLAKE 

it with a letter which contained the assurance that till 
the present moment he was unaware upon what work 
Cowper was engaged, and that their two works would be 
so different in character that it was impossible they could 
clash — a letter written in the most friendly and even 
affectionate terms.*" The friendship thus inaugurated 
was further strengthened when Hayley visited Cowper 
at Weston in May of the same year. In August, Cowper 
and Mrs. Unwin made their way to Hayley^s house at 
Eartham in Sussex, which Southey describes as a delightful 
spot, and which, he says, Gibbon called the little Paradise 
at Eartham. " His place, said the historian, though 
small, is as elegant as his mind, which I value much more 
highly." t Cowper himself described it as " the most 
elegant mansion that I ever inhabited, and surrounded 
by the most delightful pleasure grounds that I have ever 
seen." 
During this visit 

HAYLEY'S ILL-FATED SON, 

Thomas Alphonso, was at Felpham, and Cowper records 
how the child helped to draw the chair in which Mrs. 
Unwin, who had earlier in the year suffered from a 
paralytic stroke, journeyed about the grounds ; while, 
he also states, it was " pushed behind by me or my cousin 
Johnson." The latter is the Johnson familiar to readers 
of Cowper's letters as " Johnny of Norfolk," an intimate 
friend of Hayley and editor of his Memoirs. 

Young Hayley was for a time an articled pupil of 
Flaxman, but, his health becoming impaired, it was 
found necessary that he should return to Sussex, where, 
" after two years' more suffering, he died of the accumu- 
lated maladies engendered in a weakly constitution by 

♦Wright: op. cit., p. 554. 

■j- Southey : op. cit., vol. III., p. 66. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 37 

sedentary habits." He survived Cowper only by a week. 

The poet became much attached to the delicate child ; 
and, as Mr. Wright expresses it, " perhaps the most 
pleasing incident in connection with this visit to Eartham 
was the interest excited in Cowper's mind by Hayley's 
son Tom, whose talents and sweetness of disposition made 
such an impression on Cowper that he invited him to 
criticise his Homer."* On the 14th of March, 1793, 
Cowper wrote a delightful letter to his " Dear little 
Critic," thanking him for his observations, "on which 
I set a higher value, because they have instructed me 
as much, and entertained me more, than all the other 
strictures of our public judges in these matters." 

In 1794, when Hayley paid his third visit to Weston to 
see Cowper, who was then plunged in the depths of 
dejection, Tom Hayley was present also for a time. " I 
had hoped," says Hayley, " that his influence at this 
season might be superior to my own to the dejected spirit 
of my friend ; but though it was so to a considerable 
degree, our united efforts to cheer and amuse him were 
utterly frustrated by his calamitous depression."! Hayley 
had made this journey at considerable inconvenience to 
himself, and he states that he even had to borrow money 
for the journey ; and his kindness to the poet in his 
affliction is typical of many similar acts which characterised 
the " Hermit " of Eartham. 

It was, too, during this third visit to Weston that news 
arrived of the granting of a pension to Cowper by the 
Crown — a welcome addition to his income, which Hayley 
had been chiefly instrumental in obtaining. 

♦Wright: op. cit., p. 581. 

f The Life and Letters of William Cowper, by William Hayley, 
vol. IV., p. 137. 



38 COWPER AND BLAKE 

In the year in which Tom Hayley died, his father 
published his Epistles to Flaxman. To this work there 
were three illustrations, and " two of these were engraved 
by Blake — * The Death of Demosthenes,' after a bald 

outline by Hayley junior, and a portrait of the 

' Young Sculptor,' after a medallion by his master, 
Flaxman, the drawing of which was furnished Blake by 
Howard."* 

Hayley's liberality and lavish expenditure had, towards 
the close of the century, involved him in financial 
difficulties, and " seriously incumbered the handsome 
estate inherited by his father." The entertainment of 
the numerous guests who visited Eartham entailed heavy 
outlays : and they were numerous, for Hayley " held 
.... an honoured place in contemporary literature; 
his society eagerly sought and obtained, by lovers of 

letters People of distinction and ' position in 

society,' princesses of the blood, and others, when visiting 
Bognor, would, even many years later, go out of their 
way to see him, as if he had been a Wordsworth. "f It 
was, therefore, necessary for Hayley by some means to 
economise, and he took a step in this direction by moving 
to 

FELPHAM, 
a few miles away from the house at Eartham with which 
he had so long been associated. It was at Felpham 
that Hayley was residing when Blake came to Sussex 
in September, 1800. At this time Hayley had in con- 
templation his Life of Cowper, and the idea occurred to 
him that he might assistv Blake, akeady known to him 
through Flaxman, by employing him to engrave the 
illustrations for that work. So Blake migrated from 

* Gilchrist : op. cit., vol. I., p. 146. 
I Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 145, vol. I. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 39 

London to Felpham, and took up his residence there for 
the space of nearly four years. 

While at Felpham Blake did engrave the 

ILLUSTRATIONS FOR THE LIFE OF COWPER, 

as Hayley had suggested. They are six in number, and 
their chief interest lies in the association which they form 
between Blake and Cowper. They cannot be said to 
have any great artistic value : in the engraving of the 
portrait of Cowper, by Romney, there is, Gilchrist thinks, 
" no hint of the refinement of Romney's art," and that 
" industry of hand is more visible than of mind."* 
Another illustration to the first volume is after the portrait 
of Cowper's mother, by D. Heins, which suggested the 
" Lines on the Receipt of my Mother's Picture." In the 
second volume there are engravings of the portrait of 
Cowper done in 1793, and an original design by Blake 
of the " Weather House " mentioned in The Task : 

Peace to the Artist whose ingenious thought 
Devised the Weather-house, that useful toy ! 
Fearless of humid air and gathering rains 
Forth steps the man — an emblem of myself ! 
More delicate his timorous mate retires. f 

Below this delicately drawn and quaint picture is another 
showing, " A cottage .... perched upon the green hill 
top," and "close environed with a ring of branching elms " 
called by Cowper the " Peasant's Nest "; while in the 
foreground are seen the poet's tame hares. Puss, Tiney 
and Bess. 

In the third volume there is an engraving from a 
drawing by Francis Stone — " A view of St. Edmund's 
Chapel in the Church of East Dereham, containing the 

* Gilchrist : op. cit., vol. I., p. 164. 
t The Task, book. I., lines 200 et. seq. 



40 COWPER AND BLAKE 

Grave of William Cowper, Esq."; and also a " Sketch of 
the monument erected in the Church of East Dereham 
in Norfolk." 

The first and second volume of the Life, with the four 
plates, were published in 1802, and the " four copper- 
plates were entirely printed off by Blake and his wife at his 
own press, a very good one for that day, having cost 
forty pounds when new — a heavy sum for him."* The 
third volume was commenced towards the latter end of 
1803 '• " Hayley, prompted by the unexpected success 
of Cowper 's Life." prepared this additional volume, 
which was finished and published in 1804. 

In regard to the monument to Cowper, which forms 
the second illustration to the second volume, the following 
account is given by Gilchrist : " The references in our 
next extract to Cowper's monumental tablet at East 
Dereham, then under discussion, and Blake a party to it, 
are sufficiently amusing, surely, to warrant our staying 
to smile over the same. Consider what ' the Design ' 
actually erected is. An oblong piece of marble, bearing 
an inscription, with a sculptured " Holy Bible " on end 
at top ; another marble volume, lettered " The Task " 
leaning against it ; and a palm leaf inclined over the 
whole, as the redeeming ' line of beauty.' Chaste and 
simple ! "f The extract is from a letter written by 
Hayley to Johnson {" Johnny of Norfolk "), in which 
the inception of the design is described. " I thank you," 
says Hayley, " heartily for your pleasant letter, and I 
am going to afford you, I hope, very high gratification in 
the prospect of our overcoming all the prejudices of our 
good Lady Hesketh against simple and graceful ornaments 
for the tomb of our beloved bard. I entreated her to 

* Gilchrist : vol. I., p. 168. 

t Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 167, vol. I. 




Proui a medallion hv Flaxinaii 



Eniliavcd by lilake 



THOMAS ALPHONSO HAYLEY 

(William Hayley's Son) 
This plate appeared in Hayley's work, ■■in Essay on Sculpture. 1800 




After the Poiiinit by Laurence 

SAMUEL ROSE 



COWPER AND BLAKE 41 

suspend her decision till I had time to send her the simply 
elegant sketches that I expected from Flaxman. When 
these sketches reached me, I was not myself perfectly 
pleased with the shape of the lyre introduced by the 
sculptor, and presumptuously have tried myself to 
out-design my dear Flaxman myself on this most ani- 
mating occasion. I formed, therefore, a device, the 
Bible upright supporting The Task, with a laurel leaf of 
Palms, such as I send you, neatly copied by our kind 

Blake If her ladyship and Flaxman are as 

much pleased with my idea as the good Blake and Paulina 
of Levant are, all our difficulties on this grand monumental 
contention will end most happily. Tell me how you, my 
dear Johnny, like my device. To enable you to judge 
fairly, even against myself, I desired the kind Blake to 
add for you, under the copy of my design, a copy of 
Flaxman's also, with the lyre whose shape displeases me." 

" In the sequel," says Gilchrist, " the Lyre was elimin- 
ated, and the amateur's emendation, in the main adhered 
to. The Task, however, being made to prop the Bible, 
instead of vice versa, as at first the Hermit heedlessly 
suggests."* 

One can but feel amazed that their united intelligences 
could evolve only such a very modest result : parturiunt 
monies, nascetur ridiculus mus ! Yet Hayley, writing 
to Lady Hesketh at a later date was able to say, " Blake 
assures me the plaister model of the monument, now in 
Flaxman's study, is universally admired for its elegant 
simplicity, "t 

* Gilchrist : op. cit., vol. I., p. 167. 
t Southey : op. cit., vol. III., p. 238. 



42 COWPER AND BLAKE 

It was in January, 1802, that 

JOHN JOHNSON 

came to visit Hayley, bringing with him " the wished-for 
anecdotes of the poet's last days." His acquaintance 
with Hayley had been brought about in the first place 
through the interest which they had both taken in Cowper. 
With Cowper, Johnson had claimed relationship in 1790, 
and from that time onwards until the poet's death he 
remained his devoted and attentive friend, and numerous 
letters were interchanged between them until 1795, when 
the poet went to live with Johnson in Norfolk. These 
letters from Cowper have provided " Johnny of Norfolk " 
with a fame which his own literary efforts would certainly 
have been quite unable to assure. 

Much correspondence, too, there was between Hayley 
and Johnson, some of which was duly set forth in the 
Memoirs of Hayley and of his Son, to which the clergyman 
added his share of dulness when he acted as editor. 

Hayley had been urging Blake about the time of 
Johnson's visit " to attempt the only lucrative walk of 
art in those days — portraiture ; and during Johnson's 
stay, the artist executed a miniature of him, which 
Hayley mentions as particularly successful." We may 
certainly agree with Gilchrist that " It would be an inter- 
esting one to see, for its painter's sake, and for the subject 
— the faithful kinsman and attendant with whom the 
Letters of Cowper have put on friendly terms all lovers 
of that loveable poet."* It has, however, disappeared, 
no one knows where ; and whether it has been destroyed 
in the process of time, or whether it still exists in some 
private collection, it is impossible to say. 

* Gilchrist : op. cit,, vol. I., p. 165. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 43 

In 1823 appeared the Hayley Memoirs, which Johnson 
edited ; and in the same year was published the " Private 
Correspondence of William Cowper, Esq., with several of 
his most intimate friends," for which work Johnson, 
then Rector of Yaxham with Welborne in Norfolk, was 
also responsible. He died in 1833 at Yaxham. 

While Blake was residing at Felpham, he did for 
Hayley's library, 

17 HEADS OF THE POETS, 
life size, and among these was one of Cowper. They are 
now preserved in the Art Gallery in Moseley Street, 
Manchester. In addition Blake made two designs for 
supports of a chimney-piece in Hayley's house. They 
were illustrations of The Task, and the subjects were 
" Winter," represented as a bearded old man, and 
" Evening," a female spirit bearing a poppy wand.* 

Between the period of the publication of the first two 
volumes of the Life of Cowper, and of the third volume, 
there occurred the episode of Blake's encounter with the 
drunken soldier, 

SCOFIELD ; 
and this event it was which led to Blake's becoming 
acquainted with another intimate friend of Cowper's, 
Samuel Rose, the " Couleur de Rose " of the correspond- 
ence. Scofield having made himself objectionable, Blake 
ejected him from the garden in front of his house. While 
doing so, Blake not unnaturally vented certain expletives 
appropriate to the occasion. The soldier and a 
companion, with a poorness of spirit which says little fOT 
their sporting instinct, brought a charge against Blake 
of having uttered seditious language, though the lengthy 

* Gilchrist : op. cit., vol. I., p. 166. 

They are reproduced in Methuen's edition of Cowper's Poems. 



44 COWPER AND BLAKE 

statement with which they credited him, partaking as it 
does of the volubility which one associates with alcoholic 
tendencies, seems very poor evidence to have convinced 
the magistrate before whom the charge was made that 
Blake must stand his trial for high treason. Yet so it 
fell out ; and Hayley, zealous of his friend's interest, 
engaged the services of 

SAMUEL ROSE, 
at that time a barrister on the home circuit, as Blake's 
counsel. 

Rose, now in his thirty-eighth year, had made con- 
siderable progress in his profession, and his prospects for 
the future were bright. Born at Chiswick in 1767, he 
migrated to Glasgow in 1784 in order to attend the 
University. After three winters spent there, he went to 
Edinburgh in order to study law, and while there he 
become acquainted with Adam Smith, who was at that 
time resident in that town. " Smith was so highly 
pleased with the lively English student," says Hayley, 
" young as he was, that as long as he resided in Edinburgh 
he was constantly invited to the literary circle of that 
eminent philosopher,"* It was while returning from the 
north in January, 1787, that Rose called on Cowpef — 
just before the poet was prostrated for the fourth time by 
his recurring mental trouble. The friendship between 
them remained unbroken ; " Cowper's cordial esteem and 
tender solicitude for the prosperity of his young friend 
have been extensively displayed in the letters addressed 
to him "; while " the gratitude and veneration of Rose 
towards the poet of Weston were like the feelings of an 
excellent son to a most affectionate and illustrious father. 
Whenever the talents and reputation of Cowper were 

•Hayley's Life of Cowper, vol. III., p. 427. Edition of l8i2 (4 vols,). 



COWPER AND BLAKE 45 

mentioned in his presence, his eyes used to sparkle with 
a fond, enthusiastic delight."* Thus Hayley, who says 
further, " Our mutual attachment to Cowper led us to 
become intimate and confidential friends, to each other." 

No one can read Cowper's letters without realising the 
depth of affection which he felt for Rose, and the intimacy 
which was initiated by the visit in 1787 was rendered 
still more close by the subsequent visits which Rose was 
able to pay the poet at Weston. It was Rose who helped 
to lighten the burden of the journey to Eartham ; and 
it was "Mr. Rose's door " at which Cowper and Mrs. 
Unwin called a halt on their way back again to Weston, 
In 1794, when the King granted the pension of £300 a 
year to Cowper, it was made payable to Rose as his 
trustee ; and finally, in the early days of April, 1800, 
Rose was one of the last of Cowper's circle of friends to 
see him shortly before his death. 

Rose was called to the Bar in 1796, so that when he 
appeared at the Sussex sessions to defend Blake, he had 
already had nearly eight years of professional experience. 
He was constitutionally delicate, and at this time he was 
beginning to exhibit evidences of the insidious disease 
from which he suffered. Even while he was engaged in 
his speech on behalf of Blake, weakness compelled him 
to desist for a time, and he concluded his speech with 
difficulty. He succeeded, however, in obtaining a verdict 
for his client, and proved to be, in Hayley 's phrase, 
" the eloquent and successful advocate of innocence." 
He is reported to have caught a severe cold on this 
occasion, and from this time his health rapidly deterior- 
ated. Later in the year Hayley met him on his way to 
the sessions at Horsham, and says that " being greatly 
shocked by his emaciated appearance, I earnestly entreated 

• Hayley : op. cit., p. 440. 



46 COWPER AND BLAKE 

him to suspend his hazardous intention ; but impaired 
as he was in bodily strength, his mind retained all its 
energy without a particle of apprehension."* Rose, in 
fact, exhibited, as we readily gather from Hayley's 
account, what the older physicians denominated the 
spet phthisici — for it was indeed pulmonary tuberculosis 
or " consumption " from which Rose was suffering. 
Poor Rose lingered until the end of the year (1804), when, 
in the month of December, his fell disease overcame him. 

Writing to Hayley just after Rose's death, Blake says, 
" The death of so excellent a man as my generous advocate 
is a public loss, which those who knew him can best 
estimate, and to those who have an affection for him like 
yours, is a loss that can only be repaired in eternity. 

Farewell, sweet Rose ! Thou hast got before 

me into the celestial city. I also have but a few more 
mountains to pass ; for I hear the bells ring and the 
trumpets sound to welcome thy arrival among Cowper's 
glorified band of spirits of just men made perfect. "f 

Hayley seems justly to have summed up his friend's 
character when he says of him that he exhibited 

Learning, and wit, and eloquence, and truth, 
The patient thought of age, the zeal of youth. f* 

Hayley's career had nearly been brought to a premature 
conclusion just before the trial of Blake took place. He 
was pitched from his horse, and, his head coming into 
contact with a stone by the wayside, he sustained a rather 
severe injury : to his doctor who came to his assistance, 
however, he said very cheerfully, " My dear Machaon, 
you must patch me up very speedily, for, living or dying, 
I muat make a public appearance within a few days at 

* Hayley : op. cit., vol. IIL, p. 432. 

t The Letters of William Blake, edited by H. G. B. Russell, p. 1 54. 

i* The Memoirs of William Hayley, vol. IL, p. 46. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 47 

the trial of our friend BlaKe, in your city."* He had 
indeed sufficiently recovered from his injury to be able to 
be present when the trial took place, and " to speak to 
the character and habits of the accused." Blake writes 
to him from London, whither he had returned immediately 
after the trial, imploring him " never to mount that 
wretched horse again," and asking Hayley to write him 
" a line concerning your health ; how you have escaped 
the double blow both from the wretched horse and from 
your innocent humble servant. "f 

It was not long after this that the association between 
Blake and Hayley appears to have come to an almost 
sudden termination. Most of the biographers of Blake 
have blamed Hayley for Blake's determination to depart 
from Felpham, and have poured out the vials of their 
wrath on the unfortunate " Hermit " ; though there can 
be little doubt that the trouble arose from Blake's 
disordered subjective state, and was not due, at any rate, 
to the extent which several have maintained, to external 
conditions. Hayley' s conduct in regard to Cowper has 
earned him the esteem and gratitude of those who realise 
the efforts he made to alleviate the almost intolerable 
affliction which was the portion of the poet during his 
latter days ; and after his death he did what was in his 
power to aid in the perpetuation of the fame of his friend. 
There are probably few nowadays who read his Life 
of Cowper, but it is to be remembered that subsequent 
biographers have made use of it, and have rightly done so, 
for Hayley was able to record personal impressions of 
his friend, and those portions of his book will have a 
lasting value. 

• The Memoirs of William Hayley, vol. II., p. 46 
t Letters of William Blahe, p. 137. 



48 COWPER AND BLAKE 

SWINBURNE, 

in the wild welter of words in which he endeavoured to 
delineate the characteristics of Blake, and which, not 
without humour, he called " a critical essay," attacked 
Hayley : it was extremely unlikely that he would take 
the trouble to try to understand him. He certainly did 
not understand Blake : and as for Cowper, the following 
extracts will give some inkling of the ineptitude of which 
Swinburne was capable. " What," he says, " could be 
made of such a man [as Blake] in a country fed and 
clothed with the teapot pieties of Cowper and the tape- 
yard infidelities of Paine."* Or, still on the subject of 
Cowper, — " He [Blake] was solicited to help in softening 
and arranging for public inspection the horrible and 

pitiful narrative of Cowper's life For the rest, 

when out of the shadow of Klopstock or Cowper, Blake 
had enough serious work on hand."t 

A far safer guide than Swinburne, is 

Mr. THOMAS WRIGHT, 

whose Life of Cowper is the most comprehensive as well 

as the best informed biography of the poet : while such 

criticisms as those of Swinburne carry with them 

their own condemnation ; and there is such an intemperate- 

ness of expression generally to be found in this essay as 

to shake one's belief in the utility of the poet turned critic. 

That is, of course, if the essay was meant to be taken 

seriously, or whether it was intended as a contribution 

to thr+ species of paradoxical literature which, brilliant 

and scintillating in the works of Wilde, is tending to 

tiresomeness in the voluminous literary output of Shaw 

and Chesterton. 

* William Blake, by A. C. Swinburne, p. 5. 
I Swinburne : op. cit., pp. 34, 35. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 49 

Gilchrist, however, who cannot be described as partial 
to Hayley, is certainly just. "Blake's life at Felpham," 
he says, " was a happy one. In Hayley he had a kind 
and friendly neighbour, notwithstanding disparity of 
social position and wider discrepancies of training and 
mental character. Hayley, the valued friend of Gibbon 
in one generation, of Cowper in the next, whose reputation 
then and subsequently was for a time in excess of his 
literary deservings, has since been, even from a literary 
point of view, just as proportionately despised — sneered 
at with excess of rigour."* 

" Literary acquirements like his," says Southey, " were 
rare at that time, and are not common now ; and these 
were not his only accomplishments. All who knew him 
concur in describing his manners as in the highest degree 
winning and his conversation as delightful. It is said 
that few men have ever rendered so many essential acts 
of kindness to those who stood in need of them. His errors 
were neither few nor trifling ; but his good qualities 
greatly preponderated. Hayley was a most affectionate 
father, a most warm and constant friend."t 

Dr. Garnett, dealing with the relationship between 
Blake and Hayley in his monograph on the former, has 
the following statement : " Hayley's patronage of so 
strange a creature as he must have thought Blake does 
him the highest honour. He appears throughout not only 
as a very kind man, but, what is less usual in a literary 
personage, a very patient one."t* 

It will surely be evident that the endeavour to allocate 
blame to Hayley for Blake's impetuous withdrawal from 

* Gilchrist : op. cit., p. 155. 

■f Southey's Cowper, vol. III., p. 66. 

I* William Blake, Painter and Poet, by Richard Garnett, LL.D., 
p. 42. (" Portfolio Monographs "), London, 1895. 



50 COWPER AND BLAKE 

Felpham is certainlj' not justified by the facts. There 
is no need to drag Hayley's merits or demerits as a poet 
into the discussion, as Swinburne has done in a manner 
which is truly pitiable when we consider the querulous 
invective of the essay on " Blake." There is a zeal 
which, however admirable in the poet, is apt to outrun 
the discretion required by the essayist. 

Nor is any advance made by another critic — a poet 
also — who by attributing " intellectual imbecility " to 
Hayley, allows his feeling for alliteration to overpower 
the demands of reason. The same critic is, however, 
compelled to admit of Blake " that he quarrelled with 
many of his friends, with those whom he cared for most, 
like Stothard and Flaxman."* 

The case for Blake is not so weak that it is necessary 
to abuse the other side : but it might be inferred that it 
is in a parlous state if one is to judge of the procedure 
which has been adopted. It has now come generally to 
be believed that the " voices " which told Cowper that 
he was lost beyond hope of redemption and impelled him 
to repeated acts of self-destruction, were subjective in 
their nature ; the alternative theory has proved almost 
too horrible even for the most fanatical. Yet, when 
Blake specifically informs us that he has been influenced 
by " visions " and " voices," there are many who still 
refuse to believe him. 

There is yet room for 

ANOTHER BIOGRAPHY OF BLAKE.f 
which shall, while it acknowledges the great merits of its 
subject as poet and as painter, deal with his associates 

* William Blake, by Arthur Symons, p. 140 ; London, 1907. 

t Mr. Thomas Wright, of Olney, secretary of the Blake and the 
Cowper Societies, is at present engaged on a new and exhaustive 
life of WilUam Blake. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 51 

more justly than has been done heretofore : and such 
justice can only be done when prejudice has been overcome 
in regard to Blake in the same manner as it has been in 
the case of Cowper. 

In regard to mental characteristics, there can be no 
question that both Cowper and Blake provide material 
for study which is of extreme interest. Though there 
exists a certain similarity in so far as they both were 
pioneers in the new movement towards simplicity in 
poetry as opposed to the more or less stilted, antithetical, 
pedantic style which preceded them, yet, apart from this, 
they are found to be widely separated. Cowper, though 
for the most part he wrote of rural sights and rural 
sounds and the beauties of nature, is essentially a stylist, 
a polished man of letters and of culture, a precisian in 
regard to word and phrase : Blake, the Blake of the 
" Songs of Innocence " particularly, is more spontaneous 
if less polished, he owes little to culture, he is not always 
meticulously careful of his scansion, yet the effect 
produced by 

SHEER GENIUS 
is indubitable — and certainly more so for the majority 
than even by the poetry of Cowper. Cowper feared and 
shunned the busy haunts of life, craving the relative 
solitude which, he felt, he could only find in the country : 
Blake was essentially a town-dweller, and, save for the 
comparatively brief visit to Sussex, he spent his life as 
a denizen of London. Cowper's disposition was essentially 
peaceable ; he was little inclined to disputations, preferred 
to take the path of least resistance in controversial 
questions. Blake was not timorous — ^he was outspoken 
and fearless, and, as the trooper Scofield found to his 
cost at Felpham, he could on occasion be belligerent. 
Cowper appreciated keenly the aesthetic aspect of home- 



»2 COWPER AND BLAKE 

life, liked comfort, approved the welcoming of peaceful 
evening in to the accompaniment of genial society, " the 
bubbling and loud-hissing run " and " the cups that cheer 
but not inebriate "; Blake cared little, in spite of his 
artistic temperament — perhaps because of it — for his 
immediate surroundings, as to whether they were elegant 
or otherwise. It mattered little to him whether or not 
there was even a sufficiency of food in the house, until his 
faithful wife, finding the cupboard bare, placed the empty 
platter silently before him : and it quite accords with 
the general idea which one forms of him when one learns 
that he, plain living and high thinking man, was wont 
" to fetch the porter for dinner himself." 

There were other traits in which they differed even more 
radically. Cowper was oppressed by a sense of his own 
unworthiness, and, during his melancholic periods, this 
took an extremely morbid form. It is only necessary to 
have but slight knowledge of his career to realise how 
purely subjective this must have been ; for if ever there 
grew the pure flower of a blameless life it bloomed in the 
being of Cowper. There are many who call themselves 
miserable sinners who would resent the aspersion if they 
were so described by others : but Cowper, under the 
tyranny of his morbid mental organisation, believed in 
his unutterable wickedness. Writing in 1763, he says, 
" If I was as unfit for the next world as I am unfit for 
this — and God forbid I should speak it in vanity ! — I 
would not change conditions with any saints in Christen- 
dom." Thirty years later there is the same cry when to 
Hay ley he says, " I am a pitiful beast " ; and to that 
" egotistical pedagogue," Teedon, " I despair of every- 
thing, and my despair is perfect, because it is founded on 
a persuasion that there is no effectual help for me, even 



COWPER AND BLAKE 53 

in God." And in the last year of his life, when asked one 
day how he felt, he replied, " Feel ? I feel unutterable 
despair ! " 

It must be remembered, of course, that this is only one 
aspect of Cowper's life-history ; for in the intervals, when 
free, or comparatively free, from his mental disorder, he 
was cheerful and able keenly to appreciate the pleasures 
of life, as anyone may easily learn from his correspondence. 
Such a statement of the facts is only necessary for those 
who, having but a slight acquaintance with the history 
of Cowper's life, might be led astray by such misleading 
statements as that of Swinburne, in which he describes 
it as " horrible and pitiable." It is true that the latter 
years of his life are almost entirely characterised by a 
settled gloom — ^the period after his removal into Norfolk, 
and especially after the death of Mrs. Unwin. In this 
last phase the moments of happiness were but fitful ; the 
tired brain was beyond the possibility of recuperation ; 
and to Cowper, despairing of relief in this world and 
hopeless of the future, death came as a relief from his 
distress.* 

Blake, on the other hand, was in this respect almost 
the antithesis of Cowper. 

HE BELIEVED IN HIMSELF 

and in his powers as an artist and as a poet to a degree 
which, in certain instances, his warmest supporters must 
feel to have been exaggerated. Writing to Flaxman in 
1800, he says, " I am more famed in Heaven for ray 
works than I could well conceive those works 

• The present writer has dealt at greater length with this aspect 
in another place, v., " The Melancholy of Cowper," Westminster 
Review, June, 191 1. 



54 COWPER AND BLAKE 

are the delight and study of the archangels."* To Butts 
in 1802, he writes, " The pictures which I painted for you 
are equal in every part of the art, and superior in one, 
to anything that has been done since the age of Raphael "; 
and in the same letter occurs this statement : " Nothing 
can withstand the fury of my course among the stars of 
God and in the abyss of the accuser."t 

In the " misguided prose document," as Mr. Ellis 
describes it, entitled " Public Address," which was 
written about the year 1810, further instances may be 
found of this same characteristic. Herein he describes 
himself as "a mental prince "; and throughout this 
strange document there is certainly no tendency to self- 
abasement .f* It would not be difficult to add many similar 
instances of this feeling of exaltation, for passages in the 
same strain occur frequently. He is persecuted by 
" blotting and blurring demons," but his great powers 
enable him to overcome them ; the Almighty is on his 
side and helps him — " He lays His hand upon my head, 
and gives a blessing to all my work,"tt 

The contrast with Cowper is indeed great. On the one 
side there was hopelessness, abasement, apprehensiveness, 
a "lying down in horror and rising up in despair," a 
feeling of being damned beyond the possibility of reprieve, 
when the morbid fit was upon him ; and eventually the 
passage down into death, wrapped in silence, gloom, a 
journey into the Slough of Despond, without the possibility 
of Help coming to his aid to enable him eventually to 
reach the Wicket Gate. 



* Letters of Blake, p. 76. 

t Ibid, pp. 102-106. 

t* The " Public Address " is printed in Mr. Ellis's The Real Blake 

(pp. 302-308). 
tt Letters of Blake, p. 116. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 35 

Blake, on the contrary, was supported by the 

BELIEF IN HIS OWN POWERS. 

He was seldom troubled by feelings of doubt ; he was 
assured of the help of the Almighty, even as Cowper felt 
certain of His condemnation ; hardships and poverty 
were insufficient to overcome him, and at the last, as he 
lay on his death-bed, he sang " songs of joy and triumph."* 
Not that he was completely without his periods of 
depression. Despondent fits there were, but they were 
usually transient, and were inevitably succeeded by the 
feeling of exaltation, of satisfaction with his works, and 
of self-appreciation. 

Of Cowper' s opinion of Blake there is apparently no 
record ; yet that he must have heard of him is certain, 
for much of Blake's literary work had appeared while 
Cowper was yet able to take an interest in such matters. 
On the other hand, it is to be remembered that Blake's 
poetry can hardly be said to have come into circulation 
on account of the manner in which it was issued ; and it 
was only at a later date that a wider circle of readers 
was formed. We know, however, that Blake was con- 
versant with Cowper and his work, and that, although 
he did not know him personally, he respected and admired 
him. In a letter to Hayley in 1804, he says, " Cowper's 
Letters ought to be printed 

IN LETTERS OF GOLD, 

and ornamented with jewels of Heaven, Havillah, Eden, 

and all countries where jewels abound "f : and again to 

the same friend he writes, " I have the happiness of seeing 

the Divine countenance in such men as Cowper and 

Milton more distinctly than in any prince or hero."t* 

* See Tatham's Li/e of William Blake. 
t Letters of William Blake, p. 146. 
\*Ibid, p. 156. 



56 COWPER AND BLAKE 

ONE OTHER CONTRAST 

between the two poets may be noted, namely, that 
whereas with Cowper the poetical tendency was late in 
developing, in Blake it appeared early. It has already 
been stated that Cowper's " Poems " appeared in 1782, 
while the " Poetical Sketches " of Blake were published 
in the following year ; but Cowper and Blake were 
fifty-one and twenty-seven respectively when these 
volumes appeared. Blake, too, had written most of 
these poems years before they were thus published ; and 
we are informed by Gilchrist that the verses which com- 
mence, " How sweet I roam'd from field to field," were 
written before he was fourteen.* Cowper retained his 
poetical power even to the last year of his life, as " The 
Castaway " bears witness, and his poetical career was, 
as we have seen, after he had reached his fiftieth year. 
Before Blake had attained his fortieth year his powers as 
a lyrical poet had practically deserted him. His career 
thenceforward was characterised by the ascendency of 
the artistic and the " prophetic " faculties. 

No record of the lives of Cowper and Blake would be 
complete that did not contain some reference to the two 
faithful women, 

MARY UNWIN AND CATHARINE BLAKE, 

whose lot it was to care for and to cherish these two gifted 
beings. However unlike they were in social position, in 
their surroundings, and in their ways, this they had in 
common — that the greater part of their lives was passed 
in the quiet, unassuming, unpretentious performance of 
those duties which lay nearest to them ; in making 
smoother the troublous ways along which those who were 

* Gilchrist : op. cit., vol. I., p. 10. 



COWPER AND BLAKE 57 

their care had to pass, and in helping to render possible 
those literary and artistic achievements for which we now 
are grateful. 

It was the sad fate of Mary Unwin, however, broken 
in health and paralytic, to add in the last years of her 
life to the misfortunes of her beloved poet for whom she 
had done so much ; and finally she had to precede him 
into the realms of Death, but not before the recollection 
of her ministrations and the witnessing of her enfeeblement 
had evoked from the poet the beautiful lines to " My 
Mary." Catharine Blake, on the other hand, was able 
to watch over her husband until the end came ; and one 
of his last acts was the drawing of her portrait as he lay 
on his death-bed, saying to her, " You have ever been an 
angel to me ; I will draw you." 



T 



58 THE COWPER SOCIETY 

Sir W. Ryland D. Adkins, M.P. 

who spoke on " The Urbanity of Cowper," observed that 
the poet was one of the most real and least artificial of 
writers. It might seem curious that a meeting to celebrate 
an English poet who wrote essentially of simple and riiral 
matters, should be held in the very centre of the City 
of London, but through all Cowper's writings ran a 
thread of courtesy and true knowledge of the world 
which counteracted the apparent incongruity. He was 
constantly drawn by his sympathy into the interchange 
of opinions ; and his work, especially considered as a 
whole, possessed a quality which was lacking in those 
who came later — in spite of the undoubted fact that the 
great Victorian authors enlarged the scope of literature. 
Urbanity was the distinctive characteristic of the 
eighteenth century, and Cowper exhibited it to the full. 
After reading an amusing extract from a letter to the Rev. 
William Unwin, written on July 3rd, 1784, in which 
Cowper commented on the increased taxation and the 
recently introduced Budget, Sir R. Adkins remarked that 
Cowper wrote what he felt, not what he was told he ought 
to feel, and observed that his place in English literature 
was secure and serene. 

Mr. Cecil Cowper, J.P. 

Editor of Th* Aoadetnt 

dealt with " Cowper as a Letter-Writer," and commented 
upon the difficulty of selecting from a storehouse so rich in 
treasures. "On a general examination of the correspon- 
dence," he said, " we note the extraordinary vivacity, 
playfulness, and humour of the letters, written as they 
were after periods of mental eclipse." " I am not here 
referring," he continued, " to the letters dealing 



THE COWPER SOCIETY 59 

mainly with religious beliefs and speculations ; I acknow- 
ledge their supreme value, their beauty, and the comfort 
which they bring, but I am no competent critic to expound 
them. I rejoice that they exist, and I think that in this 
age their lessons are much needed, if indeed they are not 
indispensable." Admitting that many of the letters, 
except for literary elegance, are mainly on trivial themes, 
Mr. Cowper wished that we had more such trivialities 
at present, " in place of postcards and platitudes, or 
ladies' postscripts." Cowper 's brilliant abilities were 
constantly clouded, and the phases of his mind are 
mirrored with extraordinary fidelity in his letters to 
Lady Hesketh, William Unwin, and his other intimate 
friends. The simple and natural explanation of the 
beauty of the whole correspondence is "an innate 
attraction and an unconscious sympathy between certain 
natures, a quality which does not need difficult or 
abstruse definition. Such influences and such sentiments 
are easily referable to our common origin, and to the 
human impulses which are implanted in us." In con- 
cluding, Mr. Cowper expressed the hope that this meeting 
of the Society would stimulate inquiry and revive interest 
in some of perhaps the purest literature which exists in 
our language. 

Mist Margaret Omar 

recited effectively Mr. John Payne's poem, "Cowper and 
Newton." 

The Lord Mayor 

in summing up, and commending the object of the 
gathering to the sympathy of the audience, neatly re- 
marked that the measure of the audience's delight 
should be indicated by its practical support, and that 



60 THE COWPER SOCIETY 

the measure of the Committee's dehght at a successful 
meeting would be on similar lines. He earnestly hoped 
that the £2,000 required for the purposes of the Museum 
would be obtained. 

After votes of thanks to the Lord Mayor, to those who 
had delivered addresses, and to Miss Omar — brief 
speeches being made by Mr. GEORGE AVENELL, Mr. 
JOHN SOWMAN (one of the Trustees of the Cowper and 
Newton Museum), the REV. W. J. LATHAM, and Mr. 
FREDERICK ROGERS, the members and their friends 
proceeded to St. Mary Woolnoth Church. Here they 
examined the memorial to the Rev. John Newton, and 
sang Newton's beautiful hymn " How sweet the name of 
Jesus sounds." On the proposal of Mr. W. A. OKE, a 
vote of thanks was accorded to the Rev. J. M. BROOKE, 
M.A., Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, for kindly doing ail 
in his power to make the gathering a success. 



As the result of the Meeting at the Mansion House The 
Cowper Museum Restoration and Endowment Fund, now 
stands at £\6Q. This is not much towards the ;^2,000, still 
it is a beginning, and the Trustees of the Museum sincerely 
hope that many other persons will send donations. 




APPENDIX 



DR. FRAZER'S EDITION OF THE LETTERS 
OF WILLIAM COWPER. 

We cannot have too many selections from Cowper's 
letters. A little while ago we had to welcome two editions 
of Cowper's poems — issued respectively by Messrs. 
Methuen and the Pitt Press. We now have the pleasure 
of considering two volumes selected from Cowper's 
Letters — made by Dr. J. G. Frazer for Messrs. Macmillan's 
Eversley series. My edition of Cowper's Letters (4 
volumes) published by Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton 
in the spring of 1904, contained 1,041 letters — very many 
more than the next largest edition — that by Southey. 
But large as was the number in my work, some letters 
have come to light since. Some were printed in Notes 
and Queries, July and August, 1904, others in the preface 
of Messrs. Methuen's edition of the Poems. There are 
still a few letters that have not yet been printed. Of 
some I have copies. Dr. Frazer has made his selection 
entirely from the correspondence in Southey, conse- 
quently he omits all the letters discovered during the 
last fifty years. This is a pity. Had he asked my per- 

61 



62 APPENDIX 

mission, I would with pleasure have given him leave to use 
some of the material of which I own the copyright. Of 
those of Cowper's letters printed by Dr. Frazer I shall 
say nothing, except that every word that Cowper wrote 
is precious. 

In the memoir that opens the first volume, Dr. Frazer 
has made several mistakes. Olney Church is not dedicated 
to St. Mary as he states, but to SS. Peter and Paul (p. xxiv.). 
In another place we are told that Moses Browne, Vicar 
of Olney, " burdened with a large family, was an absentee 
through debt." This is incorrect ; he was an absentee 
because he had been presented to a fat living elsewhere 
(p.xxvi.). Again, the market place had in Cowper's day 
two fine elms, not three as stated on p. xxvi. 

Dr. Frazer assumes that Thomas Scott is chiefly known 
to fame as the author of an " elephantine commentary " 
on the Bible, and that the greatest feather in Scott's cap 
is his having "very nearly saved John Henry Newman's 
immortal soul." But Scott's chief title to fame is not the 
Commentary (of which, however, let no man speak 
disparagingly), but the powerful tract The Force of Truth, 
which is worth more than all John Henry Newman's 
works put together — the absurdly over-rated Apologia 
included. Then too. Dr. Frazer does not in the least 
understand John Newton. He echoes the foolish old 
cuckoo-cry about Newton's influence being deleterious to 
Cowper. For the rest Dr. Frazer's memoir is a useful 
summary of Cowper's career. The volumes are heartily 
welcome, and I end as I began : we cannot have too many 
selections from Cowper's letters. 



THOMAS WRIGHT. 




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