Page:Notes by the Way.djvu/132
��NOTES BY THE WAY.
��Death of December, 1796, Mrs. Unwin died, and in the dusk of the evening Mrs. Unwin. Cowper, attended by Dr. Johnson, took his farewell look at the face so dear to him. " After looldng at it a few moments, he started suddenly away, with a vehement but unfinished sentence of passionate sorrow. He spoke of her no more." In order that Cowper should be kept in ignorance as to the funeral, it took place by torchlight. She was buried in the north aisle of Dereham Church on the 23rd of December.
During this time Lady Hesketh, Cowper's dearest " coz," and the elder sister of his beloved Theodora, was his faithful coun- sellor ; her influence on Cowper had always been for good, and her bright, genial disposition had a most beneficial effect ; his numerous letters to her are full of affection. On the 9th of August, 1763, he writes, " So much as I love you, I wonder how it happened that I was never in love with you " ; and on the 22nd of August, 1792, " Though nature designed you only for my cousin, you have had a sister's place for me ever since I knew you." Through the sadness which followed, Lady Hesketh rendered cheerfully all the help she could, and, when Cowper died without having made a will, fulfilled the office of administratrix, and raised the monument to his memory over his last resting-place.
Towards the summer of 1797 Cowper's bodily health appeared to improve, and he courageously went on with the revisal of Homer. It is remarkable that one of the distinguishing features in his mysterious malady was that he was able to continue his work, much of which was done in tunes of depression and increasing nervous excitement. On the 20th of March, 1799, he wrote his last poem, ' The Castaway.' In August he translated it into Latin, and in December he removed to Dereham. In March, 1800, he was visited by Mr. Rose ; his decline became more and more visible, and by the 19th of April the weakness of the sufferer had alarmingly increased. Dr. Johnson said all he could to comfort him, but " the darkness of delusion still veiled his spirit." At five in the morning of Friday, the 25th, he became insensible, and in the afternoon, His death J ust before & ve > ne passed away in so mild and gentle a manner that the precise moment was not known ; but as his four faithful friends looked upon the face of the dead, they saw that it was all calmness and composure, mingled, as it were, with holy surprise. He was buried in St. Edmund's Chapel, in the Church of East Dere- ham, on Saturday, the 2nd of May. There he rests until all mys- teries shall be revealed. Meanwhile we, his countrymen, regard him with a personal love far beyond the admiration we have for his genius, for we know that among all England's illustrious dead there is not one who has left us a brighter example of faithfulness to friends, patience and submission under suffering, and entire self- sacrifice than the poet Cowper,
��Cowper's last poem ' The Castaway.'