Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 12.djvu/406

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complete. He was henceforth subject to delusions, hearing voices, and occupied by strange fancies. His fame was fortunately attracting new friends, and the friendships were cemented by his singular sweetness of disposition and charming correspondence. Samuel Rose (1767–1804), son of a Chiswick schoolmaster, brought him messages from the professors of Glasgow just before his last attack, became ardently attached to him, and was afterwards a frequent visitor. About Christmas 1789 John Johnson, grandson of his mother's elder brother, Roger Donne, and nephew of Mrs. Bodham, came to him during the vacation from Cambridge, where he was a student. Upon hearing of Cowper from her nephew, Mrs. Bodham presented the poet with a portrait of his mother, thus suggesting one of his most touching poems. The friendship of Johnson, fondly called ‘Johnny of Norfolk,’ was afterwards invaluable.

Cowper's labours on Homer were interrupted by one or two minor labours—a review of Glover's ‘Athenaid’ for the ‘Analytical Review’ of February 1789, and a translation of the letters of Van Lier, a Dutch clergyman, undertaken for Newton in 1790; but Homer at last appeared in the summer of 1791, and was received with a favour not confirmed by later readers. If Cowper had avoided Pope's obvious faults, he had not the vigour which redeems them. The general effect was cramped and halting. He is so preoccupied with the desire to avoid Pope's excess of ornament that he becomes bald and prosaic (see Cowper's own remarks, Southey, vi. 235, vii. 75–83). He had about five hundred subscribers, including the Scotch universities and the Cambridge colleges. He appears to have received 1,000l. for the first edition, preserving the copyright (ib. iii. 10). The two volumes were sold for three guineas. Pope made nearly 9,000l. with about the same number of subscribers, but on very different terms. Cowper next undertook to edit a splendid edition of Milton, projected by his publisher Johnson, to be illustrated by Fuseli; while Cowper was to translate the Latin and Italian poems, and to furnish a comment. Milton soon engrossed him entirely, and apparently prevented his completion of a promising poem on Yardley Oak, which he kept to himself. In December 1791 Mrs. Unwin had a paralytic stroke, followed by a second in May 1794, which left her permanently enfeebled. On the second occasion William Hayley (1745–1820) was with him. Hayley had been engaged by Boydell & Nicol to write a life of Milton for a new edition. He wrote in generous terms to disown any thought of competition. Cowper responded, and a warm friendship sprang up. Hayley, though a bad poet, was a good friend. He tried to obtain a pension for Cowper from Thurlow. He sent Lemuel Abbott [q. v.] to Weston to paint Cowper's portrait, and he induced Cowper to undertake a journey to Eartham, near Chichester, where he then lived. At Eartham Cowper, with Mrs. Unwin, spent six weeks, meeting Hurdis and Romney, who again painted his portrait. Cowper and Hayley executed a joint translation of Andreini's ‘Adam,’ which they dictated to Johnson. Cowper returned to Weston, apparently not the worse for his journey. He had now formed a strange connection with a poor schoolmaster at Olney named Teedon, a conceited and ignorant man, whom he treats in earlier letters with good-humoured ridicule. A new relation began just before Mrs. Unwin's attack. Both Cowper and Mrs. Unwin consulted Teedon as a spiritual adviser (Mrs. Unwin's first note is dated 1 Sept. 1791), and Teedon continued afterwards to give oracular responses to Cowper's accounts of his dreams and waking impressions. Teedon's vanity was excited, and he even treated Cowper to literary advice, and offered to defend Homer against the critics. The letters, first published in 1834, in the appendix to the sermons of Henry Gauntlett (vicar of Olney 1815–34), are a melancholy illustration of the gradual decline of Cowper's sanity. Mrs. Unwin's decay imposed fresh burdens on his strength. She became exacting and querulous. He worked when he could at a second edition of his Homer and at Milton. The exquisite verses ‘To Mary,’ written about this time, show that his poetic power was not yet weakened. Rose brought Lawrence the painter to visit him and take another portrait in October 1793, and Hayley came soon afterwards. Lady Hesketh followed on Hayley's departure, and found Cowper sinking into a state of stupor. She again sent for Hayley in the spring of 1794, and his arrival enabled her to go and consult Dr. Willis, to whom Thurlow had written in favour of his old friend. A letter arrived from Lord Spencer announcing the grant of a pension of 300l. a year, for which Thurlow, who had ceased to be chancellor in June 1792, can have no credit. Cowper was incapable of attending to business, and the pension was made payable to Rose as his trustee. Lady Hesketh attended him affectionately, with great difficulties from Mrs. Unwin, who had a new attack of paralysis in April 1795. It was thought desirable, apparently on Willis's advice, to try a change of scene and to get rid of Mrs. Unwin's nominal management of