Friday, 23 May 2014

"a large & Complicated intellectual Machine, which I have invented"

"My keen sensations in perusing these heartpiercing Lines have been a painful Prelude to the following Ecstatic Vision", wrote William Hayley, in a letter to William Cowper, sent four days after he received Cowper's devastating note.

— I beheld the Throne of God, whose Splendor, tho in Excess, did not strike me blind, but left me power to discern,  on the steps of it, two kneeling angelic Forms.

A kind Seraph seemed to whisper to me, that these heavenly Petitioners were your lovely Mother, & my own; both enjoyed fervent Supplications for your Restoration to mental Serenity, & Comfort.— I sprang eagerly forward to enquire your Destiny of your Mother.—Turning towards me, with a look of Seraphic Benignity, she smiled upon me, & said: “Warmest of earthly Friends! Moderate the anxiety of thy Zeal, lest it distract they declining Faculties! & know, as a Reward for thy Kindness, that my Son shall be restored to Himself, & to Friendship.

But the all-Merciful & almighty ordains, that his Restoration shall be gradual; & that his Peace with Heaven shall be preceded by the following extraordinary Circumstances of signal Honour on Earth.— He shall receive Letters from Members of Parliament, from Judges, & from Bishops, to thank Him for the service that He has rendered to the Christian World by his devotional Poetry. These shall be followed by a Letter from the Prime Minister to the same effect; & this by Thanks expressed to Him on the same account, in the Hand of the King Himself.— Tell Him, when these Events take place, he may confide in his celestial Emancipation from despair, granted to the Prayer of his Mother; & He may rest satisfied with this assurance from Her, that his Peace is perfectly made with Heaven.—Hasten to impart these blessed Tidings to your fav’rite Friend! said the Maternal Spirit; & let your Thanksgiving to God be an Increase of reciprocal Kindness to each other!—

In classic direct marketing style, Hayley added a call-to-action PS:

if any of these Incidents speedily take place, which your angelic Mother announced to me in this Vision, as certain signs of your Recovery, I conjure you in her Name, my dear Cowper, to communicate them to me, with all the kind dispatch, that is due to the tender anxiety of sympathetic affection!— Heaven grant that I may hear from you again very soon!— adieu!
He then tried to kickstart his "large & Complicated intellectual Machine" by persuading politicians and church men to write to Cowper. He was careful, however, to keep his overall plot a secret: one he shared only with Cowper's relations/carers, the Reverend John Johnson and Lady Harriot Hesketh.