Monday, 26 May 2014

The "Intellectual Machine" cranks into action

After a lot of nagging by Hayley and the judicious application of Lady Hesketh's schmoozing skills, William Cowper started receiving letters of the type promised in "the Vision".

The first, written 9 August 1797, came from William Wilberforce.

When he caught sight of the letter, Cowper said "The outside tells me, I shall be taken away by Force, & the inside will tell me the Time when”. He did, however, read the letter with what the Reverend Johnny Johnson - Cowper's cousin and carer – described as "unusual Attention".

The second - hustled by Lady Hesketh - came from the Bishop of London late in September. It was an enthusiastic fan letter, detailing the religious enjoyment with which the Bishop read and re-read Cowper's poems.

Cowper's response?

“Never was such a Letter written, never was such a Letter read to a Man so overwhelmed with Despair, as I am — It was written in Derision – I know, & I am sure of it.”

Johnson challenged this: Cowper shouldn't say such a thing of a man as good as the Bishop of London!

“I should say so", Cowper replied, "of an archangel, were it possible for an archangel to send me such a Letter, in such Circumstances.”