Tuesday, 13 May 2014

William Hayley & William Cowper's pension - part 4

When Thurlow went silent, Hayley didn't give up on securing Cowper a pension. He took advice from several friends and decided to do what historian Edward Gibbon (of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire fame) suggested and approach the Prime Minister, William Pitt, directly, asking for a meeting.

Pitt responded immediately, inviting the self-styled hermit in for a chat.

Hayley was so anxious beforehand that on his friend George Romney's advice he knocked back a glass of port (he rarely drank alcohol) which, rather than steadying his nerves, gave him a headache.

But Pitt was very welcoming, and responded so positively to Hayley's petition on behalf of Cowper, that Hayley became a tad over-emotional and ended up grabbing the PM's hand and kissing it "in a Transport of that sensibility which has made me too often the dupe of my own Heart."

Pitt promised to write to Hayley soon. Hayley waited, but in vain. So, as advised by a couple of other friends,  he wrote to Lord Spencer, asking him to prod Pitt's memory. Spencer promised to oblige at the next possible opportunity.

Then Hayley received news "of the darkest complexion". Cowper had sunk into a "deep & wretched despondency".

"I now too clearly perceived," he wrote, "that the horrible impending Mischief, which I had so anxiously laboured to avert from the Mind of my incomparable Friend, had fallen on him with all its weight, & perhaps so fallen, as to overwhelm his enchanting Faculties forever—"