Wednesday, 14 May 2014

William Hayley & William Cowper's pension - part 5

Hayley was crushed by the news of Cowper's illness. He was also furious with the Prime Minister. "I was persuaded," he wrote, "that the animation which the patronage of Mr Pitt might have afforded to his declining Spirit, would have preserved the unhappy Sufferer from this miserable depression."

He decided to write, once more, to Pitt. And he didn't mince his words.

It is not often that a Hermit can be deceived by a Prime Minister; yet I am an Example, that such an extraordinary Incident may happen; for in Truth, my dear Sir, I most credulously confided in yr kind Promise of writing to me soon, concerning your liberal Intentions in favor of my admirable Friend Cowper —alas! instead if hearing form you such Tidings, as I hoped would make him happy, I have just heard from another Quarter that He is recently sunk into that gloomy Wretchedness, a half frantic despondency, from which I was sanguine enough to expect, that yr just Esteem & Beneficence might preserve him.

Now perhaps even yr Kindness may hardly give him a gleam of Satisfaction — your Enemies (a great man can not live without Enemies) affirm, that you have little Feeling: this opinion I have long rejected from my disposition to cherish an enthusiastic regard for you: but the rejected opinion I am now unwillingly putting to the Test —You must have little Feeling indeed, if this Intelligence does not make you lament, as I do most cordially, that an unfortunate delay in providing for a Man of a marvellous Genius, may have conduced to plunge him in the Worst of human Calamity.

How far it is probable that yr Favor might have preserved him from this Evil, or may be likely to restore him from it, perhaps my Lord Spencer may be able from fuller Information to judge better than I can at present: he is a Neighbour & a Friend to the great afflicted Poet, yet if I remember right, not personally acquainted with Him: & his Ldship has kindly promised me (should opportunity arise) to recall to your Remembrance what I said to you in Cowper’s Behalf. Ld Spencer enters (as you kindly did when you allowed me the Honor of conversing with you) into the cruel singularity of Cowper’s situation, & I am confident that you both sympathize in thinking that our Sovereign’s munificence could not be more worthily exerted, than towards this wonderful Man, whether it shall please Heaven to bless him with a restoration of his rare mental Endowments, or still to afflict him with a melancholy alienation of Mind.

I will not utterly relinquish the hope, that you may yet be able to serve him: afflicting as the delay has proved, I am inclined to impute it to such difficulties & Obstructions, as Men, even of excellent Hearts & high Stations too frequently find in their endeavours to befriend the Unfortunate.

I write in the frank & proud Sorrow of a wounded Spirit, but with a cordial & affectionate wish, that Heaven may bless you with unthwarted Power to do Good, & with Virtue sufficient to exert it —

I retain a lasting sense of the very engaging Kindness, with which you allowed me to pour forth my Heart to you on this interesting subject, & I am most sincerely my dr Sir

yr very grateful tho afflicted Servant


Feb 27 1794