Wednesday, 7 May 2014

William Hayley & William Cowper's pension - part 2

“You must be aware," Thurlow responded,  "that it would require great delicacy to hint an Idea of this sort to the King”

Hayley wasn't so easily deflected. "My Lord," he said, "I am the most ignorant man alive in all matters that relate to the Court, but this I can say in answer to your objection, that such an application, as I have presumed to suggest, would be no difficult affair, if the King speaks of his own mental infirmity with the Frankness that Cowper does."

He went on to remind Thurlow of how, back in the days when he'd been a fellow student of Cowper's Thhurlow had encountered him "in a moment of his darkest Despondency", and "treated him on that calamitous occasion with all the Kindness, that a Friend can  exert.”

The Chancellor appeared convinced by Hayley's argument. Then, a few days after their meeting, he lost his job.

But Hayley's hope didn't die.

"I still persuaded myself, that as he had personal Intercourse with the royal Family, he would avail himself of some favorable opportunity to become, what I wished him to be, the architect of Cowper’s Fortune."

And, naturally, in order to animate Lord Thurlow to that end, Hayley sent him a poem:

Yes! now your hand, with decent Pride,
Relinquishes that seal unstained,
Which Bacon, Law’s less upright Guide!
With many a sordid spot prophaned;

Haply from [illegible word] pomp released,
You now, escaping thorny strife,
Have time to grace a Hermit’s Feast,
and honour sweet, sequestered Life:

Here nature reigns [illegible word] Souls elate;
Her tranquil smiles their scene endear;
And Fancy, Freedom, Friendship wait
To hail their Favourite Cowper here.

To dignify this dear Retreat
Would I could tempt you to descend,
and in our first of poets meet
Life’s richest Gift, an antient Friend!

When Talents & Virtue a Mortal endear,
  yet fail to preserve him from Fortune’s controul,
Who find her weak Captive in Want’s narrow sphere
  With adversity, Irons [?], that enter the soul.

Say! is it not, Thurlow, an office divine
  With the firm hand of Friendship to cancel such Wrongs?
May the verses of Cowper proclaim it is thine,
  While Genius & Gratitude hallow his songs!