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NOTE 4. - Page 3, line 27.
Quevedo, as he tells his sober tale. “ The tale from Quevedo,” says Hayley, “ I have frequently heard recited by a judge of the most delicate discernment, as a very striking example of Cowper's talent for lively narration.” Quevedo, a Spanish poet and miscellaneous writer, was born in 1580, at Madrid, where he died, aged sixty-five. The “ Visions of Hell,” whence the scene in the text is taken, and the “ Comic Tales,” the most esteemed of his writings, have been both translated into English.
NOTE 5. - Page 5, line 5.
To be the table talk of clubs up stairs. In London, whence all Cowper's ideas of public life are taken, and to which alone almost all his notions of political events have reference, the ground floor even in the meanest streets is applied to the grand purpose of traffic, - hence “ clubs up stairs.”
Note 6.- Page 5, line 6 from bottom.
Not Brindley nor Bridgewater would essay. There is much quaint and humorous propriety in the selection of these names “ to turn the course of Helicon." Brindley, a self-taught engineer, who was born in 1716, and died in 1772, is well known as the original constructor of several of the principal canals in England, and of the famous aqueduct over the Irwell, He used to say, that nature made rivers only as feeders to canals. His great patron in these undertakings was the Duke of Bridgewater.
Note 7. - Page 6, line 12 from bottom.
Thus with a rigour, for his good design'd. - The modest author himself has confessed to me his own partiality to the verses in Table Talk which describe the character of a Briton.'
HAYLEY. NOTE 8.— Page 7, line 7.
Born in a climate softer far than ours. This description now applies neither to the survivor of the republic or the empire, nor to the Frenchman under a citizen king. What an awful ordeal has France passed through during the fifty years since the first publication of these verses! Yet from alternations of licence and despotism -- of glory and abasement-of misery and exultation of reckless despair and noble exertion, unparalleled in the history of nations, - what has she gained ? Nothing. Her people have become less gay without being more serious; her rulers not less absolute, but more oppressive; and her government, though more democratic, is not so liberal. The last explains the former inconsistencies. France has sacrificed to the idol Equality, the blood, the treasure, and the toil which should have been consecrated at the shrine of Liberty. Her fate reads a lesson to every country that would extend legislative powers to the many.
NOTE 9. - Page 9, line 11.
When Tumult lately burst his prison door. These lines allude to the riots of the Protestant association, instigated by Lord George Gordon in the winter of 1780, by which the metropolis was threatened with destruction :
And blazing London seem'd a second Troy.
Note 10. - Page 9, line 7 from bottom.
Though the chief actor died upon the stage. William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, born on the 15th November, 1708, fainted in the House of Peers 7th April, 1778," while in the act of speaking to persuade the Lords to vote against the Duke of Richmond's motion for recognizing the independence of the American colonies. From this shock he never recovered, but expired on the 11th of May following ; thus it may with justice be said that he “ died upon the stage.” “ Were these to be my last words,” he exclaimed, “ I would lift up my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy.”
They were his last words and uttered in vain! Demosthenes is here introduced with great propriety, since Chatham formed himself upon the model, and more than once transcribed with his own hands the favourite orations of the Athenian.
Note 11. - Page 10, line 13.
So Gideon earn'd a victory not his own. Cowper excells all modern poets, Milton hardly excepted, in the propriety and beauty of his scriptural illustrations. It must, however, be confessed that this, the first example which occurs in his works, is neither happily imagined nor well applied. It is true, the most exalted of mortal agents is nothing more than a humble instrument of the divine will. But between the sufficiency of means and the consciousness of free agency permitted to man in the ordinary workings of Providence, and the prescribed and miraculous employment of Gideon, with contrivance so inadequate, so evidently beyond the course of nature, there can be no analogy in reason, in religion, or in poetry.
Note 12. - Page 10, line 15.
Poor England! thou art a devoted deer. This alludes to the armed neutrality of the European powers formed in the autumn of 1780, by which they engaged to assist each other in resisting the right of searching neutral vessels claimed by Great Britain. The author, speaking of this very passage, has the following remark in one of his private letters. “ As to the neutralities, I really think the Russian virago an impertinent puss for meddling with us, and engaging half a score of kittens of her acquaintance to scratch the poor old Lion, who, if he has been insolent in his day, has probably acted no otherwise than they themselves would have acted in his circumstances, and with his power to imbolden them.”_March 5, 1781.
Note 13. - Page 10, line 2 from bottom.
The inestimable Estimate of Brown. John Brown, D.D. of Cambridge, born in Northumberland 1715, committed suicide 1766, was a writer of multifarious talents, whose numerous productions, both in prose and verse, once enjoyed great popularity. The work referred to in the text, “ An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times,” published in 1757, passed through seven editions in the same year. It represents Britain as then sunk in utter degeneracy, and predicts her speedy ruin as a nation.
But victory refuted all he said ; namely, Wolfe's, Boscawen's, Hawke's, Clive's, the battle of Minden, &c. and the general prosperity which, in 1760, ushered in the accession of George III.
Note 14. - Page 12, line 13.
Not only vice disposes and prepares. “ The poet, by an easy pedestrian pace, has got midway through his theme before he kindles into any thing like fury, or betrays any strong symptom of the diviner mood. Then, indeed, comes a glorious burst, in which the patriot, the Christian, and the bard, all unite in a warning sufficient to alarm the most supine statesman, touching the real perils and false security of a nation hastening unconsciously to ruin, through the undermining vices of luxury and licentiousness.” – MONTGOMERY.
Note 15. - Page 18, line 7.
Churchill; himself unconscious of his powers. It has been justly remarked, that this spirited passage is an excellent imitation of the style of the bold satirist whose character it portrays. Nothing, however, save the blind partiality with which even the best of men are apt to regard early friendships, could have induced the virtuous Cowper to speak so leniently of the vices of Churchill,- one who not only disgraced the sacred function, but who, by the vulgarity of his profligacy, would have brought contempt upon the veriest man of the world. He was the schoolfellow of Cowper, and about the same age. He died in France, 1764, at the age of thirty-three, leaving his career recorded in an epitaph composed by himself :
Life to the last enjoy'd, here Churchill lies. .
NOTES TO THE PROGRESS OF ERROR.
Note 1.Page 23, line 7.
The poisonous, black, insinuating worm. The expression, “ worm,” in this and other passages, which has incurred the disapprobation of some living critics, appears to have also been objected to by Cowper's friends, to whom the manuscript was submitted. He defended its application, and retained the word, on the authority of Milton, as in the passage,
The chains of darkness, and the undying worm .
The mortal voorm,
NOTE 2.--- Page 25, line 25.
Unmiss'd but by his dogs, and by his groom. Cowper, in several passages, displays not only a contempt, but a detestation of field sports. In his youth, however, he appears to have viewed such amusements with more leniency, though it is evident that his practice then, as a sportsman, could hardly be turned against his theory in after life as a poet. In some verses written in his twentysecond year, we find the following among other “ Symptoms of Love,” for such is the title of the piece.
Would my Delia know if I love, let her take
NOTE 3. - Page 26, line 15.
Occiduus is a pastor of renown. " The character of Occiduus,” observes Mr Campbell, in his Selections from the British Poets, “ is almost the sole exception to the general freedom from personality, which honourably distinguishes Cowper's satire.” The remark is just; but it is worth inquiring into the cause of this exception, were it only to shew that Cowper was not personal, except when he considered reprehension to be individually merited. Occiduus is a kind of Latin anagram upon the name Wesley, in whose house, and under whose sanction, and even direction, these Sunday evening musical parties were held. While the present poem was passing through the press, Cowper, in reference to this passage, writes thus to Newton : 6 I am sorry to find that the censure I have passed upon Occiduus is even better founded than I supposed. Lady Austen has been at his Sabbatical concerts, which, it seems, are composed of song tunes and psalm tunes indiscriminately; music without words, and, I suppose one may say, consequently without devotion. On a certain occasion, when her niece was sitting at her side, she asked his opinion concerning the lawfulness of such amusements as are to be found at Vauxhall or Ranelagh ; meaning only to draw from him a sentence of disapprobation, that Miss Green (the daughter, by a first marriage, of Mrs Jones, Lady Austen's sister) might be the better reconciled to the restraint under which she was held, when she found it warranted by the judgment of so sound a divine. But she was disappointed; he accounted them innocent, and recommended them as useful. • Curiosity,' he said, ' was natural to young persons; and it was wrong to deny them a gratification which they might be indulged in with the greatest safety ; because the denial being unreasonable, the desire of it would still subsist. It was but a walk, and a walk was as harmless in one place as in another !'— with other arguments of a similar import, which might have proceeded with more grace, at least with less offence, from the lips of a sensual layman. He seems, together with others of our acquaintance, to have suffered considerably in his spiritual character by his attachment to music.”- September 8, 1781. From the remaining part of the letter, Cowper shews that he means attachment to music carried to an excess; and we do hope that, generally at least, it is thought that concerts on a Sunday evening are a most reprehensible excess.
Wesley was born at Epworth in 1703, studied at Christ Church College, Oxford. While here a few of his fellow students of like serious habits joined with him in forming a society for religious conversation, to which the term Methodists was applied by their gayer companions. Hence the origin of the sect which now constitutes so important a division of the Christian church. Wesley died 1791, having, according to some computations, preached 40,000 sermons, and travelled a space equal to fifteen times the circumference of the globe!
NOTE 4. - Page 31, line 25.
Petronius! all the Muses weep for thee. Under this name, that of a Roman poet who prostituted an elegant fancy to the service of licentiousness, Cowper lanches a severe but just reproof against Lord Chesterfield. That noblemen had been dead about eight years at the time these lines were written; then his political reputation and literary fame ranked higher than they do now, consequently the contagion of his letters was the more dreaded by those who regarded with Christian solicitude their probable effect upon the future generations of British youth.
NOTE 5. - Page 32, line 12.
Like a neglected forester, runs wild. The editor must object to his author's doctrine here. It is not the child that requires the rod; if properly trained, he will neither stand in need, nor even understand the necessity of punishment : because the rod is used or threatened improperly to the child, it is that the boy