What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
THE HOME OF COWPER
=How to get there.=–Train from St. Pancras. Change trains at Bedford. Midland Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Olney. =Distance from London.=–60-1/2 miles. =Average Time.=–1-1/2 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 8s. 1d. ... 4s. 9-1/2d. Return 16s. 2d. ... 9s. 7d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"Bull Hotel,” etc.
Olney was for a period the home of the delicate and sensitive poet William Cowper, who was born at the parsonage of Great Berkhampstead. His father was chaplain to George II. Cowper lost his mother at a very early age, and the sad event made a deep impression on his mind. In after years he wrote a poem addressed to his mother’s portrait which it is said has drawn more tears than any other poem in the English language. Cowper was sent to school at six years of age, but was very unhappy there, and it laid the foundation of that settled gloom which oppressed him all through life. When Cowper had finished his studies at the Westminster School he commenced the study of law, and was afterwards called to the bar; but he never practised, for he hated law. Cowper was offered several appointments, but failed in examinations for them from extreme nervousness. By the kindness of friends an income was secured for him and he went to reside at Huntingdon. Here he formed an acquaintance with Mrs. Unwin, the “Mary” of his poems, which ripened into deepest friendship. He enjoyed much tranquil happiness during the time of his residence with the Unwin family.
When Cowper and his friends moved to Olney they lived in the old-fashioned regular fronted house illustrated opposite. Here Cowper is said to have amused himself with his hares and in the making of boxes and tables. He was also interested in the bees in the old-fashioned garden at the back of the house, where one may still see the little rustic summer-house in which John Gilpin and some of the Task were written. The house now contains a Cowper museum, and visitors thus have an opportunity of seeing the parlour and other rooms, besides many other interesting objects connected with the poet. His great friend at Olney was the Rev. John Newton. They were constantly together in their walks, in their homes, and at church, and both wrote a number of hymns.
[Illustration: Thornborough. COWPER’S HOME AT OLNEY.
The house now contains a Cowper museum.]