Monday, October 25, 2010


No Relish for the Sweets of Society

William Cowper, letter to William Unwin (November 26, 1781):
There are indeed all sorts of characters in the world, there are some whose understandings are so sluggish, and whose hearts are such mere clods, that they live in society without either contributing to the sweets of it, or having any relish for them. A man of this stamp passes by our window continually. He draws patterns for the lace-makers. I never saw him conversing with a neighbour but once in my life, though I have known him by sight these 12 years. He is of a very sturdy make, has a round belly extremely protuberant, which he evidently considers as his best friend because it is his only companion, and it is the labour of his life to fill it. I can easily conceive that it is merely the love of good eating and drinking, and now and then the want of a new pair of shoes, that attaches this man so much to the neighbourhood of his fellow mortals. For suppose these exigencies and others of a like kind to subsist no longer, and what is there that could possibly give Society the preference in his esteem? He might strut about with his two thumbs upon his hips in a wilderness, he could hardly be more silent than he is at Olney, and for any advantage or comfort or friendship or brotherly affection, he could not be more destitute of such blessings there than in his present situation.
Cowper evidently regarded this silent, fat fellow with disapprobation, but I look fondly on him, as a man after my own heart and with my own habits and inclinations.

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