Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday's Memories: The Cowper and Newton Museum.

Our first stop in Olney was the Cowper and Newton MuseumThe link will take you to their little bio of William Cowper.  I told KJ I hesitated to give any kind of biographical sketch, lest I add to the errors on the internet.  But oh, so briefly, if you've never heard of him at all, you've heard of his close friend John Newton, author of Amazing Grace.  Cowper was one of England's best poets and hymn writers, but he also battled depression, called melancholia in those days.

Earlier that day I had been meditating on God's providence in the life of John Bunyan, and those kind of thoughts continued thinking about William Cowper.  What if his mother hadn't died when he was just 6-years-old, and his father didn't send him away to boarding school?  That incident, coupled with other things, I think was a source of instability for his mind and emotions.  But maybe I was asking the wrong questions.  Maybe I should have been thankful for the power of the gospel in his life and how it gave him grace to battle the recurring periods of depression.  Just read the words that came from his pen.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

I think some of my favorite lines now come from the hymn we call Sometimes a Light Surprises.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit should bear;
Though all the fields should wither
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice,
For, while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

      The front door of the house Cowper
shared with Mary Unwin

The home was very aptly named as you'll see when I show you the garden filled with apple trees.  The steeple you can see through the gate belongs to the church where John Newton pastored.  Cowper and Mrs. Unwin moved to Olney to be with Newton.  The house is now a museum filled with belongings from both Cowper and Newton, including a room dedicated to Newton's history as a slave-trader.

 Jane Austen was a Cowper fan.

 Cowper's Desk

This writing table was given to Newton by William Cowper.  We touched it reverently...not in a weird way, but it's strange to touch a piece of furniture with such history, where John Newton sat and wrote.

 Cowper's Bedroom

 I got lazy with photography and cataloguing all the information they had up by the last days of our trip.  I wish I'd taken a picture of that little card on the wall because I think it told a funny little story about Cowper shaving at this mirror by the window every morning, watching the little town wake up, all the things he observed about his neighbors.  

 Cowper's Writing Desk

This was another piece of furniture belonging to Newton, and this room held several of the implements used on slave-trading ships.

The garden was a really enchanting place.  The previous week I had picked up a copy of Cowper's works printed in 1864.  The front page had a sketch of the garden at Orchard Side, and it looked exactly the same as it did the day we visited.

 The little building where Cowper would sit and write - 
He called it his "poetry factory."

 the apple harvest

From the museum we walked through the bustling Saturday streets of Olney to the church, where a wedding party was happily preparing to leave the church.   

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