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XXX. M.R. GRAY TO MR, WEST.,
I KNow not what degree of satisfaction it will give you to be told that we shall set out from hence the 24th of this month, and not stop above a fortnight at any place in our way. This I feel, that you are the principal pleasure I have to hope for in my own country. Try at least to make me imagine myself not indifferent to you; for Imust own I have the vanity of desiring to be esteemed by somebody, and would choose that somebody should be one whom I esteem as much as I do you. As I am recommending myself to your love, methinks I ought to send you my picture (for I am no more what I was, some circumstances excepted, which I hope I need not particularize to you); you must add then, to your former idea, two years of age, a reasonable quantity of dulness, a great deal of silence, and something that rather resembles, than is, thinking; a confused notion of many strange and fine things that have swum before my eyes for some time, a want of love for general society, indeed an inability to it. On the good side you may add a sensibility for what others feel, and indulgence for their faults or weaknesses, a love of truth, and detestation of every thing else. Then you are to deduct a little impertinence, a little laughter, a great deal of pride, and some spirits. These are all the alterations I know of, you perhaps may find more. Thinknot that I have been obliged for this reformation of manners to reason or reflection, but to a severer school-mistress, Experience. One has little merit in learning her lessons, for one cannot well help it; but they are more useful than others, and imprint themselves in the very heart. I find I have been haranguing in the style of the son of Sirach, so shall finish here, and tell you that our rout is settled as follows: first to Bologna for a few days, to hear the Wiscontina sing; next to Reggio, where is a fair. Now, you must know, a fair here is not a place where one eats gingerbread or rides upon hobby-horses; here are no musical clocks, nor tall Leicestershire women; one has nothing butmasquing, gaming, and singing. If you love operas, there will be the most splendid in Italy, four tip-top voices, a new theatre, the Duke and Duchess in all their pomps and vanities. Does not this sound magnificent? Yet is the city of Reggio but one step above Old Brentford. Well; next to Venice by the 11th of May, there to see the old Doge wed the Adriatic Whore. Then to Verona, so to Milan, so to Marseilles, so to Lyons, so to Paris, so to West, &c. in sacula saoculorum. Amen. Eleven months, at different times, have I passed at Florence; and yet (God help me) know not either people or language. Yet the place and the charming prospects demand a poetical farewell, and here it is. * * Oh Faesulae amaena Frigoribus juga, nec nimiäm spirantibus auris! Alma quibus Tusci Pallas decus Apennini Esse dedit, glaucáque suā canescere sylva! Non ego vos posthåc Arni de valle videbo Porticibus circum, et candenti cincta corona Willarum longènitido consurgere dorso,
Antiquamve AEdem, et veteres praeferre Cupressus
I will send you, too, a pretty little Sonnet of a Sig'. Abbate Buondelmonte, with my imitation of it.
Spesso Amor sotto la forma
Lusit amicitiae interdum velatus amictu,
Mox irae assumsit cultus, faciemque minantem,
Here comes a letter from you I must defer giving my opinion of Pausanias" till I can see the whole, and only have said what I have in obedience to your commands. I have spoken with such freedom on this head, that it seems but just you should have your revenge; and therefore I send you the beginning, not of an epic poem, but of a metaphysics one. Poems and metaphysics (say you, with your spectacles on) are inconsistent things. A metaphysical poem is a contradiction in terms. It is true, but I will go on. It is Latin too to increase the absurdity. It will, I suppose, put you in mind of the man who wrote a Treatise of Canon Law in hexameters. Pray help me to the description of a mixed mode, and a little Episode about Space.
Mr. Walpole and Mr. Gray set out from Florence at the time specified in the foregoing Letter. When Mr. Gray left Venice, which he did the middle of July following, he returned home through Padua, Verona, Milan, Turin, and Lyons. From all which places he writ either to his father or mother with great punctuality: but merely to inform them of his health and safety; about which (as might be expected) they were now very anxious, as he travelled with only a laquais de voyage. These letters do not even mention that he went out of his way to make a second visit to the Grande Chartreuse,” and there wrote in the Album of the Fathers the following Alcaic Ode,f with which I conclude this section. •
* Some part of a tragedy under that title, which Mr. West had begun; but I do not find amongst Mr. Gray's papers either the sketch itself, or Mr. Gray's free critique upon it, which he here mentions.
# The beginning of the first book of a didactic poem, “De Principiis Cogitandi.” The fragment which he now sent contained the first fifty-three lines. The reader will find a further account of his design, and all that he finished of the Poem, in a subsequent Section.
O D E.
Oh Tu, severi Religio loci,
WHEN Mr. Gray returned from abroad, he found his father's constitution almost entirely worn out by the very severe attacks of the gout, to which he had been for many years subject; and indeed the next return of that distemper was fatal to him. This happened about two months after his son reached London.]
* He was at Turin the 15th of August, and began to cross the Alps the next day. On the 25th he reached Lyons; therefore it must have been between these two dates that he made this visit.
t. We saw in the eighth and eleventh Letters how much Mr. Gray was struck with the awful scenery which surrounds the Chartreuse, at a time his mind must have been in a far more tranquil state than when he wrote this excellent Ode. It is marked, I think, with all the finest touches of his melancholy Muse, and flows with such an originality of expression, that one can hardly lament he did not honour his own language by making it the vehicle of this noble imagery and pathetic sentiment.
: He came to town about the 1st of September, 1741. His father died the 6th of November following, at the age of sixty-five.
It has been before observed, that Mr. Philip Gray was of a reserved and indolent temper; he was also morose, unsocial, and obstinate; defects which, if not inherent in his disposition, might probably arise from his bodily complaints. His indolence had led him to neglect the business of his profession;” his obstinacy, to build a country-house at Wanstead, without acquainting either his wife or son with the design, to which he knew they would be very averse, till it was executed. This building, which he undertook late in life, was attended with very considerable expense; which might also be called so much money thrown away: since, after his death, the house was obliged to be sold for two thousand pounds less than its original cost. Mr. Gray, therefore, at this time found his patrimony so small, that it would by no means enable him to prosecute the study of the law, without his becoming burthensome to his mother and aunt. These two sisters had for many years carried on a trades separate from that of Mrs. Gray's husband; by which having acquired what would support them decently for the rest of their lives, they left off business soon after his death, and retired to Stoke, near Windsor, to the house of their other sister, Mrs. Rogers, lately become the widow of a gentleman of that name.f. Both of them wished Mr. Gray to follow the profession for which he had been originally intended, and would undoubtedly have contributed all in their power to enable him to do it with ease and conveniency.
* His business was that which at the time was called a money-scrivener; and it may not be amiss to mention, for the singularity of the thing, that Milton's father was of the same profession: but he also had “music in his soul,” and was esteemed a considerable master in that science. Some of his compositions are extant in Old Wilby's Set of Airs, and in Ravenscroft's Psalms. The great Poet alludes finely both to the musical genius, and the trade of his father in those beautiful hexame| ters, “Ad Patrem,” which are inserted amongst his Latin Poems t They kept a kind of India warehouse on Cornhill under the joint names of Gray and Antrobus. - - --# Mr. Rogers had in the earlier part of his life followed the profession of the law, but retired from business many years before his death. I suppose he was the uncle mentioned in Letter ix. Sect. I.