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THE three foregoing Sections have carried the reader through the juvenile part of Mr. Gray's life, and nearly,
alas, to half of its duration. Those which remain,
though less diversified by incidents, will, notwithstanding, I flatter myself, be equally instructive and amus
ling, as several of his most intimate friends have very
kindly furnished me with their collections of his letters; which, added to those I have myself preserved, will enable me to select from them many excellent specimens of his more mature judgment, correct taste, and extensive learning, blended at the same time with many amiable instances of his sensibility: they will also specify the few remaining anecdotes, which occurred in a life so retired and sedentary as his ; for the reader must be here informed that, from the winter of the year 1742 to the day of his death, his principal residence was at Cambridge. He, indeed, during the lives of his mother and aunts, spent his summer' vacations at Stoke; and, after they died, in making little tours on visits to his friends in different parts of the country: but he was seldom absent from college any considerable time, except between the years 1759 and 1762; when, on the opening of the British Museum, he took lodgings in Southampton Row, in order to have recourse to the Harleian and other Manuscripts there deposited, from which he made several curious extracts.” It may seem strange that a person who had conceived so early a dislike to Cambridge, and who (as we shall see presently) now returned to it with this prejudice * These, amounting in all to a tolerably-sized folio, are at present in Mr. Walpole's hands. He has already printed the speech of Sir Thomas Wyat from them rather augmented, should, when he was free to choose, make that very place his principal abode for near thirty years: but this I think may be easily accounted for from his love of books (ever his ruling passion), and the straitness of his circumstances which prevented the gratification of it. For to a man, who could not conveniently purchase even a small library, what situation so eligible as that which affords free access to a number of large ones? This reason also accounts for another singular fact. We have seen that, during his residence at Stoke, in the spring and summer of this same year 1742, he writ a considerable part of his more finished poems. Hence one would be naturally led to conclude that, on his return to Cambridge, when the ceremony of taking his degree was over, the quiet of the place would have prompted him to continue the cultivation of his poetical talents, and that immediately, as the muse seems in this year to have peculiarly inspired him ; but this was not the case. Reading, he has often told me, was much more agreeable to him than writing: he therefore now laid aside composition almost entirely, and applied himself with intense assiduity to the study of the best Greek authors; insomuch that, in the space of about six years, there were hardly any writers of note in that language which he had not only read but digested; remarking, by the mode of common-place, their contents, their difficult and corrupt passages, and all this with the accuracy of a critic added to the diligence of a student. Before I insert the next series of letters, I must take the liberty to mention, that it was not till about the year 1747 that I had the happiness of being introduced to the acquaintance of Mr. Gray. Some very juvenile imitations of Milton's juvenile poems, which I had written a year or two before, and of which the Monody L
in the second number of his Miscellaneous Antiquities. The public must impute it to their own want of curiosity if more of them do not appear in print.
on Mr. Pope's death was the principal,” he then, at the request of one of my friends, was so obliging as to revise. The same year, on account of a dispute which had happened between the master and fellows of Pembroke Hall, I had the honour of being nominated by the fellows to fill one of the vacant fellowships.f I was at this time scholar of St. John's College, and bachelor of arts, personally unknown to the gentlemen who favoured me so highly ; therefore that they gave me this mark of distinction and preference was greatly owing to Mr. Gray, who was well acquainted with several of that society, and to Dr. Heberden, whose known partiality to every even the smallest degree of merit, led him warmly to second his recommendation. The reader, I hope, will excuse this short piece of egotism, as it is written to express my gratitude, as well to the living as the dead, to declare the sense I shall ever retain of the honour which the fellows of Pembroke Hall then did me, and to particularize the time of an incident which brought me into the neighbourhood of Mr. Gray's college; and served to give that cement to our future intimacy, which is usually rendered stronger by proximity of place. The letters, which I select for this Section, are from the date of the year 1742 to that of 1768, when Mr. Gray was made professor of modern history. This, as it is a considerable interval of time, will perhaps require me the more frequently to resume my narrative; especially as I cannot now produce one continued chain of correspondence. * The other two were in imitation of “l’Allegro et il Penseroso,” and entitled, “Il Bellicoso et il Pacifico.” The latter of these I was persuaded to revise and 1. MR. GRAY To DR, WHARTON." Cambridge, Dec. 27, 1742. I ought to have returned you my thanks along time ago for the pleasure, I should say prodigy, of your letter; for such a thing has not happened above twice within this last age to mortal man, and no one here can conceive what it may portend. You have heard, I suppose, how I have been employed a part of the time; how, by my own indefatigable application for these ten years past, and by the care and vigilance of that worthy magistrate the man in bluef (who, I assure you, has not spared his labour, nor could have done more for his own son), I am got half way to the top of jurisprudence, and bid as fair as another body to open a case of impotency with all decency and circumspection. You see my ambition. I do not doubt but some thirty years hence I shall convince the world and you that I am a very pretty young fellow ; and may come to shine in a profession, perhaps the noblest of all except man-midwifery. As for you, if your distemper and you can but agree about going to London, I may reasonably expect in a much shorter time to see you in your three-cornered villa, doing the honours of a well-furnished table with as much dignity, as rich a mien, and as capacious a belly as Dr. Mead. Methinks I see Dr. * *, at the lower end of it, lost in admiration of your goodly person and parts, cramming down his envy (for it will rise) with the wing of a pheasant, and drowning it in neat Burgundy. But not to tempt your asthma too much with such a prospect, I should think you might be almost as happy and as great as this even in the country But you know best, and I should be sorry to say anything that might stop you in the career of glory: far be it from me to hamper the wheels of your gilded chariot Go on. Sir Thomas; and when you die (for even physicians must die may the faculty in Warwick Lane erect your statue in the very niche of Sir John Cutler's. was going to tell you how sorry I am for your illness, but I hope it is too late now I can only say that I really was very sorry May you live a hundred Christmasses, and eat as many collars of brawn stuck with rosemary. Adieu &c.
publish in the Cambridge Collection of Verses on the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748. The former has since got into a Miscellany, printed by G. Pearch, from
the indiscretion, I suppose, of some acquaintance who had a o of it. # Though nominated in 1747, I was not elected fellow, till February, 1749. The master having refused his assent, claiming a negative, the affair was therefore
not compromised till after an ineffectual litigation of two years.
* Of Old-Park, near Durham. With this gentleman Mr. Gray contracted an acquaintance very early; and though they were not educated together at Eton, §. afterward at Cambridge, when the Doctor was fellow of Pembroke Hall, they ecame intimate friends, and continued so to the time of Mr. Gray's death. * A servant of the vice-chancellor's for the time being, usually known by the name of Blue Coat, whose business it is to attend acts for degrees, &c. f i. e. Bachelor of civil law. - * *
r. Gray, on his return to Cambridge, laid aside poetry almost entirely, yet I find amongst his papers a small fragment in verse which bears internal evidence that it was written about this very time. The foregoing Letter, in which he employs so much of his usual vein of ridicule on the university, seems to be no improper introduction to it: I shall therefore insert it here without making any apology, as I have given one, on a similar occasion, in the first section. It seems to have been intended as a hymn or address to ignorance; and I presume had he proceeded with it, would have contained much good satire upon false science and scholastic pedantry. What he writ of it is purely introductory; yet many of the lines are so strong, and the general cast of the versification so musical, that I believe it will give the generality of readers a higher opinion of his poetical talents, than many of his lyrical productions have done. I speak of the generality; because it is a certain fact, that their taste is founded upon the ten-syllable couplets of Dryden and Pope, and upon these only.