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Hail, horrors, hail! ye ever gloomy bowers,
* * * * a team of harness'd monarchs bend
11. M.R. GRAY To DR. wha RTON. Peterhouse, April 26, 1744. You write so feelingly to Mr. Brown, and represent your abandoned condition in terms so touching, that what gratitude could not effect in several months, compassion has brought about in a few days; and broke that strong attachment, or rather allegiance, which I and all here owe to our sovereign lady and mistress, the president of presidents and head of heads (if I may be permitted to pronounce her name, that ineffable Octogrammaton), the power of Laziness. You must know she had been pleased to appoint me (in preference to so many old servants of hers who had spent their whole lives in qualifying themselves for the office) grand picker of straws and push-pin player to her Supinity (for that is her title). The first is much in the nature of lord president of the council; and the other like the groomporter, only without the profit; but as they are both things of very great honour in this country, I considered with myself the load of envy attending such great charges; and besides (between you and me) I found myself unable to support the fatigue of keeping up the appearance that persons of such dignity must do, so I thought proper to decline it, and excused myself as well as I could. However, as you see such an affair must take up a good deal of time, and it has always been the policy of this court to proceed slowly, like the Imperial and that of Spain, in the dispatch of business, you will on this account the easier forgive me, if I have not answered your letter before. You desire to know, it seems, what character the poem of your young friend bears here.* I wonder that you ask the opinion of a nation, where those, who pretend to judge, do not judge at all; and the rest (the wiser part) wait to catch the judgment of the world immediately above them; that is, Dick's and the Rainbow coffee-houses. Your readier way would be to ask the ladies that keep the bars in those two theatres of criticism. However, to shew you that I am a judge, as well as my countrymen, I will tell you, though I have rather turned it over than read it (but no matter; no more have they), that it seems to me above the middling; and now and then, for a little while, rises even to the best, particularly in description. It is often obscure, and even unintelligible; and too much infected with the Hutchinson jargon. In short, its great fault is, that it was published at least nine years too early. And so methinks in a few words, “a la mode du Temple.” I have very pertly dispatched what perhaps may for several years have employed a very ingenious man worth fifty of myself.
* Pleasures of the Imagination: from the posthumous publication of Dr. Akinside's Poems, it should seem that the author had very much the same opinion afterward of his own work, which Mr. Gray here expresses: since he undertook a reform of it, which must have given him, had he concluded it, as much trouble as if he had written it entirely new.
You are much in the right to have a taste for Socrates; he was a divine man. I must tell you, by way of news of the place, that the other day a certain new professor made an apology for him an hour long in the schools; and all the world brought in Socrates guilty, except the people of his own college.
The muse is gone, and left me in far worse company; if she returns, you will hear of her. As to her child" (since you are so good as to inquire after it) it is but a puling chit yet, not a bit grown to speak of; I believe, poor thing, it has got the worms that will carry it off at last. Mr. Trollope and I are in a course of tarwater; he for his present, and I for my future distempers. If you think it will kill me, send away a man and horse directly; for I drink like a fish.
III. M. R. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON. Cambridge, Dec. 11, 1746. I would make you an excuse (as indeed I ought), if they were a sort of thing I ever gave any credit to myself in these cases; but I know they are never true. Nothing
• He here means his Poem, “De Principiis Cogitandi.” See the last Section. '
so silly as indolence when it hopes to disguise itself: every one knows it by its saunter, as they do his Majesty (God bless him) at a masquerade, by the firmness of his tread, and the elevation of his chin. However, somewhat I had to say that has a little shadow of reason in it. I have been in town (I suppose you know), flaunting about at all kind of public places with two friends lately returned from abroad. The world itself has some attractions in it to a solitary of six years' standing: and agreeable well-meaning people of sense (thank heaven there are so few of them) are my peculiar magnet. It is no wonder then, if I felt some reluctance at parting with them so soon; or if my spirits, when I returned back to my cell, should sink for a time, not indeed to storm and tempest, but a good deal below changeable. Besides, Seneca says (and my pitch of philosophy does not pretend to be much above Seneca), “Nunguam mores, quos extuli, refero. Aliquid ex eo quod composui, turbatur: aliquid ex his, quae fugavi, redit.” And it will happen to such as us, mere imps of science. Well it may, when wisdom herself is forced often - in sweet retired solitude To plume her feathers, and let grow her wings, That in the various bustle of resort Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impair’d. It is a foolish thing that without money one cannot either live as-one pleases, or where and with whom one pleases. Swift somewhere says, that money is liberty; and I fear money is friendship too and society, and almost every external blessing. It is a great, though an ill-natured comfort, to see most of those who have it in plenty, without pleasure, without liberty, and without friends. I am not altogether of your opinion as to your historical consolation in time of trouble: a calm melancholy it may produce, a stiller sort of despair (and that only in some circumstances, and on some constitutions); but I doubt no real comfort or content can ever arise in the human mind, but from hope.
I take it very ill you should have been in the twentieth year of the war,” and yet say nothing of the retreat before Syracuse: is it, or is it not, the finest thing you ever read in your life? and how does Xenophon or Plutarch agree with you? For my part I read Aristotle, his poetics, politics, and morals; though I do not well know which is which. In the first place, he is the . hardest author by far I ever meddled with. Then he has a dry conciseness, that makes one imagine one is perusing a table of contents rather than a book: it tastes for all the world like chopped hay, or rather like chopped logic; for he has a violent affection to that art, being in some sort his own invention; so that he often loses himself in little trifling distinctions and verbal niceties; and, what is worse, leaves you to extricate him as well as you can. Thirdly, he has suffered vastly from the transcribblers, as all authors of great brevity necessarily must. Fourthly and lastly, he has abundance of fine uncommon things, which make him well worth the pains he gives one. “You see what you are to expect from him.
IV. M. R. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE. Cambridge, 1747. I HAD been absent from this place a few days, and at my return found Cibber's books upon my table: I return you my thanks for it, and have already run over a considerable part: for who could resist Mrs. Letitia Pilkington's recommendation? (By the way, is there
- * Thucydides, 1. vii. # Entitled “Observations on Cicero's Character,” or some such thing; for I have not the book by me, and it has been long since forgot.