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X. M.R. GRAY TO D R. W.H.A.R.T.O.N., - Cambridge, April 25, 1749.
I PERCEIVE that second parts are as bad to write as they can be to read; for this, which you ought to have had a week after the first, has been a full month in coming forth. The spirit of laziness (the spirit of the place) begins to possess even me, who have so long declaimed against it; yet has it not so prevailed, but that I feel that discontent with myself, that ennui, that ever accompanies it in its beginnings. Time will settle my conscience; time will reconcile me to this languid companion; we shall smoke, we shall tipple, we shall doze together; we shall have our little jokes like other people, and our old stories : brandy will finish what port began; and a month after the time you will see in some corner of a London Evening-Post, “Yesterday died the Reverend Mr. John Gray, Senior Fellow of Clare-Hall, a facetious companion, and well respected by all that knew him. His death is supposed to have been occaioned by a fit of an apoplexy, being found fallen out of bed with his head in the chamber-pot.”
In the meanwhile, to go on with my account of new books. Montesquieu's work, which I mentioned before, is now publishing anew in two vols. octavo. Have you seen old Crebillon's Catalina, a tragedy, which has had a prodigious run at Paris? Historical truth is too much perverted in it, which is ridiculous in a story so generally known; but if you can get over this, the sentiments and versification are fine, and most of the characters (particularly the principal one) painted with great spirit.
Mr. Birch, the indefatigable, has just put out a thick octavo of original papers of Queen Elizabeth's time; there are many curious things in it, particularly letters from Sir Robert Cecil (Salisbury) about his negociations with Henry IV. of France, the Earl of Monmouth's odd account of Queen Elizabeth's death, several peculiarities of James I. and Prince Henry, &c. and above all, an excellent account of the state of France, with characters of the king, his court, and ministry, by Sir George Carew, ambassador there. This, I think, is all new worth mentioning, that I have seen or heard of; except a Natural History of Peru, in Spanish, printed at London, by Don something, a man of learning, sent thither by that court on purpose.
You ask after my Chronology. It was begun, as I told you, almost two years ago, when I was in the midst of Diogenes Laertius and his philosophers, as a procemium to their works. My intention in forming this table was not so much for public events, though these too have a column assigned them, but rather in a literary way to compare the time of all great men, their writings, and their transactions. I have brought it from the thirtieth Olympiad, where it begins, to the hundred and thirteenth; that is, three hundred and thirty-two years.” My only modern assistants were Marsham, Dodwell, and Bentley.
I have since that read Pausanias and Athenaeus all through, and AEschylus again. I am now in Pindar and Lysias; for I take verse and prose together like bread and cheese.
XI. M. R. GRAY TO D R. W H A RTON.
I PROM is ED Dr. Keene long since to give you an ac
count of our magnificences here;f but the newspapers, and he himself in person, have got the start of my indolence, so that by this time you are well acquainted with all the events that adorned that week of wonders. Thus much I may venture to tell you, because it is probable nobody else has done it, that our friend **'s zeal and eloquence surpassed all power of description. Vesuvio in an eruption was not more violent than his utterance, nor (since I am at my mountains) Pelion, with all its pine-trees in a storm of wind, more impetuous than his action; and yet the Senate-House still stands, and (I thank God) we are all safe and well at your service. I was ready to sink for him, and scarce dared to look about me, when I was sure it was all over; but soon found I might have spared my confusion; all people joined to applaud him. Every thing was quite right; and I dare swear, not three people here but think him a model of oratory; for all the Duke's little court came with a resolution to be pleased; and when the tone was once given, the university, who ever wait for the judgment of their betters, struck into it with an admirable harmony: for the rest of the performances, they were just what they usually are. Every one, while it lasted, was very gay and busy in the morning, and very owlish and very tipsy at night: I make no exceptions from the Chancellor to Blue-Coat. Mason's Ode was the only entertainment that had any tolerable elegance; and, for my own part, I think it (with some littleabatements) uncommonly well on such an occasion. Pray let me know your sentiments; for doubtless you have seen it. The author of it grows apace into my good graces, as I know him more; he is very ingenious, with great good nature and simplicity; a little vain, but in so harmless and so comical away, that it does not offend one at all; a little ambitious, but withal so ignorant in the world and its ways, that this does not hurt him in one's opinion; so sincere and so undisguised, that no mind, with a spark of generosity, would ever think of hurting him, he lies so open to injury; but so indolent, that if he cannot overcome this habit, all his good qualities will signify nothing at all. After all, I like him so well, I could wish you knew him.
* This laborious work was formed much in the manner of the President Henault's ‘Histoire de France.” Every page consisted of nine columns; one for the Olympiad, the next for the Archons, the third for the public affairs of Greece, the threenext for the philosophers, and the three last for poets, historians, and orators. I do not find it carried further than the date above-mentioned.
f The Duke of Newcastle's installation as chancellor of the university.
XII. M. R. G R A Y TO H IS MOTHER. F--, - Cambridge, Nov. 7, 1749. THE unhappy news I have just received from you equally surprises and afflicts me.” I have lost a person I loved very much, and have been used to from my infancy; but am much more concerned for your loss, the circumstances of which I forbear to dwell upon, as you must be too sensible of them yourself; and will, I fear, more and more need a consolation that no one can give, except He who has preserved her to you so many years, and at last, when it was his pleasure, has taken her from us to himself: and perhaps, if we reflect upon what she felt in this life, we may look upon this as an instance of his goodness both to her, and to those that loved her. She might have languished many years before our eyes in a continual increase of pain, and totally helpless; she might have long wished to end her misery without being able to attain it; or perhaps even lost all sense, and yet continued to breathe; a sad spectacle to such as must have felt more for her than she could have done for herself. However you may deplore your own loss, yet think that she is at last easy and happy; and has now more occasion to pity us than we her. I hope, and beg, you will support yourself with that resignation we owe to Him who gave us our being for our good, and have come to you directly, but you do not say whether you desire I should or not; if you do, I beg I may know it, for there is nothing to hinder me, and I am in very good health.
who deprives us of it for the same reason. I would * * The death of his aunt, Mrs. Mary Antrobus, who died the 5th of November, and was buried in a vault in Stoke churchyard, near the chancel door, in which also his mother and himself (according to the direction in his will) were afterward buried.
XIII. M.R. GRAY TO DR. W H A RTON. Stoke, August 9, 1750. ARISTOTLE says (one may write Greek to you without - scandal) that Oi rérot ov 8a)\ova riv pixtav dirAsoc, d\\d rov #vépystav' tav 8é xpóvoc n dirovala yévnraw kai ric pixiac 8oks. Añ0m, trousiv. 60sv sipmrat IIoxxâ; 3% pixia; 3rpornyopia 2.Éavorsy. But Aristotle may say whatever he pleases, I do not find myself at all the worse for it. I could indeed wish to refresh my'Evépysia a little at Durham by the sight of you, but when is there a probability of my being so happy? It concerned me greatly when I heard the other day that your asthma continued at times to afflict you, and that you were often obliged to go into the country to breathe; you cannot oblige me more than by giving me an account both of the state of your body and mind: I hope the latter is able to keep you cheerful and easy in spite of the frailties of its companion. As to my own, it can neither do one nor the other; and I have the mortification to find my spiritual part the most infirm thing about me. You have doubtless heard of the loss I have had in Dr. Middleton, whose house was the only easy place one could find to converse in at Cambridge: for my part I find a friend so uncommon a thing, that I cannot help regretting even an old acquaintance, which is an indifferent likeness of it; and though I do not approve the spirit of his books, methinks 'tis pity the world should lose so rare a thing as a good writer.”
* Mr. Gray used to say, that good writing not only required great parts, but the very best of those parts. .