« ForrigeFortsett »
The trembling family they daunt,
• Fancy is here so much blended with the humour, that I believe the two stanzas, which succeed this line, are amongst those which are the least relished by the generality. The description of the spell, I know, has appeared to many persons absolutely unintelligible; yet if the reader adverts to that peculiar idea which runs through the whole, I imagine the obscurity complained of will be removed. An incident, we see, so slight as the simple matter of fact, required something like machinery to enliven it: accordingly the Author chose, with propriety enough, to employ for that purpose those notions of witchcraft, ghosts, and enchantment, which prevailed at the time when the mansion-house was built. He describes himself as a demon of the lowest class, a wicked imp who lamed the deer, &c. against whose malevolent power Lady Cobham (the Gloriana of the piece) employs two superior enchantresses. Congruity of imagery, therefore, required the card they left upon the table to be converted into a spell. Now all the old writers, on these subjects, are very minute in describing the materials of such talismans. Hence, therefore, his grotesque idea of a composition of transparent bird-lime, edged with invisible chains, in order to catch and draw him to the tribunal. Without going further for examples of this kind of imagery than the Poet's own works, let me instance two passages of the serious kind, similar to this ludicrous one. In his Ode, intitled the Bard,
“Above, below, the rose of snow, &c.
It must, however, be allowed, that no person can fully relish this burlesque, who is not much conversant with the old romance-writers, and with the poets who formed themselves on their model.
So cunning was the apparatus,
* The humour of this and the following stanza is more pure, and consequently more obvious. It might have been written by Prior, and the wit at the end is much in his best manner.
* Here fancy is again uppermost, and soars as high on her comic, as on another occasion she does on her lyric wing; for now a chorus of ghostly old women of quality come to give sentence on the culprit Poet, just as the spirits of Cadwallo, Urien, and Hoel join the bard in dreadful symphony to denounce vengeance on Edward I. The route of fancy, we see, is the same both on the humorous and sublime occasion. No wonder, therefore, if either of them should fail of being generally tasted.
*The housekeeper. G.
* The description is here excellent, and I should think would please universally.
* Groom of the chamber. G.
* The steward. G.
"A famous highwayman hanged the week before. G.--This stanza is of the sort where wit rather than fancy prevails, consequently much in Prior's manner.
Yet something he was heard to mutter,
XIV. M.R. GRAY TO DR, WHARTON. Dec. 17, 1750. Of my house I cannot say much,” I wish I could; but for my heart it is no less yours than it has long been; and the last thing in the world that will throw it into tumults is a fine lady. The verses you so kindly try to keep in countenance, were written merely to divert Lady Cobham and her family, and succeeded accordingly; but being shewed about in town are not liked there at all. Mrs. *, a very fashionable personage, told Mr. Walpole that she had seen a thing by a friend of his which she did not know what to make of, for it aimed at everything, and meant nothing; to which he replied, that he had always taken her for a woman of sense, and was very sorry to be undeceived. On the other hand, the stanzast which I now inclose to you have had the misfortune, by Mr. Walpole's fault, to be made still more public, for which they certainly were never meant; but it is too late to complain. They have been so applauded, it is quite a shame to repeat it: I mean not to be modest; but it is a shame for those who have said such superlative things about them, that I cannot repeat them. I should have been glad that you and two or three more people had liked them, which would have satisfied my ambition on this head amply. I have been this month in town, not at Newcastle-house; but diverting myself among my gay acquaintance, and return to my cell with so much the more pleasure. I dare not speak of my future excursion to Durham for fear of a disappointment, but at present it is my full intention.
* Hagged, i.e. the face of a witch or hag ; the epithet hagard has been sometimes mistaken, as conveying the same idea; but it means a very different thing, viz. wild and farouche, and is taken from an unreclaimed hawk, called an hagard; in which, it proper sense, the Poet uses it finely on a sublime occasion:
Cloth'd in the sable garb of woe, With hagard eyes the Poet stood. Vid. Ode VI. • Here the story finishes; the exclamation of the ghosts which follow is characteristic of the Spanish manners of the age, when they are supposed to have lived; and the five hundred stanzas, said to be lost, may be imagined to contain the remainder of their long-winded expostulation. * The house he was rebuilding in Cornhill. See Letter VII. of this Section.
XV. . M.R. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE. . ... . Cambridge, Feb. 11,1751. As you have brought me into a little sort of distress, you must assist me, I believe, to get out of it as well as I can. Yesterday I had the misfortune of receiving a letter from certain gentlemen (as their bookseller expresses it), who having taken the Magazine of Magazines into their hands: they tell me that an ingenious Poem, called Reflections in a Country Churchyard, has been communicated to them, which they are printing forthwith; that they are informed that the earcellent author of it is I by name, and that they beg not only his
# Elegy in a Country Churchyard.
indulgence, but the honour of his correspondence, &c. As I am not at all disposed to be either so indulgent, or so correspondent, as they desire, I have but one bad way left to escape the honour they would inflict upon me; and therefore am obliged to desire you would make Dodsley printit immediately (which may be done in less than a week's time) from your copy, but without my name, in wha, form is most convenient for him, but on his best paperand character; he must correct the press himself and print it without any interval between the stanzas, because the sense is in some places continued beyond them and the title must be, Elegy, written in a Country Clurchyard. If he would add a line or two to say it cam into his hands by accident, I should like it better. If rou behold the Magazine of Magazines in the light thit I do, you will not refuse to give yourself this troubl on my account, which you have taken of your own accord before now. If Dodsley do not do this immediately, he may as well let it alone.
xvi. M.R. GRAY to DR. wharton. -: ..., , , , , , , , Dec. 19, 1752. HA'E you read Madame de Maintenon's letters? They areandoubtedly genuine; they begin very early in her lif before she married Scarron, and continue after the kig's death to within a little while of her own: they bur all the marks of a noble spirit (in her adversity prticularly), of virtue and unaffected devotion; insofuch, that I am almost persuaded she was actually arried to Lewis the XIV. and never his mistress: and his not out of any policy or ambition, but conscience: for he was what we should call a bigot, yet with great good sense: in short, she was too good for a court. Misfortunes in the beginning of her life had formed her mind (naturally lively and impatient) to reflection and a habit