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of piety. She was always miserable while she had the care of Madame de Montespan's children; timid and very cautious of making use of that unlimited power she rose to afterward, for fear of trespassing on the King's friendship for her; and after his death not at all afraid of meeting her own. I do not know what to say to you with regard to Racine; it sounds to me as if any body should fall upon Shakspeare, who indeed lies infinitely moe open to criticism of all kinds; but I should not care:o be the person that undertook it. If you do not like Athaliah or Britannicus, there is no more to be said, lhave done. Bishop Hall's satires, called Virgidemae, are lately republished. They are full of spirit and poetry; as much of the first as Dr. Donne, and far more of the latter: they were written at the university when he was about twenty-three years old, and in QueenBlizabeth's time. You do not say whether you have read the Crito.” I only recommend the dramatic part of the Phaedo to you, not the argumentative. The subject of the Erastas is good; it treats of that peculiar character and un of mind which belongs to a true philosopher, but is shorter than one would wish. The Euthyphro I wald
not read at all.
XVII. M. R. GRAY TO MR. W. A LPOLE. Stoke, Jan. 1753, I AM at present at Stoke, to which place I came at hal an hour's warning upon the news I received of my mo ther's illness, and did not expect to have found he alive; but when I arrived she was much better, and continues so. I shall therefore be very glad to make you a visit at Strawberry-Hill, whenever you give me * Of Plato. - * notice of a convenient time. I am surprised at the print," which far surpasses my idea of London graving: the drawing itself was so finished, that I suppose it did not require all the art I had imagined to copy it tolerably. My aunts seeing me open your letter, took it to be a burying ticket, and asked whether any body had left me a ring; and so they still conceive it to be, even with all their spectacles on. Heaven forbid they should suspect it to belong to any verses of mine, they would burn me for a poet. On my own part I am satisfied, if this design of yours succeed so well as you intend it; and yet I know it will be accompanied with something not at all agreeable to me.—While I write this, I receive your second letter.—Sure you are not out of your wits! This I know, if you suffer my head to be printed, you will infallibly put me out of mine. I conjure you immediately to put a stop to any such design. Who is at the expense of engraving it, I know not; but if it be Dodsley, I will make up the loss to him. The thing as it was, I know, will make me ridiculous enough; but to appear in proper person, at the head of my works, consisting of half a dozen ballads in thirty pages, would be worse than the pillory. I do assure you, if I had received such a book, with such a frontispiece, without any warning, I believe it would have given me a palsy: therefore I rejoice to have received this notice, and shall not be easy till you tell me all thoughts of it are laid aside. I am extremely in earnest, and cannot bear even the idea. - I had written to Dodsley if I had not received yours,
* A proof print of the Cul de Lampe, which Mr. Bentley designed for the Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and which represents a village-funeral; this occasioned the pleasant mistake of his two aunts. The remainder of the letter relates entirely to the projected publication of Mr. Bentley's designs, which were printed after by Dodsley this same year. The latter part of it, where he so vehemently declares against having his head prefixed to that work, will appear highly characteristical, to those readers who were personally acquainted with Mr. Gray. The print, which was taken from an original picture, painted by Echart, in Mr.Walpole's possession, was actually more than half engraved; but afterward on this account suppressed.
to tell him how little I liked the title which he meant to prefix; but your letter has put all that out of my head. If you think it necessary to print these explanations” for the use of people that have no eyes, I should be glad to have them a little altered. I am, to my shame, in your debt for a long letter; but I cannot think of anything else till you have set me at ease on this matter. • -- - * . . . . . . .
While Mr. Bentley was employed in making the designs mentioned in the preceding letter, Mr. Gray, who greatly admired not only the elegance of his fancy, but also the neatness as well as facility of his execution, began a complimentary poem to him, which I shall now insert. Many readers will perhaps think the panegyric carried too far; as I own I did when he first shewed it me. Yet it is but justice to declare, that the original drawings, now in Mr. Walpole's possession, which I have 'since seen, are so infinitely superior to the published engravings of them, that a person, who has only seen the latter, can by no means judge of the excellencies of the former: besides, there is so much of grotesque fancy in the designs themselves, that it can be no great matter of wonder (even if the engravers had done justice to them) that they failed to please universally. What I have said in defence of the Long Story might easily be applied to these productions of the sister art: but not to detain the reader from the perusal of a fragment, many stanzas of which are equal in poetical merit to the best of his most finished poems, I shall here only add, that it was for the sake of the design which Mr. Bentley made for the Long Story that Mr. Gray permitted it to be printed; yet not without clearly foreseeing that he risked somewhat by the publication of it, as he intimates in the
... • ; the above-mentioned designs, where the explanations here alluded to are inserted. -
preceding letter: and indeed the event shewed his judgment to be true in this particular, as it proved the least popular of all his productions.
STANZAs To MR. BENTLEY.
In silent gaze the tuneful choir among,
A sigh of soft reflection hea e the heart. -
In the March following Mr. Gray lost that mother for whom, on all occasions, we have seen he shewed so tender a regard. She was buried in the same vault where her sister's remains had been deposited more than three years before. As the inscription on the tombstone (at least the latter part of it) is undoubtedly Mr. Gray's writing, it here would claim a place, even if it had not
- * * *
f A corner of the only manuscript copy which Mr. Gray left of this fragment is unfortunately torn, and though I have endeavoured to supply the chasm, I am not quite satisfied with the words which I have inserted in the third line. I print my additions in italics, and shall be much pleased if any reader finds a better supplement to this imperfect stanza.
a peculiar pathos to recommend it, and, at the same time, a true inscriptive simplicity.
IN THE VAULT BEN EATH ARE DEPosite D,
IN THE SAME PIous con FIDENCE,
XVIII. M.R. GRAY TO M. R. MASON.
Durham, Dec. 26, 1753. A Little while before I received your melancholy , letter, I had been informed by Mr. Charles Avison of one of the sad events you mention.* I know what it is to lose persons that one's eyes and heart have long been used to; and I never desire to part with the remembrance of that loss, nor would wish you should. It is something that you had a little time to acquaint yourself with the idea beforehand; and that your father suffered but little pain, the only thing that makes death terrible. After I have said this, I cannot help expressing my surprise at the disposition he has made of his affairs. I must (if * The death of my father, and of Dr. Marmaduke Pricket, a young physician of
my own age, with whom I was brought up from my infancy, who died of the same infectious fever.