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to Old Park. I hope you have made my peace with the angry little lady. It is certain, whether her name were in my letter or not, she was as present to my memory as the rest of the whole family; and I desire you would present her with two kisses in my name, and one apiece to all the others; for I shall take the liberty to kiss them all (great and small), as you are to be my proxy."
In spite of the rain, which I think continued, with very short intervals, till the beginning of this month, and quite effaced the summer from the year, I made a shift to pass May and June not disagreeably in Kent. I was surprised at the beauty of the road to Canterbury, which (I know not why) had not struck me before. The whole country is a rich and well-cultivated garden; orchards, cherry-grounds, hop-gardens, intermixed with corn and frequent villages; gentle risings covered with wood, and every where the Thames and Medway breaking in upon the landscape with all their navigation. It was indeed owing to the bad weather that the whole scene was dressed in that tender emerald green, which one usually sees only for a fortnight in the opening of the spring; and this continued till I left the country. My residence was eight miles east of Canterbury, in a little quiet valley on the skirts of Barham-Down.f In these parts the whole soil is chalk, and whenever it holds up, in half an hour it is dry enough to walk out. I took the opportunity of three or four days’ fine weather to go into the Isle of Thanet; saw Margate (which is Bartholomew fair by the sea-side), Ramsgate, and other places there ; and so came by Sandwich, Deal, Dover, Folkstone, and Hithe, back again. The coast is not like Hartlepool; there are no rocks, but only chalky cliffs of no great height till you come to Dover; there indeed they are noble and picturesque, and the opposite coasts of France begin to bound your view, which was left before to range unlimited by any thing but the horizon; yet it is by no means a shipless sea, but every where peopled with white sails, and vessels of all sizes in motion: and take notice (except in the Isle, which is all corn-fields, and has very little inclosure), there are in all places hedge-rows, and tall trees even within a few yards of the beach. Particularly, Hithe stands on an eminence covered with wood. I shall confess we had fires at night (ay, and at day too) several times in June; but do not go and take advantage in the north at this, for it was the most untoward year that ever I remember.
* Some readers will think this paragraph very trifling; yet many, I hope, will take it, as I give it, for a pleasing example of the amiableness of his domestic character.
* At Denton, where his friend the Rev. William Robinson, brother to Matthew Robinson, Esq. late member for Canterbury, then resided.
Have you read the New Bath Guide It is the only thing in fashion, and is a new and original kind of humour. Miss Prue's conversion, I doubt, you will paste down, as a certain Yorkshire baronet did before he carried it to his daughters: yet I remember you all read Crazy Tales without pasting. Buffon's first collection of Monkeys is come out (it makes the fourteenth volume), something, but not much to my edification; for he is pretty well acquainted with their persons, but not with their manners.
My compliments to Mrs. Wharton and all your family; I will not name them, lest I should affront any body.
LIV. M. R. GRAY TO M lt. MASON. March 28, 1767. I BREAK in upon you at a moment, when we least of all are permitted to disturb our friends, only to say, that you are daily and hourly present to my thoughts. If the worst" be not yet past, you will neglect and pardon me: but if the last struggle be over ; if the poor object of your long anxieties be no longer sensible to your kindness, or to her own sufferings, allow me (at least in idea, for what could I do, were I present, more than this?) to sit by you in silence, and pity from my heart not her, who is at rest, but you, who lose her. May He, who made us, the Master of our pleasures and of our pains, preserve and support you ! Adieu ! I have long understood how little you had to hope.
* As this little billet (which I received at the Hot Wells at Bristol) then breathed, and still seems to breathe, the very voice of friendship in its tenderest and most pathetic note, I cannot refrain from Fo it in this place. I opened it almost at the precise moment when it would necessarily be the most affecting.
I RECEIVED from Mr. Williamson, that very obliging mark you were pleased to give me of your remembrance: had I not entertained some slight hopes of revisiting Scotland this summer, and consequently of seeing you at Aberdeen, I had sooner acknowledged, by letter, the favour you have done me. Those hopes are now at an end; but I do not therefore despair of seeing again a country that has given me so much pleasure; nor of telling you, in person, how much I esteem you and (as you choose to call them) your amusements: the specimen of them, which you were so good to send me, I think excellent; the sentiments are such as a melancholy imagination naturally suggests in solitude and silence, and that (though light and business may suspend or banish them at times) return with but so much the greater force upon a feeling heart: the diction is elegant and unconstrained; not loaded with epithets and figures, nor flagging into prose; the versification is easy and harmonious. My only objection is " * * * *f + A paragraph is here omitted, as it contained merely a few particular criticisms; a liberty of the same kind I have before taken in some of the preceding You see, Sir, I take the liberty you indulged me in, when I first saw you ; and therefore I make no excuses for it, but desire you would take your revenge on me in kind. I have read over (but too hastily) Mr. Ferguson's book. There are uncommon strains of eloquence in it: and I was surprised to find not one single idiom of his country (I think) in the whole work. He has not the fault you mention:* his application to the heart is frequent, and often successful. His love of Montesquieu and Tacitus has led him into a manner of writing too short-winded and sententious; which those great men, had they lived in better times and under a better government, would have avoided. I know no pretence that I have to the honour Lord Gray is pleased to do me:f but if his lordship chooses to own me, it certainly is not my business to deny it. I say not this merely on account of his quality, but because he is a very worthy and accomplished person. I am truly sorry for the great loss he has had since I left Scotland. If you should chance to see him, I will beg you to present my respectful humble service to his lordship. I gave Mr. Williamson all the information I was able in the short time he staid with me. He seemed to answer well the character you gave me of him : but what I chiefly envied in him, was his ability of walking all the way from Aberdeen to Cambridge, and back again ; which if I possessed, you would soon see your
letters. The poem in question contained many touching reflections on mortality: it is to be hoped Dr. Beattie will one day give it to the public.
* To explain this, I must take the liberty to transcribe a paragraph from Mr. Beattie's letter, dated March 30, to which the above is an answer: “A professor at Edinburgh has published an Essay on the History of Civil Society, but I have not seen it. It is a fault common to almost all our Scotch authors, that they are too metaphysical: I wish they would learn to speak more to the heart, and less to the understanding; but, alas! this is a talent which Heaven only can bestow: whereas the philosophic spirit (as we call it) is merely artificial and level to the capacity of every man, who has much patience, a little learning, and no taste.” He has since dilated on this just sentiment in his admirable Essay on the Immutability of Truth.
t Lord Gray had said that our Author was related to his family.
L VI. M.R. G. RA Y TO MR. BEATT.I.E. Pembroke-hall, Dec. 24, 1767. SINCE I had the pleasure of receiving your last letter, which did not reach me till I had left the north, and was come to London, I have been confined to my room with a fit of the gout: now I am recovered and in quiet at Cambridge, I take up my pen to thank you for your very friendly offers, which have so much the air of frankness and real good meaning, that were my body as tractable and easy of conveyance as my mind, you would see me to-morrow in the chamber you have so hospitably laid out for me at Aberdeen. But, alas ! I am a summer-bird, and can only sit drooping till the sun returns: even then too my wings may chance to be clipped, and little in plight for so distant an excursion. The proposal you make me, about printing at Glasgow what little I ever have written, does me honour. I leave my reputation in that part of the kingdom to your care; and only desire you would not let your partiality to me and mine mislead you. If you persist in your design, Mr. Foulis certainly ought to be acquainted with what I am now going to tell you. When I was in London the last spring, Dodsley, the bookseller, asked my leave to reprint, in a smaller form, all I ever published; to which I consented: and added, that I would send him a few explanatory notes; and if he would omit entirely the Long Story (which was never meant for the public, and only suffered to appear in that pompous edition because of Mr. Bentley's designs, which were not intelligible without it), I promised to send him something else to print instead of it, lest the bulk of so small a volume should be reduced to nothing at all. Now it is very certain that I had rather see them printed at Glasgow (especially as you will condescend to revise the press) than at London; but I