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more justice to the virtues and genius of my friend. I might have written his life in the common form, perhaps, with more reputation to myself; but, surely, not with equal information to the reader : for whose sake I have never related a single circumstance of Mr. Gray's life in my own words, when I could employ his for the purpose. Fortunately I had more materials for this use, than commonly fall to the lot of an Editor; and I certainly have not been sparing in the use of them : whether I have been too lavish, must be left to the decision of the public.
With respect to the Latin Poems, which I have printed in the three first Sections of these Memoirs, I I must beg leave to add one word here, though a little out of place. A learned and ingenious person, to whom I communicated them, after they were printed off, was of opinion, that they contain some few expressions not warranted by any good authority; and that there are one or two false quantities to be found in them. I once had an intention to cancel the pages, and correct the passages objected to, according to my friend's criticisms; but, on second thoughts, I deemed it best to let them stand exactly as I found them in the manuscripts. The accurate classical reader will perhaps be best pleased with finding out the faulty passages himself; and his candour will easily make the proper allowances for
little mistakes in verses which he will consider never had the Author's last hand.
I might here lay down my pen, yet if any reader should still want his character, I will give him one which was published very soon after Mr. Gray's decease.* It appears to be well written; and as it comes from an anonymous pen, I choose the rather to insert it, as it will, on that account, be less suspected of partiality.
* It appeared in the London Magazine a month or two after his decease, and was prefaced with an eulogy on his poetical merit, which I did not think neces sary to reprint in a work where that merit so very fully speaks for itself.
though he seemed to value others, chiefly according to the progress they had made in knowledge ;* yet he could not bear to be considered himself merely as a man of letters; and though without birth, or fortune, or station, his desire was to be looked upon as a private independent gentleman, who read for his amusement. Perhaps it may be said, What signifies so much knowledge, when it produced so little? Is it worth taking so much pains to leave no memorial, but a few poems? But let it be considered, that Mr. Gray was to others, at least innocently employed; to himself, certainly beneficially. His time passed agreeably; he was every day making some new acquisition in science; his mind was enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue strengthened ; the world and mankind were shewn to him without a mask; and he was taught to consider every thing as trifling, and unworthy of the attention of a wise man, except the pursuit of knowledge, and the practice of virtue, in that state wherein God hath placed us.”
he generally finds himself ill at ease, if respected only on that account. Mr. Con. greve was much advanced in years when the young French poet paid him this visit; and, though a man of the world, he might now feel that indifference to literary fame which Mr. Gray, who always led a more retired and philosophic life, certainly felt much earlier. Both of them therefore might reasonably, at times, express some disgust, if their quiet was intruded upon by persons who thought they flattered them by such intrusion.
* It was not on account of their knowledge that he valued mankind. He contemned indeed all pretenders to literature, but he did not select his friends from the literary class, merely because they were literate. To be his friend it was always either necessary that a man should have something better than an improved understanding, or at least that Mr. Gray should believe he had.
FROM MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
Cambridge, Feb. 3, 1746. You are so good to inquire after my usual time of coming to town: it is at a season when even you, the perpetual friend of London, will, I fear, hardly be in itthe middle of June: and I commonly return thither in September; a month when I may more probably find
you at home.
Our defeat to be sure is a rueful affair for the honour of the troops; but the Duke is gone it seems with the rapidity of a cannon-bullet to undefeat us again. The common people in town at least know how to be afraid; but we are such uncommon people here as to have no more sense of danger, than if the battle had been fought when and where the battle of Cannæ was.
The perception of these calamities, and of their consequences, that we are supposed to get from books, is so faintly impressed, that we talk of war, famine, and pestilence with no more apprehension than of a broken head, or of a coach overturned between York and Edinburgh. I heard three people, sensible middle-aged men (when the Scotch were said to be at Stamford, and actually were at Derby), talking of hiring a chaise to go to Caxton (a place in the high road) to see the Pretender and the highlanders as they passed.
* The following series of letters, as it forms an interesting part of Mr. Gray's correspondence, could not, with propriety, be omitted in the present edition; and, it being deemed prudent to interfere, as little as possible, with Mr. Mason's arrangements, no method appeared more judicious than that of bringing them before the reader in the shape of an Appendix.—
The letters themselves, with the notes affixed, have been taken from the quarto edition of Mr. Walpole's Works,
I can say no more for Mr. Pope (for what you keep in reserve may be worse than all the rest). It is natural to wish the finest writer, one of them, we ever had, should be an honest man.
It is for the interest even of that virtue, whose friend he professed himself, and whose beauties he sung, that he should not be found a dirty animal. But, however, this is Mr. Warburton's business, not mine, who may scribble his pen to the stumps, and all in vain, if these facts are so.
It is not from what he told me about himself that I thought well of him, but from a humanity and goodness of heart, ay, and greatness of mind, that runs through his private correspondence, not less apparent than are a thousand little vanities and weaknesses mixed with those good qualities; for nobody ever took him for a philosopher.
If you know any thing of Mr. Mann's state of health and happiness, or the motions of Mr. Chute homewards, it will be a particular favour to inform me of them, as I have not heard this half year from them.
I am sincerely yours.
January, 1747. It is doubtless an encouragement to continue writing to you, when
you tell me you answer me with pleasure. I have another reason which would make me very copious, had I any thing to say; it is, that I write to you with equal pleasure, though not with equal spirits, nor with like plenty of materials: please to subtract then so much for spirit, and so much for matter; and
will find me, I hope, neither so slow nor so short, as I might otherwise seem. Besides, I had a mind to send
you the remainder of Agrippina, that was lost in a wilderness of papers. Certainly you do her too much honour: she seemed to me to talk like an Oldboy, all in figures