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far as my short sight can go, the character of his great art and penetration is very just; he is indeed Nulli penetrabilis astro. I go to-morrow to Epsom, where I shall be for about a month. Excuse me, I am in haste,” but believe me always, &c. August 29, 1738.
XVI. M.R. GRAY TO MR. W. ALPOLE.
My dear Sir, I should say Mr. Inspector General of the Exports and Imports;f but that appellation would make but an odd figure in conjunction with the three familiar monosyllables above written, for
Non bené conveniunt nec in ună sede morantür
Which is, being interpreted, Love does not live at the Custom-house: however, by what style, title, or denomination soever you choose to be dignified or distinguished hereafter, these three words will stick by you like a burr, and you can no more get quit of these and your Christian name than St. Anthony could of his pig. My motions at present (which you are pleased to ask after) are much like those of a pendulum or (Dr. Longically speaking) oscillatory. I swing from chapel or hall home, and from home to chapel or hall. All the strange incidents that happen in my journies and returns I shall be sure to acquaint you with : the most wonderful is, that it now rains exceedingly; this has refreshed the prospect, as the way for the most part lies between green fields on either hand, terminated with buildings at some distance, castles, I presume, and of great antiquity. The roads are very good, being, as I suspect, the works of Julius Caesar's army; for they still preserve, in many places, the appearance of a pavement in pretty good repair, and, if they were not so near home, might perhaps be as much admired as the Via Appia : there are, at present, several rivulets to be crossed, and which serve to enliven the view all around. The country is exceeding fruitful in ravens and such black cattle; but, not to tire you with my travels, I
* Mr. West seems to have been indeed in haste when he writ this letter; else, surely his fine taste would have led him to have been more profuse in his praise of the Alcaic fragment. He might, I think, have said, without paying too extravagant a compliment to Mr. Gray's genius, that no poet of the Augustan age ever produced four more perfect lines, or what would sooner impose upon the best critic, as being a genuine ancient composition.
# Mr. Walpole was just named to that post, which he exchanged soon after for that of Usher of the Exchequer.
# Dr. Long, the master of Pembroke-hall, at this time read lectures in experimental philosophy.
$ All that follows is a humourously-hyperbolic description of the quadrangle of Peterhouse.
1 AM coming away all so fast, and leaving behind me, without the least remorse, all the beauties of Sturbridge Fair. Its white bears may roar, its apes may wring their hands, and crocodiles cry their eyes out, all's one for that; I shall not once visit them, nor so much as take my leave. The university has published a severe edict against schismatical congregations, and created half a dozen new little procterlings to see its orders executed, being under mighty apprehensions lest Henley* and his gilt tub should come to the fair and seduce their young ones: but their pains are to small purpose; for lo! after all, he is not coming. I am at this instant in the very agonies of leaving college, and would not wish the worst of my enemies a worse situation. If you knew the dust, the old boxes, the bedsteads, and tutors, that are about my ears, you would look upon this letter as a great effort of my resolution and unconcernedness in the midst of evils. I
* Orator Henley.
fill up my paper with a loose sort of version of that
scene in Pastor Fido that begins, Care selve beati.” Sept. 1738.
XVIII. M.R. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
I THANK you again and again for your two last most agreeable letters. They could not have come more a-propos; I was without any books to divert me, and they supplied the want of everything : I made them my classics in the country; they were my Horace and Tibullus—Non ita loquor assentandi causá, ut probe nosti si me noris, verum guia sic mea est sententia. I am but just come to town, and, to shew you my esteem of your favours, I venture to send you by the penny post, to your father's, what you will find on the next page; I hope it will reach you soon after your arrival, your boxes out of the waggon, yourself out of the coach, and tutors out of your memory. Adieu ! we shall see one another, I hope, to-morrow. E.L.E.G.I.A. Quod mihi tam gratae misisti dona Camoenae, Qualia Maenalius Pan Deus ipse velit, Amplector te, Graie, et toto corde reposco, Oh desiderium jam nimis usque meum :
* This Latin version is extremely elegiac, but, as it is only a version, I do not insert it. Mr. Gray did not begin to learn Italian till about a year and a half before he translated this scene; and I find amongst his papers an English translation of part of the fourth Canto of Tasso's Gierusalemma Liberata, done previously to this, which has great merit. In a letter to Mr. West, dated March, 1737, he says, “I learn Italian like any dragon, and in two months am got through the sixteenth book of Tasso, whom I hold in great admiration: I want you to learn too, that I may know your opinion of him; nothing can be easier than that language to any one who knows Latin and French already, and there are few so copious and expressive.” In the same letter he tells him, “that his college has set him a versifying on a public occasion, (viz. those verses which are called Tripos) on the theme of Luna est habitabilis.” The poem, I believe, is to be found in the Musae Etonenses. I would further observe, on this occasion, that though Mr. Gray had lately read and translated Statius, yet when he attempted composition, his judgment immediately directed him to the best model of versification; accordingly his hexameters are, as far as modern ones can be, after the manner of Virgil: they move in the succession of his pauses and close with his elisions.
Sicubi lympha fugit liquido pede, sive virentem
Mr. Gray, on his return to town, continued at his father's house in Cornhill till the March following, in which interval Mr. Walpole being disinclined to enter so early into the business of Parliament, prevailed on Sir Robert Walpole to permit him to go abroad, and on Mr. Gray (as was said before) to be the companion of his travels. Mr West spent the greatest part of the winter with his mother and sister at Epsom, during which time a letter or two more passed between the two friends. But these I think it unnecessary to insert, as I have already given sufficient specimens of the blossoms of their genius. The reader of taste and candour will, I trust, consider them only as such; yet will be led to think that, as the one produced afterward “fruits worthy of paradise,” the other would also have produced them, had he lived to a more mature age.
As I allot this section entirely to that part of Mr. Gray's life, which he spent in travelling through France and Italy, my province will be chiefly that of an Editor; and my only care to select, from a large collection of letters written to his parents and to his friend Mr. West, those parts which, I imagine, will be most likely either to inform or amuse the reader. The multiplicity of accounts, published both before and after the time when these letters were written, of those very places which Mr. Gray describes, will necessarily take from them much of their novelty; yet the elegant ease of his epistolary style has a charm in it for all readers of true taste, that will make every apology of this sort needless. They will perceive, that as these letters were written without even the most distant view of publication, they are essentially different in their manner of description from any other that have either preceded or followed them; add to this, that they are interspersed occasionally with some exquisitely finished pieces of Latin poetry, which he composed on the spot for the entertainment of his friend. But, not to anticipate any part of the reader's pleasure, I shall only further say, to forewarn him of a disappointment, that this correspondence is defective towards the end, and includes no description either of Venice or its territory; the last places which Mr. Gray visited. This defect was occasioned by an unfortunate disagreement between him and Mr.Walpole, arising from the difference of their tempers. The former being, from his earliest years, curious, pensive, and philosophical;