Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

more companionship among those devoted to studies in which he took no pleasure. Hence he preferred seclusion, with all its distastefulness, and made it his solace to laugh or to rail in the ear of his friends. Poetry was his banquet, and one born for the delights of imagination, might be allowed to cast a passing sneer at the perplexities of mathematical or scholastic science; but it is not so easy to apologize for that more matured disgust and incessant ridicule, which Mr. Gray afterwards displayed on all occasions, toward a place in which he was content to pass his days, and this at a time when the University was graced by such names as Bentley, Middleton, and Tunstall, Waterland, Long, and, Professor Saunderson.

Of the nature of Mr. Gray's studies, during his residence of four years at Cambridge little can be ascertained, except that he did not choose the course usually followed; and yet few, who are able to form a judgment of his powers of application, will be disposed to take him at his word, when he playfully tells his friend, that almost all the employments of his hours might be best explained by negatives : it is probable that he was then laying the foundation of that vast general knowledge for which he was afterwards so distinguished, and one thing is certain, that his poetical powers were not dormant. . He composed some Latin verses on the marriage of the Prince of Wales, and wrote, at the request of his College, the lines entitled Luna Habitabilis. He also enclosed to West a translation of a part of the fourth book of Statius, of which only a few lines are preserved by Mr. Mason; a Sapphic Ode, and Alcaic Fragment, as well as a translation from the Pastor Fido, and Gierusalemme Liberata, neither of which last have been published. To the letters which accompanied these effusions, he received answers from his friend, perpetually complaining of feeble health and dejected spirits; and a poem, in particular, addressed Ad Amicos," which, besides its classical beauty and genuine pathos, derives a deeper and sadder interest from that peculiar tone of melancholy, which is the usual forerunner of early decline.

In September, 1738, Mr. Gray left Cambridge, about six months after his friend had removed from Christ Church to the Inner Temple: and the interval, until March in the following year, he spent at his father's house in Cornhill, intending also to enter on the profession of the Law. This design, however, was interrupted by a proposal from Mr. Horace Walpole, that he should become the companion of his travels abroad, and by the end of March they had both set out on their way to France. Their course was that usually taken by travellers at that period and since, and therefore, if the reader

of course,

should find little new information in our Author's own account, in his letters, he nevertheless cannot fail of being pleased with the thousand new observations on objects, which even at that time had become sufficiently familiar. Paris was, the first place to be visited, and there our travellers fell in with the Lords Holdernesse and Waldegrave, and also with Lord Conway and his brother. With the two latter they proceeded to Rheims, where they spent three months, chiefly in order to perfect themselves in the language, and thence went on by Dijon to Lyons. There they spent some time, in the course of which they made a diversion to the Convent of La Grande Chartreuse, in Savoy, returning by Geneva. It had been the intention of Mr. Walpole to have spent the winter in the south of France; this, however, was superseded by a wish now expressed by his father, that he should hasten into Italy, and in consequence, immediately crossing the Alps at Mount Cenis, they proceeded by Turin and Genoa to Parma, and thence through Reggio, Modena, and Bologna, across the Apennines to Flo

Here they spent the winter, in the company of Mr. Horace (afterwards Sir Horace) Mann, the British Envoy, enjoying the best society, and surveying the wonders of art, collected by the taste and wealth of the house of Medicis. Mr. Gray, as he was very constant in his visits to the gallery, spent much time in forming catalogues, in classing, and making observations on the pictures of the first masters, so that his native taste was thus improved by a very complete acquaintance with the principles and excellence of the art. The intelligence, at length, that Pope Clement the Twelfth was dead, and the prospect of being present at a new election, hastened the travellers to Rome, which they reached by the beginning of April. Between two and three months were spent in viewing the wrecks of the ancient, and the wonders of the modern city, and also in making excursions to places of eminent interest, either for natural beauty or classical association. Among these were Frescati, and the cascades of Tivoli; the sight of which inspired our Author with that beautiful Alcaic Ode, inscribed “ ad C. Favoniúm Zephyrinum.” As the conclave of Cardinals prolonged their sitting without any prospect of an immediate choice, Mr. Gray set out with Mr. Walpole for Naples, which was the southern point of their tour, and which they reached by about the middle of June. As the discovery of the ancient town of Herculaneum had been but recently made, the excavations at Portici became an object of high curiosity, and after examining these, and spending too short a time in so delightful a neighbourhood, they returned to Rome, and thence again to Florence, where they settled themselves for the whole autumn and winter following.

rence.

Throughout Mr. Gray's correspondence at this period there occur expressions, which shew that in many points the arrangement of the time and course of these journeyings, was not such as he himself would have chosen, had he possessed the means of perfect independence. His own inclination evidently would have detained him longer at Rome, and doubtless he would have preferred enlarging his mind by new scenes of ancient interest, to enjoying the indolent pleasures of Florence, which he compares to absolute annihilation. Mr. Walpole's passion was gay society, and of this Florence furnished abundance; nor was it surprising that, supplied as he was with ample means, he should suit his own youthful inclination.

Mr. Gray found, on his arrival, one particular cause of distress, in a letter he received from his friend West, exhibiting a dejection of mind unusual even in one who was naturally pensive and melancholy. That amiable young man had conceived a morbid disinclination to the profession he had chosen, notwithstanding that his father's high rank and credit, and the possession of numerous friends, offered him peculiar advantages in it. Already had he received excellent advice on the subject--such as true wisdom and knowledge of the world alone

« ForrigeFortsett »