« AnteriorContinuar »
his mind had a large grasp ; that his curiosity was unlimited, and his judgement cultivated ; that he was a man likely to love much where he loved at all', but that he was fastidious and hard to please?. His contempt, however, is often employed, where I hope it will be approved, upon scepticism and infidelity”. His short account of Shaftesbury I will insert *.
*You say you cannot conceive how lord Shaftesbury came to be a philosopher in vogue; I will tell you: first, he was a lord ; secondly, he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, men are very prone to believe what they do not understand; fourthly, they will believe any thing at all
, provided they are under no obligation to believe it ; fifthly, they love to take a new road, even when that road leads no where ; sixthly, he was reckoned a fine writer, and seems (seemed] always to mean more than he said. Would
have any more reasons ? An interval of above forty years has pretty well destroyed the charm. A dead lord ranks (but] with commoners 5: vanity is no longer interested in the matter; for a new road is [has] become an old one.'
wrong a judgment as they could things themselves, and he chose to make; for Gray never wrote anything put on this appearance chiefly before easily but things of humour. Humour persons whom he did not wish to was his natural and original turn.' please.' Mason, ii. 322 n. WALPOLE, Letters, vi. 206.
Gray, in answer to a letter from 'I once thought Swift's letters the Walpole, says of the French :-'I best that could be written; but I like rejoice at their dulness and their Gray's better.' COWPER, Works, xv. nastiness. ... Their atheism is a little 38.
too much, too shocking to rejoice at. "Were it not for Gray's Letters, I have been long sick at it in their which are full of warm exuberant authors, and hated them for it; but power, we might almost doubt I pity their poor innocent people of whether Gray was a man of genius; fashion. They were bad enough nay, was a living man at all.' CAR- when they believed everything.' MitLYLE, Goethe, Misc. (n. d.) i. 185. ford, iv. 69. See also ib. p. 190.
'Mark Pattison,' writes Mr. Morley He shows a liberal spirit in criti(Crit. Misc. 1886, iii. 162), 'used to cizing one of Middleton's unpublished contend that in many respects the works. “The rest (of it],' he writes, most admirable literary figure of the 'is employed in exposing the folly eighteenth century was the
poet Gray. and cruelty of stiffness and zealotism Gray, he would say, never thought in religion. Ib. iii. 85. that devotion to letters meant the 16. iii. 196. making of books. He gave himself 5 Ante, HALIFAX, 15; SHEFFIELD, up for the most part to ceaseless ob- 22; GRANVILLE, 25. Pattison, after servation and acquisition.'
mentioning how the inferior fry of 'Jamais, disait-il [Bonstetten), je Deistical writers' were attacked, conn'ai vu personne qui donnât autant tinues :—'The only exception to this que Gray l'idée d'un gentleman ac- is the case of Shaftesbury, to whom, compli.' Causeries du Lundi,xiv. 429. as well after his death as in his life
" See his letters to Bonstetten, time, his privileges as a peer seem to Mitford, iv, 178, 185, 187.
have secured immunity from hang3. It was rather an affectation in man's usage. He is simply “a late delicacy and effeminacy than the noble author."' Essays, ii. 99.
Mr. Mason has added from his own knowledge that though 25 Gray was poor, he was not eager of money, and that out of the little that he had, he was very willing to help the necessitous".
As a writer he had this peculiarity, that he did not write his 26 pieces first rudely, and then correct them, but laboured every line as it arose in the train of composition, and he had a notion not very peculiar, that he could not write but at certain times, or at happy moments; a fantastick foppery 3, to which my kindness for a man of learning and of virtue wishes him to have been superior
GRAY'S poetry is now to be considered, and I hope not to 27 be looked on as an enemy to his name if I confess that I contemplate it with less pleasure than his life.
Mason, ii. 235. On the death of He said, “We think in words."' Mithis aunt and mother he was no longer ford, v. 39. poor; his professorship made him Johnson defines foppery as'affecstill easier. He left about £6,000, tation of show or importance; showy He bad, it was said, purchased an folly' annuity. Mitford, iv. 213. He would * Ante, MILTON, 118. accept no money for a reprint of his In Education and Government he poems. Ib. pp. 91, 104.
mocks this weakness in a passage 'I always maintained,' he wrote in that begins (1. 72) :1753, 'that nobody has occasion for Unmanly thought! what seasons pride but the poor; and that every- can control, where else it is a sign of folly.' What fancied zone can circumscribe Ib. jii. 112. In 1769 he wrote :- the soul?'
Remember that Honesta res est 'Sir Joshua used to work at all laeta paupertas."... [SENECA, Epis. times, whether he was in the humour ii. 5.] I see it with respect, and so or not.' Northcote's Conversations, will every one whose poverty is not P: 311. But then, as Johnson said of seated in their mind. There is but him :
:-'Sir Joshua is the same all one real evil in it, ... that you have the year round.' Boswell's Johnson, less the power of assisting others, who have not the same resources to Macaulay,' wrote Prescott, tells support them. Mitford, iv. 132. me he has his moods for writing.
He bought lottery tickets and won When not in the vein he does not a £20 prize. lb. iii. 194, iv. 134. press it. Johnson, you remember,
Ante, POPE, 299; Mason, ii. 103. ridiculed this in Gray. TICKNOR'S Mason, Gray said, never gave him- Prescott, 1864, p. 294, self time to think, but imagined that 'Nothing,' wrote Jowett, he should do best by writing hastily to me more uncertain than composiin the first fervour of his imagination, tion. One month a good harvest is and therefore never waited for epithets reaped, the next all barren. In these if they did not occur readily, but left fits and starts, with much pain and spaces for them, and put them in melancholy I calculate that I accomafterwards. This, Mr. Gray said, plish somewhat less than half of what enervated his poetry, "for nothing is I always intend.' Life, i. 284. See done so well as at the first concoction." also Boswell's Johnson, i. 203, 332.
LIVES OF POETS. 111
28 His Ode on Spring' has something poetical, both in the
language and the thought ; but the language is too luxuriant, and the thoughts have nothing new. There has of late arisen a practice of giving to adjectives, derived from substantives, the termination of participles, such as the cultured plain, the daisied bank; but I was sorry to see, in the lines of a scholar like Gray, 'the honied Spring?' The morality is natural, but too
stale; the conclusion is pretty. 29 The
poem on the Cat' was doubtless by its author considered as a trifle, but it is not a happy trifle. In the first stanza 'the azure flowers that blow'shew resolutely a rhyme is sometimes made when it cannot easily be found“. Selima, the Cat, is called a nymph, with some violence both to language and sense ; but there is good use made of it when it is done; for of the two lines,
What female heart can gold despise ?
What cat's averse to fish?'
the first relates merely to the nymph, and the second only to the cat. The sixth stanza contains a melancholy truth, that'a favourites has no friend,' but the last ends in a pointed sentence of no relation to the purpose; if what glistered had been 'gold,' the cat would not have gone into the water; and, if she had,
would not less have been drowned. 30 The Prospect of Eton College suggests nothing to Gray which
every beholder does not equally think and feel 6. His supplica
Ante, GRAY, 6.
reviews. Why not shillinged, farth• 'The insect youth are on the wing, inged, tenpenced, &c.? The formation Eager to taste the honied spring.' of a participle passive from a noun is On the Spring, l. 25;
a licence that nothing but a very pecuShenstone has our cultur'd vales, liar felicity can excuse.' COLERIDGE, Elegies, xxv, and Goldsmith'cultura Table Talk, 1884, p. 167. walks,' Traveller, I. 236. Shake- Ante, GRAY, 9. speare has the prettiest daisied plot,' Coleridge, quoting (not quite corCymbeline, iv. 2. 398, and Gay 'en- rectly) The Bard, 11. 71-6, says :tangled shades and daisy'd lawns,' 'The words “realm” and “sway" Dione, i. 4. 4. Shakespeare has are rhymes dearly purchased.' Biog. honied sentences,' Henry V, i. I. 50, and Milton 'honied showers,'Lycidas, s For Johnson's definition of fa
vourite see Boswell's Johnson, i. For Lord Grenville's criticism of 295mont Johnson's position see Mitford, i.
Saithe view from the Terrace [of Preface, p. 17.
Windsor Castle) is the noblest I know 'I regret to see that vile and bar- of, taking it with all its associations barous vocable talented stealing out together. Gray's Ode rises up into of the newspapers into the leading the mind as one looks around-does
Lit. i. 19.
tion to father Thames', to tell him who drives the hoop or tosses the ball, is useless and puerile. Father Thames has no better means of knowing than himself'. His epithet 'buxom health' is not elegant ; he seems not to understand the word ? Gray thought his language more poetical as it was more remote from common use“: finding in Dryden 'honey redolent of Spring an expression that reaches the utmost limits of our language, Gray drove it a little more beyond common apprehension, by making 'gales' to be 'redolent of joy and youth.'
Of the Ode on Adversity • the hint was at first taken from 31 'O Diva, gratum quæ regis Antium?'; but Gray has excelled his original by the variety of his sentiments and by their moral
it not?–a sure proof that, however poetry; except among the French, people may condemn certain conceits whose verse, where the thought or and expressions in the poem, the image does not support it, differs in spirit of it is genuine.
nothing from prose. Gray's Letters, "Ye distant spires, ye antique i.97. (See Appendix AA n. 1, p. 444.) towers”
Gray was at the head of those very large and noble, like the air that who, by their reasonings, have atbreathes upon one as one looks down tempted to widen the space of separaalong the view.' E. FITZGERALD, tion betwixt prose and metrical comLetters, i. 63.
position. WORDSWORTH, Works, 'Say, Father Thames,' is found in vi. 331. See also Coleridge's Biog. Matthew Green's Grotto, privately
Lit. 1847, i. 19. printed in 1732. It was inserted in 5.While kine to pails distended Dodsley's Coll. 1758, v. 159. Gray
udders bring, wrote of this poem to Walpole in And bees their honey, redolent of 1748 :—'The thought on which my spring.' second Ode (Spring] turns is mani.
DRYDEN, Works, xii. 227. festly stolen from hence; not that Gray refers to this
passage I knew it at the time, but having seen note. Mason, i. 72. Redolent of this many years before, to be sure it youth'is found in one of Mrs.Manley's imprinted itself on my memory, and, works (1716). Mitford, i. 11 n. forgetting the author, I took it for my Beattie records that Gray told him, own.' Gray's Letters, i. 188.
'that if there was in his own numbers Johnson makes the Princess in any thing that deserved approbation, Rasselas, ch. 25, supplicate the Nile. he had learned it all from Dryden.' 'Answer, great Father of Waters, Beattie's Essays, p. 17. In a posithou that rollest thy floods through script to a letter to Beattie Gray eighty nations. Tell me if thou wrote:-'Remember Dryden, and be waterest, through all thy course, a blind to all his faults.' Mitford, iv.65. single habitation from which thou 'He could not patiently hear him dost not hear the rmurs of com- criticised,' writes Nicholls. Ib. v. 35. plaint.' There is a dignity in John- He congratulated himself on not son's supplication that is wanting in having a good verbal memory; for Gray's.
without it, he said, he had imitated Johnson defines buxom as '1. too much.' 16. p. 42. obedient, obsequious ; 2. gay, lively, 6 Ante, GRAY, 6. brisk; 3. wanton, jolly.'
? HORACE, Odes, i. 35. The motto • •The language of the age,' Gray is from Aeschylus, Agam. I. 181. wrote, 'is never the language of See also Mitford, i. 17 n.
application. Of this piece, at once poetical and rational, I will
not by slight objections violate the dignity. 32
My process has now brought me to the 'Wonderful Wonder of Wonders",' the two Sister Odes”; by which, though either vulgar ignorance or common sense at first universally rejected them, many have been since persuaded to think themselves delighted 3. I am one of those that are willing to be pleased, and therefore would gladly find the meaning of the first stanza of The Progress
of Poetry . 33 Gray seems in his rapture to confound the images of
spreading sound' and 'running water.' A 'stream of musick' may be allowed S; but where does Musick, however smooth and strong,' after having visited the 'verdant vales,' rowl down the steep amain,' so as that 'rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar'? If this be said of Musick, it is nonsense ; if it be
said of Water, it is nothing to the purpose. 34 The second stanza, exhibiting Mars's car and Jove's eagle, is
unworthy of further notice. Criticism disdains to chase a school
boy to his common-places 6. 35 To the third it may likewise be objected that it is drawn from
Mythology, though such as may be more easily assimilated to real life. 'Idalia's velvet-green?' has something of cant. An
* (This is clearly a familiar phrase : tion.' Boswell's Johnson, iv. 275. cf. Wright's Caricature History of Ante, PRIOR, 59; POPE, 326. the Georges, p. 595, in reference to 'The second strophe of the first Ode 'Mr. Bull's Menagerie' (1803). is inexcusable; even when one Earlier instances might be quoted.] does understand it, perhaps the last · Ante, GRAY, 14.
line is too turgid.' WALPOLE, Letters, Gray, in 1752, described The Progress of Poesy as a high Pindaric "To make Prince Eugene a faupon stilts, which one must be a vourite of Mars, or to carry on a corbetter scholar than Dodsley is to respondence between Bellona and the understand a line of, and the very Marshal de Villars, would be downbest scholars will understand but a right puerility, and unpardonable in little matter here and there.' Gray's a poet that is past sixteen.' ADDILetters, i. 219.
SON, The Spectator, No. 523. Soon after the publication of the 'She rears her flowers and spreads two Odes Walpole wrote:-'They her velvet-green.' (the age] have cast their eyes over
YOUNG, Sat. v. 230. them, found them obscure, and looked 8 For Johnson's definition of cant no further.... I do not think that see Boswell's Johnson, iv. 221 n. they ever admired Mr. Gray except in Addison, in The Spectator, No.421, his Churchyard! Walpole's Letters, speaking of the comparisons of difiii. 96, 98.
ferent classes of writers, says:— 'Your "The Progress of Poesy.
men of business are for leading the 5 .Mrs. Montagu,' said Johnson, reader from shop to shop, in the cant of 'has a constant stream of conversa- particular trades and employments.'