Imágenes de páginas

3 When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr. Horace Walpole, whose friendship he had gained at Eton, invited him to travel with him as his companion'. They wandered through France into Italy, and Gray's letters contain a very pleasing account of many parts of their journey. But unequal friendships are easily dissolved: at Florence they quarrelled and parted", and Mr. Walpole is now content to have it told that it was by his fault 3. If we look, however, without prejudice on the world we shall find that men, whose consciousness of their own merit sets them above the compliances of servility, are apt enough in their association with superiors to watch their own dignity with troublesome and punctilious jealousy, and in the fervour of independance to exact that attention which they refuse to pay. Part they did, whatever was the quarrel, and the rest of their travels was doubtless more unpleasant to them both. Gray continued his journey in a manner suitable to his own little fortune, with only an occasional servant 5.

4 He returned to England in September, 1741, and in about two months afterwards buried his father, who had, by an injudicious waste of money upon a new house', so much lessened his fortune that Gray thought himself too poor to study the law. He therefore retired to Cambridge, where he soon after became Bachelor

'Walpole wrote of him on his death, as 'one with whom I lived in friendship from thirteen years old.' Walpole's Letters, v. 322. To Mason he wrote:-I can add nothing to your account of Gray's going abroad with me. It was my own thought and offer, and cheerfully accepted.' Mitford, iv. 219. They started on March 10, 1739. Walpole's Letters, Preface, p. 62. 'We rode over the Alps in the same chaise,' wrote Walpole, 'but Pegasus drew on his side, and a carthorse on mine.' lb. vi. 290.

2 It was at Reggio they parted, where they were in May, 1741. Ib. i. 67; Mitford, i. Preface, p. 9.


In a note to Mason's Gray, i. 178, 'he charged himself with the chief blame in their quarrel.' He wrote to Mason on March 2, 1773:-I treated him insolently; he loved me, and I did not think he did.... Forgive me if I say that his temper was not con

ciliating.' Walpole's Letters, v. 441. See also ib. p. 481, vi. 16. See also Walpoliana, vol. i. p. 95, art. cx. The passage is given in Ñ. & Q. 6 S. ii. 356.

Ante, SWIFT, 52, 134. Boswell recorded at Lord Errol's house :-'I observed that Dr. Johnson, though he showed that respect to his lordship which, from principle, he always does to high rank, yet, when they came to argument, maintained that manliness which becomes the force and vigour of his understanding.' Boswell's Johnson, v. 103.

[ocr errors]

5 He returned by Venice, Turin, and Lyons. 'He travelled with only a "laquais de voyage." He arrived in London about Sept. I, 1741. Mason, i. 274,277.

He died on Nov. 6, 1741. Ib. i. 277.

7 At Wanstead. Ib. i. 277.


of Civil Law, and where, without liking the place or its inhabitants, or professing to like them, he passed, except a short residence at London, the rest of his life 3.

About this time he was deprived of Mr. West, the son of a 5 chancellor of Ireland*, a friend on whom he appears to have set a high value, and who deserved his esteem by the powers which he shews in his letters, and in the Ode to May, which Mr. Mason has preserved, as well as by the sincerity with which, when Gray sent him part of Agrippina, a tragedy that he had just begun, he gave an opinion' which probably intercepted the progress of the work, and which the judgement of every reader will confirm. It was certainly no loss to the English stage that Agrippina was never finished.

In this year (1742) Gray seems first to have applied himself 6 seriously to poetry, for in this year were produced the Ode to Spring, his Prospect of Eton, and his Ode to Adversity. He began likewise a Latin Poem, De Principiis Cogitandi 1.

In 1744. Gray's Letters, ed. Tovey, i. 113 n., 121. In 1768 he wrote:-'I am so totally uninformed, indeed so helpless in matters of law, that there is no one perhaps in the kingdom you could apply to for advice with less effect than to me.' Mitford, iv. 116.

2 In the first edition, 'pretending.' 3 'He spent his summer vacations at Stoke, near Windsor, during the lives of his mother and aunts,' whither they had removed soon after his father's death in 1741. Mason, i. 278,

ii. 23.

The Chancellor was author of Hecuba, a tragedy 'damned the first night.' Prior's Malone, p. 451. His portrait is in the Parliament Chamber of the Inner Temple. N. & 2. 5 S. iv. 315. The son's name was Richard. His mother was Bishop Burnet's daughter. He died at Hatfield on June 1, 1742. Mitford, i. Preface, p. 16. Gray, who was at Stoke, first learnt of his loss on June 17 'by some verses in a newspaper.' Mason, ii. 7; Gray's Letters, i. 111. Gray wrote on him a sonnet (Mitford, i. 90), beautiful in spite of imperfect rhymes, and of other faults pointed out by Wordsworth and Coleridge. Coleridge's Biog. Lit.

[blocks in formation]

7 Ib. ii. 148, 155.

8 Gray wrote of it in 1747:-'Poor West put a stop to that tragic torrent he saw breaking in upon him.' Ib. iii. 30.

The Ode to Spring (post, GRAY, 28) was composed in 1742. Written,' wrote Gray,at Stoke, the beginning of June, 1742, and sent to Mr. West, not knowing he was then dead.' Mason, ii. 7. It was first published in Jan. 1747-8 in Dodsley's Coll. ii. 265. The Prospect of Eton (post, GRAY, 30) was published separately by Dodsley in June, 1747, price 6d. Gent. Mag. 1747, p. 300. 'Little notice was taken of it,' writes Warton. Essay on Pope, ii. 292. The Hymn to Adversity appeared in 1755 in Dodsley's Coll. iv. 7. Mason changed the title to Ode to Adversity. Mason, i. 12. Gray, writing to Walpole about his 'six Odes,' continues :-'for so you are pleased to call everything I write, though it be but a receipt to make apple-dumplings.' Gray's Letters, i. 219.

10 He wrote of it to West from Florence on April 21, 1741:-'I send


It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. Mason, that his first ambition was to have excelled in Latin poetry: perhaps it were reasonable to wish that he had prosecuted his design; for though there is at present some embarrassment in his phrase, and some harshness in his Lyrick numbers, his copiousness of language is such as very few possess, and his lines, even when imperfect, discover a writer whom practice would quickly have made skilful3.

8 He now lived on at Peterhouse, very little solicitous what others did or thought, and cultivated his mind and enlarged his views without any other purpose than of improving and amusing himself; when Mr. Mason, being elected fellow of Pembrokehall, brought him a companion who was afterwards to be his editor, and whose fondness and fidelity has kindled in him a zeal of admiration, which cannot be reasonably expected from the neutrality of a stranger and the coldness of a critick".


In this retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on The Death of Mr. Walpole's Cat', and the year afterwards attempted a poem of more importance, on Government and Education, of which the fragments which remain have many excellent lines 8.

you the beginning, not of an Epic Poem, but of a Metaphysic one. Poems and Metaphysics (say you, with your spectacles on) are inconsistent things. A metaphysical poem is a contradiction in terms. It is true; but I will go on. It is Latin too, to increase the absurdity.' Gray's Letters, i. 88. He sent the first fiftythree lines. Mason, i. 273. See also ib. ii. 10.

In the first edition :-'It seems to be the opinion of Mr. Mason.'

2 Mason, i. 136, ii. 9. 'I have many scraps and letters of his that show how very early his genius was ripe.' WALPOLE, Letters, v. 336. 'Both Gray and West had abilities marvellously premature.' Ib. vi. 15.

3 Walpole wrote in 1775 :-'Faults are found, I hear, at Eton with the Latin poems for false quantities-no matter-they are equal to the English --and can one say more?' 16. vi. 199.

Mason, ii. 25. He wrote in 1747:'I am now in Pindar and Lysias; for I take verse and prose together like

bread and cheese.' Gray's Letters, i. 162.

5 In 1747 Mason, 'greatly owing to Gray,' was nominated to the Fellowship. Through the opposition of the Master he was not elected till 1749. Mason, ii. 26.

• See Appendix U.

7 Post, GRAY, 29. First printed in Dodsley's Coll. 1748, ii. 267. See also Gray's Letters, i. 156.

8 'I mean to show,' wrote Gray, 'that Education and Government must necessarily concur to produce great and useful men.' Ib. i. 192.

'When I asked him,' writes Nicholls, 'why he had not continued that beautiful fragment, he said because he could not. Mitford, v. 35.

Gibbon, quoting 11. 52-7, continues:-'Instead of compiling tables of chronology and natural history, why did not Mr. Gray apply the powers of his genius to finish the philosophic poem of which he has left such an exquisite specimen?' The Decline and Fall, iii. 332. (In 1. 56 Gibbon changes 'breathing' into

His next production (1750) was his far-famed Elegy in the 10 Church-yard', which, finding its way into a Magazine, first, I believe, made him known to the publick.


An invitation from lady Cobham about this time gave 11 occasion to an odd composition called A Long Story, which adds little to Gray's character3.

Several of his pieces were published (1753), with designs, by 12 Mr. Bentley, and, that they might in some form or other make a book, only one side of each leaf was printed. I believe the poems and the plates recommended each other so well, that the whole impression was soon bought. This year he lost his mother 5.

Some time afterwards (1756) some young men of the college, 18 whose chambers were near his, diverted themselves with disturbing him by frequent and troublesome noises, and, as is said, by pranks yet more offensive and contemptuous". This insolence, having endured it a while, he represented to the governors of the society, among whom perhaps he had no friends, and, finding his complaint little regarded, removed himself to Pembrokehall".

'opening.') He again quotes it (11. 100-end), ib. v. 457, and, referring to a description of the Nile by a French consul at Cairo, continues:-'From a college at Cambridge the poetic eye of Gray had seen the same objects with a keener glance.'

'See Appendix X.

2 For her father, Edmund Halsey, the brewer, see ante, POPE, 272 n. He had bought the Mansion House at Stoke Pogis. Mason, ii. 74; Gray's Letters, i. 218.

3 In the first edition, 'which, though perhaps it adds little to Gray's character, I am not pleased to find wanting in this Collection. It will therefore be added to this Preface.' To it was added also the Ode for Musick. Both poems are included in Eng. Poets, 1790.

Of A Long Story Gray wrote:'It was never meant for the public.' Mitford, iv. 91. On Dec. 18, 1751 he wrote:-'The verses being shew'd about in Town are not liked there at all.' Gray's Letters, i. 220.

See Appendix Y.

5 [Gray's epitaph on her tombstone in Stoke Pogis churchyard thus ends, -'The careful tender mother of many children, one of whom alone had the misfortune to survive her.' Mathias's Gray, i. 339.]

She died on March 11, 1753. Mason, ii. 97. On Sept. 21 Gray wrote to Mason, who had lost his father:-'I know what it is to lose a person that one's eyes and heart have long been used to, and I never desire to part with the remembrance of that loss, nor would wish you should.' Gray's Letters, i. 236.

In the first edition the sentence ends at 'noises.'

7 Johnson's authority is Mason, ii. 113. Gray wrote on March 25, 1756:-'I have been taken up in quarrelling with Peter-house, and in removing myself from thence to Pembroke.' Letters, i. 292. For the quarrel see ib. n. 3, and p. 291. An incredible account is given in R. Polwhele's Traditions, p. 212.

'Pembroke Hall was Ridley's "own dear College," ; by Elizabeth





In 1757 he published The Progress of Poetry and The Bard', two compositions at which the readers of poetry were at first content to gaze in mute amazement. Some that tried them confessed their inability to understand them, though Warburton said that they were understood as well as the works of Milton and Shakespeare, which it is the fashion to admire3. Garrick wrote a few lines in their praise. Some hardy champions undertook to rescue them from neglect, and in a short time many were content to be shewn beauties which they could not see 5.

Gray's reputation was now so high that, after the death of Cibber, he had the honour of refusing the laurel, which was then bestowed on Mr. Whitehead.

His curiosity not long after drew him away from Cambridge to a lodging near the Museum, where he resided near three

apostrophized as "domus antiqua et religiosa." Spenser and Pitt were there.' Macleane's Pembroke College, Oxford, p. 211.

Post, GRAY, 32. Walpole recorded:-'Aug. 8, 1757. I published two Odes by Mr. Gray, the first production of my press.' Walpole's Letters, Preface, p. 68. On July 12 he wrote:-'I snatched them out of Dodsley's hands.' Ib. iii. 89. The title-page is 'Odes by Mr. Gray. Printed at Strawberry-Hill. For R. & J. Dodsley in Pall-Mall. 1757.' 'On June 29, 1757, Gray received forty guineas for his two Odes.' Mitford, iii. 169. Of 2,000 copies printed

12 or 1300 were gone,' Gray wrote that same year. Gray's Letters, i. 350. There is no mention of them in Gent. Mag. At the Fraser Library Sale 'the Odes with MS. notes by the poet, extra illustrations, &c., sold for £370.' The Athenaeum, May 4, 1901, p. 567.

2 6 Aug. 17, 1757. I hear we are not at all popular; the great objection is obscurity.

Aug. 25. All people of condition are agreed not to admire, nor even to understand.' GRAY, Letters, i. 345-6.

Walpole, on Aug. 4, described them as 'two amazing Odes of Mr. Gray; they are Greek, they are Pindaric,

they are sublime! consequently, I fear, a little obscure. . . . I could not persuade him to add more notes; he says whatever wants to be explained don't deserve to be.' Walpole's Letters, iii. 94.

'I would not have put another note,' Gray writes, 'to save the souls of all the owls in London.' Letters, i. 348.

Ib. i. 366.

* Gray wrote on Aug. 25:-'I have heard of nobody but a player and a doctor of divinity that profess their esteem for them.' Ib. p. 346. For Garrick's lines in The London Chronicle, Oct. 1, 1757, see ib. p. 366 n.

5 Post, GRAY, 32. 'JOHNSON. The obscurity in which Gray has involved himself will not persuade us that he is sublime.' Boswell's Johnson, i. 402.

Goldsmith wrote in 1770 of 'the misguided innovators' in poetryGray and his school:-'They have adopted a language of their own, and call upon mankind for admiration. All those who do not understand them are silent, and those who make out their meaning are willing to praise to show they understand.' Works, iv. 141.


See Appendix Z.

« AnteriorContinuar »