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through France into Italy; and Gray's “ Let- ! any other purpose than of improving and amus. ters" contain a very pleasing account of many | ing himself; when Mr. Mason, being elected parts of their journey. But unequal friendships fellow of Pembroke Hall, brought him a comare easily dissolved : at Florence they quarrelled, panion who was afterwards to be his editor, and and parted; and Mr. Walpole is now content to whose fondness and fidelity has kindled in him nave it told that it was by his fault. If we look, a zeal of admiration which cannot be reasouably however, without prejudice on the world, we expected from the neutrality of a stranger, and shall find that men, whose consciousness of their the coldness of a critic. own merit sets them above the compliances of In his retirement he wrote (1747) an ode 'on servility, are apt enough in their association the “ Death of Mr. Walpole's Cat;” and the with superiors to watch their own dignity with year afterwards attempted a poem, of more imtroublesome and punctilious jealousy, and in the portance, on “ Government and Education," of fervour of independence to exact that attention which the fragments which remain have many which they refuse to pay. Part they did, what- excellent lines. ever was the quarrel; and the rest of their His next production (1750) was his far-famed travels was doubtless more unpleasant to them “ Elegy in the Churchyard,” which, finding its both. Gray continued his journey in a manner way into a magazine, first, I believe, made bim suitable to his own little fortune, with only an known to the public. occasional servant.
An invitation from Lady Cobham about this He returned to England in September, 1711, time gave occasion to ar odd composition called and in about two months afterwards buried his “ A Long Story," which adds little to Gray's father, who had, by an injudicious waste of character. money upon a new house, so much lessened his Several of his pieces were published (1753) fortune, that Gray thought himself too poor to with designs by Mr. Bentley: and that they study the law. He therefore retired to Cam- might in some form or other make a book, only bridge, where he soon after became bachelor of one side of each leaf was printed. I believe the civil law, and where, without liking the place poems and the plates recommended, each other or its inhabitants, or professing to like them, he so well, that the whole impression was soon passed, except a short residence at London, the bought. This year he lost his mother. rest of his life.
Some time afterwards (1756) some young men About this time he was deprived of Mr. of the college, whose chambers were near his, West, the son of a chancellor of Ireland, a friend diverted themselves with disturbing him by freon whom he appears to have set a high value, quent and troublesome noises, and, as is said, and who deserved his esteem by the powers by pranks yet more offensive and contemptuous. which he shows in his letters, and in the “Ode This insolence, having endured it awhile, he to May,” which Mr. Mason has preserved, as represented to the governors of the society, well as by the sincerity with which, when Gray among whom perhaps he had no friends; and, sent him part of “ Agrippina," a tragedy that finding his complaint little regarded, removed he had just begun, he gave an opinion which himself to Pembroke Hall. probably intercepted the progress of the work, In 1757 he published “ The Progress of Poeand which the judgment of every reader will try,” and “ The Bard,” two compositions at confirm. It was certainly no loss to the English which the readers of poetry were at first content stage that “ Agrippina" was never finished. to gaze in mute amazement. Some that tried
In this year (1742) Gray seems to have applied them confessed their inability to understand himself seriously to poetry; for in this year were them, though Warburton said that they were produced the “ Ode to Spring,” his “ Prospect understood as well as the works of Milton and of Eton," and his “ Ode to Adversity." He Shakspeare, which it is the fashion to admire. began likewise a Latin poem, “ De Principiis Garrick wrote a few lines in their praise. Some Cogitandi."
hardy champions undertook to rescue them from It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. neglect; and in a short time many were conMason, that his first ambition was to have ex tent to be shown beauties which they could not celled in Latin poetry: perhaps it were reasonable to wish that he had prosecuted his design; Gray's reputation was now so high, that, after for, though there is at present some embarrass- the death of Cibber, he had the honour of re-, ment in his phrase, and some harshness in his fusing the laurel, which was then bestowed on lyric numbers, his copiousness of language is Mr. Whitehead. such as very few possess; and his lines, even His curiosity, not long after, drew him away when imperfect, discover a writer whom prac- from Cambridge to a lodging near the Museum, tice would have made skilful.
where he resided near three years, reading and He now lived on at Peterhouse, very little transcribing; and, so far as can be discovered,' solicitous what others did or thought, and culti- very little affected by two odes on “ Oblivion" vated his mind and enlarged his views without ) and “ Obscurity," in which his lyric perform
ances were ridiculed with much contempt and made a principal part of his study; voyages and much ingenuity.
travels of all sorts were his favourite amuseWhen the professor of modern history at Cam- ments; and he had a fine taste in painting, bridge died, he was, as he says, “ cockered and prints, architecture, and gardening. With such spirited up," till he asked it of Lord Bute, who a fund of knowledge, his conversation must have sent him a civil refusal; and the place was been equally instructing and entertaining ; but given to Mr. Brocket, the tutor of Sir James he was also a good man, a man of virtue and huLowther.
manity. There is no character without some His constitation was weak, and, believing speck, some imperfection ; and I think the that his health was promoted by exercise and greatest defect in his, was an affectation in delichange of place, he undertook (1765) a journey cacy, or rather effeminacy, and a visible fastidi.. into Scotland, of which his account, so far as it ousness, or contempt and disdain of his inferiors extends, is very curious and elegant: for, as his in science. He also had, in some degree, that comprehension was ample, his curiosity extend weakness which disgusted Voltaire so much in ed to all the works of art, all the appearances of Mr. Congreve : though he seemed to value nature, and all the monuments of past events. others chiefly according to the progress that they He naturally contracted a friendship with Dr. had made in knowledge, yet he could not bear Beattie, whom he found a poet, a philosopher, to be considered merely as a man of letters; and, and a good man. The Mareschal College at though without birth, or fortune, or station, his Aberdeen offered him the degree of doctor of desire was to be looked upon as a private indelaws, which, having omitted to take it at Cam- pendent gentleman, who read for his amusebridge, he thought it decent to refuse.
ment. Perhaps it may be said, What signifies What he had formerly solicited in vain was so much knowledge, when it produced so little ? at last given him without solicitation. The Is it worth taking so much pains to leave no professorship of history became again vacant, memorials but a few poems? But let it be conand he received (1768) an offer of it from the sidered that Mr. Gray was to others at least inDuke of Grafton. He accepted and retained it nocently employed; to himself certainly benefito his death ; always designing lectures, but cially. His time passed agreeably : he was never appearing reading them; uneasy at his every day making some new aoquisition in scineglect of duty, and appeasing his uneasiness ence; his mind was enlarged, his heart softened, with designs of reformation, and with a resolu- his virtue strengthened; the world and mankind tion which he believed himself to have made of were shown to him without a mask; and he resigning the office, if he found himself unable was taught to consider every thing as trifling, to discharge it.
and unworthy of the attention of a wise man, Ill health made another journey necessary, except the pursuit of knowledge and practice of and he visited (1769) Westmoreland and Cum- virtue, in that state wherein God hath placed berland. He that reads his epistolary narration us. wishes, that to travel, and to tell his travels, To this character Mr. Mason has added a had been more of his employment; but it is by more particular account of Gray's skill in zoostudying at home that we must obtain the abi- logy. He has remarked that Gray's effeminacy lity of travelling with intelligence and improve was affected most “ before those whom he did ment.
not wish to please;" and that he is unjustly His travels and his studies were now near charged with making knowledge his sole reason their end. The gout, of which he had sustained of preference, as he paid his esteem to none many weak attacks, fell upon his stomach, and, whom he did not likewise believe to be good. yielding to no medicines, produced strong con What has occurred to me from the slight invulsions, which (July 30, 1771) terminated in spection of his Letters in which my undertakdeath.
ing has engaged me is, that his mind had a larga His character I am willing to adopt, as Mr. grasp ; that his curiosity was unlimited, and his Mason has done, from a letter written to my judgment cultivated ; that he was a man likely friend Mr. Boswell, by the Rev. Mr. Temple, to love mạch where he loved at all; but that he rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall; and am as was fastidious and hard to please. willing as his warmest well-wisher to believe it tempt, however, is often employed where I hope true.
it will be approved, upon scepticism and infi“ Perhaps he was the most learned man in delity. His short account of Shaftesbury I Europe. He was equally acquainted with the will insert. elegant and profound parts of science, and that “ You say you cannot conceive how Lord not superficially, but thoroughly. He knew Shaftesbury came to be a philosopher in vogue ; every branch of history, both natural and civil; I will tell you ; first, he was a lord ; secondly, had read all the original historians of England, he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquari- men are very prone to believe what they do not
Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics, understand ; fourthly, they will believe any
thing at ali, provided they are under no obliga-ther Thames, to tell him who drives the hoop tion to believe it ; fifthly, they love to take a or tosses the ball, is useless and puerile. Fa. new road, even when that road leads no where; ther Thames has no better means of knowing
ixthly, he was reckoned a fine writer, and than himself. His epithet “buxom health" is seems always to mean more than he said. not elegant; he seems not to understand the Would you have any more reasons? An inter- word. Gray thought his language more poetival of above forty years has pretty well de- cal as it was more remote from common use; stroyed the charm. A dead lord ranks with finding in Dryden “honey redolent of Spring,” commoners; vanity is no longer interested in an expression that reaches the utmost limits of the matter; for a new road has become an old our language, Gray drove it a little more beone.
yond common apprehension, by making “gales" Mr. Mason has added, from his own know- to be “ redolent of joy and youth.” Jedge, that, though Gray was poor, he was not Of the “ Ode on Adversity" the hint was at eager of money; and that, out of the little first taken from “ O Diva, gratum quæ regis that he had, he was very willing to help the Antium:" but Gray has excelled his original necessitous.
by the variety of his sentiments, and by their As a writer he had this peculiarity, that he moral application. Of this piece, at once poetidid not write his pieces first rudely, and then cal and rational, I will not, by slight objections, correct them, but laboured every line as it arose violate the dignity, in the train of composition ; and he had a no My process has now brought me to the wontion not very peculiar, that he could not write derful “ Wonder of Wonders,” the two Sister but at certain times, or at happy moments; a Odes, by which, though either vulgar ignorance fantastic foppery, to which my kindness for a or common sense at first universally rejected man of learning and virtue wishes him to have them, many have been since persuaded to think been superior.
themselves delighted. I am one of those that Gray's poetry is now to be considered ; and I are willing to be pleased, and therefore would hope not to be looked on as an enemy to his gladly find the meaning of the first stanza of name, if I confess that I contemplate it with “ The Progress of Poetry.” less pleasure than his life.
Gray seems in his rapture to confound the His ode « On Spring” has something poeti- images of “ spreading sound and running wacal, both in the language and the thought; but ter.' A “stream of music" may be allowed; the language is too luxuriant, and the thoughts but where does " music,” however “ smooth have nothing new. There has of late arisen a and strong," after having visited the “ verdant practice of giving to adjectives derived from sub- vales, roll down the steep amain," so as that stantives the termination of participles; such as “ rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the the cultured plain, the daisied bank; but I was
If this be said of music, it is nonsense; sorry to see, in the lines of a scholar like Gray, if it be said of water, it is nothing to the the honied Spring. The morality is natural, purpose. but too stale; the conclusion is pretty.
The second stanza, exhibiting Mar's car and The poem “ On the Cat” was doubtless by Jove's eagle, is unworthy of further notice. its Author considered as a trifle; but it is not a Criticism disdains to chase a school-boy to his happy trifle. In the first stanza, “ the azure common-places. flowers that blow” show resolutely a rhyme is To the third it may likewise be objected, that sometimes made when it cannot easily be found. it is drawn from 'mythology, though such as Selima, the Cat, is called a nymph, with some may be more easily assimilated to real life. violence both to language and sense; but there Idalia's “velvet green” has something of cant. is no good use made of it when it is done; for An epithet or metaphor drawn from Nature of the two lines,
ennobles Art; an epithet or metaphor drawn
from Art degrades Nature. Gray is too fond What female heart can gold despise ?
of words arbitrarily compounded.
- ManyWhat cat's averse to fish?
twinkling” was formerly censured as not anathe first relates merely to the nymph, and the logical; we may say many spotted," but second only to the cat. The sixth stanza con- scarcely “ many spotting.” This stanza, howtains a melancholy truth, that “a favourite has ever, has something pleasing. no friend ;” but the last ends in a pointed Of the second ternary of stanzas, the first entence of no relation to the purpose; if what glis-deavours to tell something, and would have told tered had been gold, the cat would not have gone it, had it not been crossed by Hyperion : the into the water; and, if she had, would not less second describes well enough the universal prehave been drowned.
valence of poetry; but I am afraid that the The “ Prospect of Eton College" suggests conclusion will not arise from the premises. nothing to Gray which every beholder does not The caverns of the North and the plains of Chili equally think and feel. His supplication to fa are not the residences of “ Glory and generous
Shame.” But that Poetry and Virtue go.al The initial resemblances, or alliterations, ways together is an opinion so pleasing, that I “ruin, ruthless, helm or bauberk,” are below can forgive him who resolves to think it true. the grandeur of a poem that endeavours at
The third stanza sounds big with “ Delphi,” sublimity. and “ Egean,” and “Ilissus,” and “ Meander," In the second stanza the Bard is well describand " hallowed fountains," and “ solemned ; but in the third we have the puerilities of sound;" but in all Gray's odes there is a kind obsolete mythology. When we are told that of cumbrous splendour which we wish away. “ Cadwallo hush'd the stormy main,” and that His position is at last false : in the time of Dante “ Modred made huge Plinlimmon bow bis and Petrarch, from whom we derive our first cloud-topp'd head,” attention recoils from the school of Poetry, Italy was overrun by “ tyrant repetition of a tale that, even when it was first power ;” and “coward vice;" nor was our state heard, was heard with scorn. much better when we first borrowed the Italian The weaving of the winding sheet he borrowed, arts.
as he owns, from the Northern Bards: but their Of the third ternary, the first gives a mytho- texture, however, was very properly the work logical birth of Shakspeare. What is said of of female powers, as the act of spinning the that mighty genius is true; but it is not said thread of life is another mythology. Thett is happily: the real effects of this poetical power always dangerous ; Gray has made weavers of are put out of sight by the pomp of machinery. slaughtered bards by a fiction outrageous and Where truth is sufficient to fill the mind, fiction incongruous. They are then called upon to is worse than useless; the counterfeit debases “ Weave the warp, and weave the woof,” perthe genuine.
haps with no great propriety; for it is by crossHis account of Milton's blindness, if we sup- ing the woof with the warp that men weave the pose it caused by study in the formation of bis web or piece; and the first line was dearly bought poem, a supposition surely allowable, is poetical- by the admission of its wretched correspondent, ly true, and happily imagined. But the car of “ Give ample room and verge enough."* He Dryden, with his two coursers, has nothing in it has, however, no other line as bad. peculiar; it is a car in which any other rider The third stanza of the second ternary is commay be placed.
mended, I think, beyond its merit. The per“ The Bard" appears, at the first view, to be, sonification is indistinct. Thirst and Hunger as Algarotti and others have remarked, an imi- are not alike; and their features, to make the tation of the prophecy of Nereus. Algarotti imagery perfect, should have been discriminated. thinks it superior to its original ; and, if prefer- We are told, in the same stanza, how “ towers ence depends only on the imagery and animation are fed.” But I will no longer look for parof the two poems, his judgment is right. There ticular faults; yet let it be observed that the ode is in “ The Bard” more force, more thought, might have been concluded with an action of and more variety. But to copy is less than to better example; but suicide is always to be had, invent, and the copy has been unhappily pro- without expense of thought. duced at a wrong time. The fiction of Horace These odes are marked by glittering accumuwas to the Romans credible ; but its revival dis-lations of ungraceful ornaments; they strike, gusts us with apparent and unconquerable false- rather than please; the images are magnified by hood. Incredulus odi.
affectation ; the language is laboured into harshTo select a singular event, and swell it to a The mind of the writer seems to work giant's bulk by fabulous appendages of spectres with unnatural violence. “ Double, double, and predictions, has little difficulty; for he that toil and trouble.” He has a kind of strutting forsakes the probable may always find the mar- dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. His vellous. And it hås little use; we are affected art and his struggle are too visible, and there is only as we believe; we are improved only as we too little appearance of ease and nature.t find something to be imitated or declined. I do To say that he had no beauties, would be unnot see that “ The Bard” promotes any truth, just; a man like him, of great learning and great moral or political.
industry, could not but produce something valHis stanzas are too long, especially his epodes; uable. When he pleases least, it can only be the ode is finished before the ear has learned its said that a good design was ill directed. measures, and consequently before it can receive His translations of Northern and Welsh pleasure from their consonance and recurrence.
Of the first stanza the abrupt beginning has been celebrated: but technical beauties can give * “ I have a soul, that like an ample shield praise only to the inventor. It is in the power Can take in all; and verge enough for more." of any man to rush abruptly upon his subject,
Dryden's Sebastian. that has read the ballad of "
+ Lord Orford used to assert, that Gray Johnny Arm
wrote any thing easily, but things of humour:” and strong,”
added, that bumour was his natural and original Is there ever a man in all Scotland
Poetry deserve praise ; the imagery is preserved, “ Church-yard” abounds with images which perhaps often improved; but the language is un- find a mirror in every mind, and with sentilike the language of other poets.
ments to which every bosom returns an echo. In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to con The four stanzas, beginning “ Yet even these cur with the common reader ; for by the com- bones,” are to me original : I have never seen mon sense of readers, uncorrupted with literary the notions in any other place; yet he that reads prejudices, after all the refinements of subtilty them here persuades himself that he has always and the dogmatism of learning, must be finally felt them. Had Gray written often thus, it had decided all claim to poetical honours. The been vain to blame, and useless to praise him.
GEORGE LYTTELTON, the son of Sir Thomas and malignant ; and when Walpole was at Lyttelton, of Hagley, in Worcestershire, was last hunted from his places, every effort was born in 1709. He was educated at Eton, where made by his friends, and many friends he had, he was so much distinguished, that his exercises to exclude Lyttelton from the secret commitwere recommended as models to his school-fel- tee. lows.
The Prince of Wales, being (1737) driven From Eton he went to Christ-church, where from St. James's, kept a separate court, and he retained the same reputation of superiority, opened his arms to the opponents of the minisand displayed his abilities to the public in a poem try. Mr. Lyttelton became his secretary, and on “ Blenheim.”
was supposed to have great influence in the diHe was a very early writer, both in verse and rection of his conduct. He persuaded his masprose.
His “ Progress of Love," and his ter, whose business it was now to be popular, “ Persian Letters,” were both written when he that he would advance bis character by patronwas very young; and indeed the character of a age. Mallet was made under-secretary with young man is very visible in both. The Verses two hundred pounds; and Thomson had a pencant of shepherds and focks, and crooks dressed sion of one hundred pounds a year. For with flowers; and the Letters have something Thomson, Lyttelton always retained his kindof that indistinct and headstrong ardour for ness, and was able at last to place him at liberty which a man of genius always catches when he enters the world, and always suffers to Moore courted his favour by an apologetical cool as he passes forward.
poem, called “ The Trial of Selim;" for which He stayed not long in Oxford ; for in 1728 he he was paid with kind words, which, as is combegan his travels, and saw France and Italy. mon, raised great hopes, that were at last disWhen he returned, he obtained a seat in parlia- appointed. ment, and soon distinguished himself among Lyttelton now stood in the first rank of opthe most eager opponents of Sir Robert Wal-position; and Pope, who was incited, it is not pole, though his father, who was commission- easy to say how, to increase the clamour against er of the admiralty, always voted with the the ministry, commended him among the other court.
patriots. This drew upon him the reproaches of For many years the name of George Lyttel- Fox, who, in the house, imputed to him as a ton was seen in every account of every debate in crime his intimacy with a lampooner so unjust the House of Commons. He opposed the stand- and licentious. Lyttelton supported his friend; ing army; &e opposed the excise; he supported and replied, that he thought it an honour to the motion for petitioning the King to remove be received into the familiarity of so great a Walpole. His zeal was considered by the cour- poet. tiere not only as violent, but as acrimonious While he was thus conspicuous, he married