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every day, and saw numbers of people possessed with the devil, who were brought to be exorcised. It was indeed in the evening, and the church doors were always shut before the ceremonies were finished, so that I could not be eye-witness of the event; but that they were all cured is certain, for one never heard any more of them the next morning. I am to-night just returned from seeing our lady make her exit with the same solemnities she entered. The show had a finer effect than before, for it was dark; and every body (even those of the mob that could afford it) bore a white-wax flambeaux. I believe they were at least five thousand of them, and the march was near three hours in passing before the window. The subject of all this devotion is supposed to be a large tile with a rude figure in bas-relief upon it. I say supposed, because since the time it was found (for it was found in the earth in ploughing) only two people have seen it; the one was, by good-luck, a saint; the other was struck blind for his presumption. Ever since she has been covered with seven veils; nevertheless, those who approach her tabernacle cast their eyes down, for fear they should spy her through all her veils. Such is the history, as I had it from the lady of the house where I stood to see her pass; with many other circumstances, all which she firmly believes, and ten thousand beside.
We shall go to Venice in about six weeks, or sooner. A number of German troops are upon their march into this state, in case the King of Naples thinks proper to attack it. It is certain he has asked the Pope's leave for his troops to pass through his country. The Tuscans in general are much discontented, and foolish enough to wish for a Spanish government, or any rather than this. **
Florence, April 21, 1741.
I KNOW not what degree of satisfaction it will give you to be told that we shall set out from hence the 24th of this month, and not stop above a fortnight at any place in our way. This I feel, that you are the principal pleasure I have to hope for in my own country. Try at least to make me imagine myself not indifferent to you; for I must own I have the vanity of desiring to be esteemed by somebody, and would choose that somebody should be one whom I esteem as much as I do you. As I am recommending myself to your love, methinks I ought to send you my picture (for I am no more what I was, some circumstances excepted, which I hope I need not particularize to you); you must add then, to your former idea, two years of age, a reasonable quantity of dulness, a great deal of silence, and something that rather resembles, than is, thinking; a confused notion of many strange and fine things that have swum before my eyes for some time, a want of love for general society, indeed an inability to it. On the good side you may add a sensibility for what others feel, and indulgence for their faults or weaknesses, a love of truth, and detestation of every thing else. Then you are to deduct a little impertinence, a little laughter, a great deal of pride, and some spirits. These are all the alterations I know of, you perhaps may find more. Think not that I have been obliged for this reformation of manners to reason or reflection, but to a severer school-mistress, Experience. One has little merit in learning her lessons, for one cannot well help it; but they are more useful than others, and imprint themselves in the very heart. I find I have been haranguing in the style of the son of Sirach, so shall finish here, and tell you that our rout is settled as
follows: first to Bologna for a few days, to hear the Viscontina sing; next to Reggio, where is a fair. Now, you must know, a fair here is not a place where one eats gingerbread or rides upon hobby-horses; here are no musical clocks, nor tall Leicestershire women; one has nothing but masquing, gaming, and singing. If you love operas, there will be the most splendid in Italy, four tip-top voices, a new theatre, the Duke and Duchess in all their pomps and vanities. Does not this sound magnificent? Yet is the city of Reggio but one step above Old Brentford. Well; next to Venice by the 11th of May, there to see the old Doge wed the Adriatic Whore. Then to Verona, so to Milan, so to Marseilles, so to Lyons, so to Paris, so to West, &c. in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Eleven months, at different times, have I passed at Florence; and yet (God help me) know not either people or language. Yet the place and the charming prospects demand a poetical farewell, and here it is.
** Oh Fæsulæ amæna
Frigoribus juga, nec nimiùm spirantibus auris!
I will send you, too, a pretty little Sonnet of a Sig Abbate Buondelmonte, with my imitation of it.
Spesso Amor sotto la forma
Lusit amicitiæ interdum velatus amictu,
Mox iræ ássumsit cultus, faciemque minantem,
Here comes a letter from you-I must defer giving my opinion of Pausanias* till I can see the whole, and only have said what I have in obedience to your commands. I have spoken with such freedom on this head, that it seems but just you should have your revenge; and therefore I send 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. It will, I suppose, put you in mind of the man who wrote a Treatise of Canon Law in hexameters. Pray help me to the description of a mixed mode, and a little Episode about Space.
Mr. Walpole and Mr. Gray set out from Florence at the time specified in the foregoing Letter. When Mr. Gray left Venice, which he did the middle of July following, he returned home through Padua, Verona, Milan, Turin, and Lyons. From all which places he writ either to his father or mother with great punctuality but merely to inform them of his health, and safety; about which (as might be expected) they were now very anxious, as he travelled with only a laquais de voyage. These letters do not even mention that he went out of his way to make a second visit to the Grande
* Some part of a tragedy under that title, which Mr. West had begun ; but I do not find amongst Mr. Gray's papers either the sketch itself, or Mr. Gray's free critique upon it, which he here mentions.
The beginning of the first book of a didactic poem, "De Principiis Cogitandi." The fragment which he now sent contained the first fifty-three lines. The reader will find a further account of his design, and all that he finished of the Poem, in a subsequent Section.
Chartreuse, and there wrote in the Album of the Fathers the following Alcaic Ode,† with which I conclude this section.
Oh Tu, severi Religio loci,
Numen habet, veteresque sylvas;
Clivosque præruptus, sonantes
Inter aquas, nemorumque noctem ;
Salve vocanti ritè, fesso et
Da placidam juveni quietem.
Vetat volentem, me resorbens
In medios violenta fluctus :
WHEN Mr. Gray returned from abroad, he found his father's constitution almost entirely worn out by the very severe attacks of the gout, to which he had been for many years subject; and indeed the next return of that distemper was fatal to him. This happened about two months after his son reached London.‡
* He was at Turin the 15th of August, and began to cross the Alps the next day. On the 25th he reached Lyons; therefore it must have been between these two dates that he made this visit.
We saw in the eighth and eleventh Letters how much Mr. Gray was struck with the awful scenery which surrounds the Chartreuse, at a time his mind must have been in a far more tranquil state than when he wrote this excellent Ode. It is marked, I think, with all the finest touches of his melancholy Muse, and flows with such an originality of expression, that one can hardly lament he did not honour his own language by making it the vehicle of this noble imagery and pathetic
He came to town about the 1st of September, 1741. His father died the 6th. of November following, at the age of sixty-five.