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on Mr. Pope's death was the principal," he then, at the request of one of my friends, was so obliging as to revise. The same year, on account of a dispute which had happened between the master and fellows of Pembroke Hall, I had the honour of being nominated by the fellows to fill one of the vacant fellowships.t I was at this time scholar of St. John's College, and bachelor of arts, personally unknown to the gentlemen who favoured me so highly; therefore that they gave me this mark of distinction and preference was greatly owing to Mr. Gray, who was well acquainted with several of that society, and to Dr. Heberden, whose known partiality to every even the smallest degree of merit, led him warmly to second his recommendation. The reader, I hope, will excuse this short piece of egotism, as it is written to express my gratitude, as well to the living as the dead, to declare the sense I shall ever retain of the honour which the fellows of Pembroke Hall then did me, and to particularize the time of an incident which brought me into the neighbourhood of Mr. Gray's college; and served to give that cement to our future intimacy, which is usually rendered stronger by proximity of place.
The letters, which I select for this Section, are from the date of the year 1742 to that of 1768, when Mr. Gray was made professor of modern history. This, as it is a considerable interval of time, will perhaps require me the more frequently to resume my narrative; especially as I cannot now produce one continued chain of correspondence.
* The other two were in imitation of “l'Allegro et il Penseroso," and entitled, " Il Bellicoso et il Pacifico.” The latter of these I was persuaded to revise and publish in the Cambridge Collection of Verses on the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748. The former has since got into a Miscellany, printed by G. Pearch, from the indiscretion, I suppose, of some acquaintance who had a copy of it.
+ Though nominated in 1747, I was not elected fellow, till February, 1749. The master having refused his assent, claiming a negative, the affair was therefore not compromised till after an ineffectual litigation of two years.
I. MR. GRAY TQ DR. WHARTON.
Cambridge, Dec. 27, 1742. I ought to have returned you my thanks a long time ago for the pleasure, I should say prodigy, of your letter ; for such a thing has not happened above twice within this last age to mortal man, and no one here can conceive what it may portend. You have heard, I suppose, how I have been employed a part of the time; how, by my own indefatigable application for these ten years past, and by the care and vigilance of that worthy magistrate the man in bluet (who, I assure you, has not spared his labour, nor could have done more for his own son), I am got half way to the top of jurisprudence, and bid as fair as another body to open a case of impotency with all decency and circumspection. You see my ambition. I do not doubt but some thirty years hence I shall convince the world and you that I am a very pretty young fellow; and may come to shine in a profession, perhaps the noblest of all except man-midwifery. As for you, if your distemper and you can but agree about going to London, I may reasonably expect in a much shorter time to see you in your three-cornered villa, doing the honours of a well-furnished table with as much dignity, as rich a mien, and as capacious a belly as Dr. Mead. Methinks I see Dr. * *, at the lower end of it, lost in admiration of your goodly person and parts, cramming down his envy (for it will rise) with the wing of a pheasant, and drowning it in neat Burgundy. But not to tempt your asthma too much with such a prospect, I should think you might be
* Of Old-Park, near Durham. With this gentleman Mr. Gray contracted an acquaintance very early; and though they were not educated together at Eton, yet afterward at Cambridge, when the Doctor was fellow of Pembroke Hall, they became intimate friends, and continued so to the time of Mr. Gray's death.
+ A servant of the vice-chancellor's for the time being, usually known by the name of Blue Coat, whose business it is to attend acts for degrees, &c. * i. e. Bachelor of civil law.
Though I have said that Mr. Gray, on his return to Cambridge, laid aside poetry almost entirely, yet I find amongst his papers a small fragment in verse which bears internal evidence that it was written about this very time. The foregoing Letter, in which he employs so much of his usual vein of ridicule on the university, seems to be no improper introduction to it: I shall therefore insert it here without making any apology, as I have given one, on a similar occasion, in the first section.
It seems to have been intended as a hymn or address to ignorance; and I presume had he proceeded with it, would have contained much good satire upon false science and scholastic pedantry. What he writ of it is purely introductory ; yet many of the lines are so strong, and the general cast of the versification so musical, that I believe it will give the generality of readers a higher opinion of his poetical talents, than many of his lyrical productions have done. I speak of the generality ; because it is a certain fact, that their taste is founded upon the ten-syllable couplets of Dryden and Pope, and upon these only.
Hail, horrors, hail! ye ever gloomy bowers,
But chiefly thee, whose influence breath'd from high
Oh say—she hears me not, but careless grown,
Oh sacred age! Oh times for ever lost!
High on her car, behold the Grandam ride
a team of harness'd monarchs bend
Peterhouse, April 26, 1744. You write so feelingly to Mr. Brown, and represent your abandoned condition in terms so touching, that what gratitude could not effect in several months, compassion has brought about in a few days; and broke that strong attachment, or rather allegiance, which I
and all here owe to our sovereign lady and mistress, the president of presidents and head of heads (if I may be permitted to pronounce her name, that ineffable Octogrammaton), the power of Laziness. You must know she had been pleased to appoint me (in preference to so many old servants of hers who had spent their whole lives in qualifying themselves for the office) grand picker of straws and push-pin player to her Supinity (for that is her title). The first is much in the nature of lord president of the council; and the other like the groomporter, only without the profit; but as they are both things of very great honour in this country, I considered with myself the load of envy attending such great charges; and besides (between you and me) I found myself unable to support the fatigue of keeping up the appearance
persons of such dignity must do, so I thought proper to decline it, and excused myself as well as I could. However, as you see such an affair must take up a good deal of time, and it has always been the policy of this court to proceed slowly, like the Imperial and that of Spain, in the dispatch of business, you will on this account the easier forgive me, if I have not answered your letter before.
You desire to know, it seems, what character the poem of your young friend bears here.* I wonder that you
ask the opinion of a nation, where those, who pretend to judge, do not judge at all; and the rest (the wiser part) wait to catch the judgment of the world immediately above them; that is, Dick's and the Rainbow coffee-houses. Your readier way would be to ask the ladies that keep the bars in those two theatres of criticism. However, to shew you that I am a judge, as well
Pleasures of the Imagination : from the posthumous publication of Dr. Akinside's Poems, it should seem that the author had very much the same opinion afterward of his own work, which Mr. Gray here expresses : since he undertook a reform-of it, which must have given him, had he concluded it, as much trouble as if he had written it entirely new.