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and he himself in person, have got the start of my indolence, so that by this time you are well acquainted with all the events that adorned that week of wonders. Thus much I may venture to tell you,
because it is probable nobody else has done it, that our friend * *'s zeal and eloquence surpassed all power of description. Vesuvio in an eruption was not more violent than his utterance, nor (since I am at my mountains) Pelion, with all its pine-trees in a storm of wind, more impetuous than his action; and yet the Senate-House still stands, and (I thank God) we are all safe and well at your service. I was ready to sink for him, and scarce dared to look about me, when I was sure it was all over; but soon found I might have spared my confusion; all people joined to applaud him. Every thing was quite right; and I dare swear, not three people here but think him a model of oratory; for all the Duke's little court came with a resolution to be pleased; and when the tone was once given, the university, who ever wait for the judgment of their betters, struck into it with an admirable harmony: for the rest of the performances, they were just what they usually are. Every one, while it lasted, was very gay and busy in the morning, and very owlish and very tipsy at night: I make no exceptions from the Chancellor to Blue-Coat Mason's Ode was the only entertainment that had any tolerable elegance; and, for my own part, I think it (with some littleabatements) uncommonly well on such an occasion. Pray let me know your sentiments; for doubtless you have seen it. The author of it grows apace into my good graces, as I know him more; he is very ingenious, with great good nature and simplicity; a little vain, but in so harmless and so comical a way, that it does not offend one at all; a little ambitious, but withal so ignorant in the world and its ways, that this does not hurt him in one's opinion; so sincere and so undisguised, that no mind, with a spark
of generosity, would ever think of hurting him, he lies so open to injury; but so indolent, that if he cannot overcome this habit, all his good qualities will signify nothing at all. After all, I like him so well, I could wish you knew him.
Cambridge, Nov. 7, 1749. The unhappy news I have just received from you equally surprises and afflicts me.*
I have lost a person I loved very much, and have been used to from my infancy; but am much more concerned for your loss, the circumstances of which I forbear to dwell upon, as you must be too sensible of them yourself; and will, I fear, more and more need a consolation that no one can give, except He who has preserved her to you so many years, and at last, when it was his pleasure, has taken her from us to himself: and perhaps, if we reflect upon what she felt in this life, we may look upon this as an instance of his goodness both to her, and to those that loved her. She might have languished many years before our eyes in a continual increase of pain, and totally helpless; she might have long wished to end her misery without being able to attain it; or perhaps even lost all sense, and yet continued to breathe; a sad spectacle to such as must have felt more for her than she could have done for herself. However you may deplore your own loss, yet think that she is at last easy and happy; and has now more occasion to pity us, than we her. I hope, and beg, you will support yourself with that resignation we owe to Him who gave us our being for our good, and who deprives us of it for the same reason.
I would * The death of his aunt, Mrs. Mary Antrobus, wbo died the 5th of November, and was buried in a vault in Stoke churchyard, near the chancel door, in which also his mother and himself (according to the direction in his will) were after
have come to you directly, but you do not say whether you desire I should or not; if you do, I beg I may know it, for there is nothing to hinder me, and I am in very good health.
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Stoke, August 9, 1750. ARISTOTLE says (one may write Greek to you without scandal) that Οι τόποι ου διαλύουσι την φιλίαν απλώς, αλλά την ενέργειαν· έαν δε χρόνιος η απουσία γένηται και της φιλίας δοκεί λήθην ποιείν. όθεν είρηται
Πολλάς δή φιλίας απροσηγορία διέλυσεν. . But Aristotle may say whatever he pleases, I do not find myself at all the worse for it. I could indeed wish to refresh my 'Evépyeta a little at Durham by the sight of you, but when is there a probability of my being so happy? It concerned me greatly when I heard the other day that your asthma continued at times to afflict you, and that you were often obliged to go into the country to breathe; you cannot oblige me more than by giving me an account both of the state of your body and mind: I hope the latter is able to keep you cheerful and easy in spite of the frailties of its companion. As to my own, it can neither do one nor the other; and I have the mortification to find my spiritual part the most infirm thing about me. You have doubtless heard of the loss I have had in Dr. Middleton, whose house was the only easy place one could find to converse in at Cambridge: for my part I find a friend so uncommon a thing,
, that I cannot help regretting even an old acquaintance, which is an indifferent likeness of it; and though I do not approve the spirit of his books, methinks 'tis pity the world should lose so rare a thing as a good writer.*
* Mr. Gray used to say, that good writing not only required great parts,
but the very best of those parts.
My studies cannot furnish a recommendation of many new books to you. There is a defence “ de l'Esprit des Loix,” by Montesquieu himself; it has some lively things in it, but is very short, and his adversary appears to be so mean a bigot that he deserved no answer.
There are three vols. in 4to. of “ Histoire du Cabinet du Roy, by Messrs. Buffons and d’Aubenton;" the first is a man of character, but I am told has hurt it by this work. It is all a sort of introduction to natural history; the weak part of it is a love of system which runs through it; the most contrary thing in the world to a science entirely grounded upon experiments, and which has nothing to do with vivacity of imagination.* However, I cannot help commending the general view which he gives of the face of the earth, followed by a particular one of all the known nations, their peculiar figure and manners, which is the best epitome of geography I ever met with, and written with sense and elegance; in short, these books are well worth turning over. The Memoirs of the Abbé de Mongon, in five vols. are highly commended, but I have not seen them. He was engaged in several embassies to Germany, England, &c. during the course of the late war. The President Henault's “Abregé Chronologique de l'Histoire de France," I believe I have before mentioned to you as a very good book of its kind.
About this time Mr. Gray had put his last hand to his celebrated Elegy in the Country Churchyard, and had communicated it to his friend Mr. Walpole, whose good taste was too much charmed with it to suffer him to withhold the sight of it from his acquaintance; accordingly it was shewn about for some time in manuscript, (as Mr. Gray intimates in the subsequent letter to Dr.
* One cannot therefore help lamenting, that Mr. Gray let his imagination lie dormant so frequently, in order to apply himself to this very science.
Wharton) and received with all the applause it so justly merited. Amongst the rest of the fashionable world, for to these only it was at present communicated, Lady Cobham, who now lived at the mansion-house at Stoke Pogis, had read and admired it. She wished to be acquainted with the author ; accordingly her relation Miss Speed and Lady Schaub, then at her house, undertook to bring this about by making him the first visit. He happened to be from home, when the ladies arrived at his aunt's solitary mansion; and, when he returned, was surprised to find, written on one of his papers in the parlour where he usually read, the following note: “ Lady Schaub's compliments to Mr. Gray; she is sorry not to have found him at home, to tell him that Lady Brown is very well.” This necessarily obliged him to return the visit, and soon after induced him to compose a ludicrous account of this little adventure, for the amusement of the ladies in question. He wrote it in ballad measure, and entitled it a Long Story: when it was handed about in manuscript, nothing could be more various than the opinions concerning it; by some it was thought a master-piece of original humour, by others a wild and fantastic farrago; and when it was published, the sentiments of good judges were equally divided about it. How it came to be printed I shall mention hereafter; and also inform the reader why Mr. Gray rejected it in the collection which he himself made of his poems; in the meanwhile, as I think it ought to have a place in these Memoirs, for reasons too obvious to insist upon, I shall beg leave to preface it with my own idea of the author's peculiar vein of humour ; which, with my notes on the piece itself, may perhaps account in some sort for the variety of opinions which people of acknowledged taste have formed concerning it.
Mr. Gray had not (in my opinion) either in his con