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versation or writing much of what is called pure humour; it was always so much blended either with wit, fancy, or his own peculiar character, that it became equivocal, and hence not adapted to please generally: it had more of the manner of Congreve than Addison; and we know where one person relishes my Lady Wishfort, there are thousands that admire Sir Roger de Coverley: it will not, however, from hence follow, that Lady Wishfort is ill drawn; for my own part, I think it one of the most entertaining characters that ever was written. I know, however, that it is commonly thought extravagant and unnatural; and I believe it is true, that no women ever existed who had so much folly and affectation, and at the same time so much wit and fancy ; yet every one sees that were this fancy and wit taken away, her character would become insipid, in proportion as it became more natural; so that, in this and other instances, if Congreve's fools were fools indeed, they would, by being true characters, cease to be entertaining ones. It may be further observed on the subject of humour, that it may and ought to be divided into several species: there is one sort, that of Terence's, which simply pleases without forcing a smile ; another, like Mr. Addison's, which not only pleases, but makes us smile into the bargain. Shakspeare's, Swift's, Congreve's, and Prior's, usually goes further, and makes us laugh : I infer not, from hence, that this latter sort is the best : I only assert, that howsoever it may be mixed with other ingredients, it ought also to be called hu

The critic, however, who judges by rule, and who will not be pleased unless legitimately, will be apt to condemn this species of mixed humour; and the common reader will not always have either wit or imagination enough to comprehend or taste it. But I have said Mr. Gray not only mixed wit and fancy with his humour, but also his own particular character; and


being naturally delicate, and at times even fastidious, his humour generally took the same cast; and would therefore be only relished by such of his friends, who, concious of the superior excellencies, thought this defect not only pardonable but entertaining, which a character of this sort (being humorous in itself) always is, when it is not carried to any offensive extreme. Yet as this observation relates only to his conversation and familiar letters (for to these only it can be applied), I have no occasion to insist on it further; and shall only add, that whatever the generality of readers may think of Mr. Gray's talent in this way, there will always be some, and those far from the lowest class, to whom it will appear excellent: for humour may be true, when it ceases to be pure or unmixed, if the ingredients which go to its composition be true also. False wit and a wild fancy would debase the best humour in the world, as they frequently do in Rabelais and Sterne (without taking more exceptionable matters into consideration); but when genuine, they serve to heighten and embellish it.

In Britain's isle, no matter where,
a An ancient pile of building stands :
The Huntingdons and Hattons there
Employ'd the pow'r of fairy hands

To raise the ceiling's fretted height,
Each pannel in achievements clothing,
Rich windows that exclude the light,
And passages, that lead to nothing.

Full oft within the spacious walls,
When he had fifty winters o'er him,
b My grave Lord-keeper led the brawls;
The seal and maces danc'd before him.

a The mansion-house at Stoke-Pogis, then in the possession of Viscountess Cobham. The style of building, which we now call Queen Elizabeth's, is here admirably described, both with regard to its beauties and defects; and the third and fourth stanzas delineate the fantastic manners of her time with equal truth and humour. The house formerly belonged to the Earls of Huntingdon and the family of Hatton.

b Sir Christopher Hatton, promoted by Queen Elizabeth for his graceful person and fine dancing. G.-Brawls. were a sort of figure-dance then in vogue, and probably deemed as elegant as our modern cotillions, or still more modern quadrilles.


His bushy beard, and shoe-strings green,
His high-crown'd hat, and satin doublet,
Mov’d the stout heart of England's Queen,
Though Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it.

What, in the very first beginning!..
Shame of the versifying tribe !
3 CYour bistry whither are you spinning!
Can you do nothing but describe ?

A house there is (and that's enough) :..

From whence one fatal morning issues
cA brace of warriors, not in buff,
But rustling in their silks and tissues.

The first came cap-a-pee from France,
Her conqu’ring destiny fulfilling,
Whom meaner beauties eye askance,
And vainly ape her art of killing.

The other Amazon, kind heav'n'
Had arm'd with spirit, wit, and satire :
But Cobham had the polish giv'n,
+ And tipp'd her arrows with good-nature.

To celebrate her eyes, her air
Coarse panegyrics would but tease her.
Melissa is her nom de guerre.
Alas, who would not wish to please her!

With bonnet blue and capuchine,
And aprons long they hid their armour,
And veil'd their weapons bright and keen
In pity to the country farmer.

Fame in the shape of d Mr. P-t
(By this time all the parish know it)
Had told, that thereabouts there lurk'd
A wicked imp they call a poet:

Who prowl’d the country far and near,
Bewitch'd the children of the peasants,
Dried up the cows, and lam'd the deer,
And suck'd the eggs, and kill'd the pheasants.


My lady heard their joint petition,
Swore by her coronet and ermine,
She'd issue out her high commission
To rid the manor of such vermin.

The heroines undertook the task,
Through lanes unknown, o'er stiles they ventur'd,
Rapp'd at the door, nor stay'd to ask,
But bounce into the parlour enter'd.

c The reader is already apprized who these ladies were; the two descriptions are prettily contrasted ; and nothing can be more happily turned than the compliment to Lady Cobham in the eighth stanza.

d I have been told that this gentleman, a neighbour and acquaintance of Mr. Gray's in the country, was much displeased at the liberty here taken with his ñame 3 yet, surely, without any great reason.

The trembling family they daunt,
They flirt, they sing, they laugh, they tattle, ad
Rummage his mother, pinch his aunt,
And up stairs in a whirl-wind rattle.

Each hole and cupboard they explore,
Each creek and cranny of his chamber,
Run hurry-skurry round the floor,
And o'er the bed and tester clamber;

Into the drawers and chiņa pry,
Papers and books, a huge imbroglio!
Under a tea-cup he might lie,
Or creas'd, like dog-ears, in a fólio.

On the first marching of the troops,
The Muses, hopeless of his pardon,
Convey'd him underneath their hoops
To a small closet in the garden.

So Rumour says: (who will, believe.), -.
But that they left the door a-jar,
Where, safe and laughing in his sleeve,
He heard the distant din of war.

Short was his joy. He little knew
The pow'r of magic was no fable;
Out of the window, wbisk, they flew,
e But left a spell upon the table.

The words too eager to unriddle,
The Poet felt a strange disorder :
Transparent bird-lime form'd the middle,...
And chains invisible the border.

• Fancy is here so much blended with the humour, that I believe the two stanzas, which succeed this line, are amongst those which are the least relished by the generality. The description of the spell, I know, has appeared to many persons absolutely unintelligible; yet if the reader adverts to that peculiar idea which runs through the whole, I imagine the obscurity complained of will be removed. An incident, we see, so slight as the simple matter of fact, required something like machinery to enliven it: accordingly the Author chose, with propriety enough, to employ for that purpose those notions of witchcraft, ghosts, and enchantment, which prevailed at the time when the mansion-house was built. He describes himself as a demon of the lowest class, a wicked imp who lamed the deer, &c. against whose malevolent power Lady Cobham (the Gloriana' of the piece) employs two superior enchantresses. Congruity of imagery, therefore, required the card they left upon the table to be converted into a spell. Now all the old writers, on these subjects, are very minute in describing the materials of such talismans. Hence, therefore, his grotesque idea of a composition of transparent bird-lime, edged with invisible chains, in order to catch and draw him to the tribunal. Without going further for examples of this kind of imagery than the Poet's own works, let me instance two passages of the serious kind, similar to this ludicrous one. In his Ode, intitled the Bard,

Above, below, the rose of snow, &c. And, again, in the Fatal Sisters,

“See the grisly texture grow." It must, however, be allowed, that no person can fully relish this burlesque, who iş not much conversant with the old romance-writers, and with the poets who formed themselves on their model.

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So cunning was the apparatus,
The powerful pot-books did so move him,
That, will he, nill be, to the great-house
He went, as if the devil drove him.

'Yet on his way (no sign of grace,
For folks in fear are apt to pray)
To Phæbus he preferr'd his case,
And begg'd his aid that dreadful day.

The Godhead would have back'd his quarrel ;
But with a blush on recollection,
Own'd, that his quiver and bis laurel
'Gainst four such eyes were no protection.

The court was sate, the culprit there,
Forth from their gloomy mansions creeping
& The Lady Janes and Joans repair,
And from the gallery stand peeping :

Such as in silence of the night
Come (sweep) along some winding entry,
(Styack bas often seen the sight)
Or at the chapel-door stand sentry:

In peaked hoods and mantles tarnishid,
Sour visages, enough to scare ye,
High dames of honour once, that garnish'd
The drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary!

The Peeress comes. The audience stare,
And doff their hats with due submission:
She curtsies, as she takes her chair,
To all the people of condition.

The Bard, with many an artful fib,
Had in imagination fenc'd him,
Disprov'd the arguments of k Squib,
And all that "Groom could urge against him.

But soon his rhetoric forsook him,
When he the solemn hall had seen ;
A sudden fit of ague shook him,
He stood as mute as poor m Macleane.

The humour of this and the following stanza is more pure, and consequently more obvious. It might have been written by Prior, and the wit at the end is much in his best manner.

8 Here fancy is again uppermost, and soars as high on her comic, as on another occasion she does on her lyric wing; for now a chorus of ghostly old women of quality come to give sentence on the culprit Poet, just as the spirits of Cadwallo, Urien, and Hoel join the bard in dreadful symphony to denounce vengeance on Edward I. The route of fancy, we see, is the same both on the humorous and sublime occasion. No wonder, therefore, if either of them should fail of being generally tasted. h The housekeeper. G.

The description is here excellent, and should think would please universally. k Groom of the chamber. G. 1 The steward. G.

m A famous highwayman hanged the week before. G.–This stanza is of the sort where wit rather than fancy prevails, consequently much in Prior's manner.

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