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Yet something he was heard to mutter,
• He once or twice had penn'd a sonnet;
The ghostly prudes with n hagged face
“ Jesu-maria ! Madam Bridget,
“ Decorum's turn'd to mere civility ;
(Here five hundred stanzas are lost.]
XIV. MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Dec. 17, 1750. Of my house I cannot say much,* I wish I could; but for my heart it is no less yours than it has long been; and the last thing in the world that will throw it into tumults is a fine lady. The verses you so kindly try to keep in countenance, were written merely to divert Lady Cobham and her family, and succeeded accordingly; but being shewed about in town are not liked there at
» Hagged, i. e. the face of a witch or hag ; the epithet hagard has been sometimes mistaken, as conveying the same idea ; but it means a very different thing, viz. wild and farouche, and is taken from an unreclaimed hawk, called an hagard; in which. it proper sense, the Poet uses it finely on a sublime occasion :
Cloth'd in the sable garb of woe,
Vid. Ode VI. • Here the story finishes; the exclamation of the ghosts which follow is characteristic of the Spanish manners of the age, when they are supposed to have lived ; and the five hundred stanzas, said to be lost, may be imagined to contain the remainder of their long-winded expostulation.
* The bouse he was rebuilding in Cornhill. See Letter VII. of this Section.
all. Mrs. *, a very fashionable personage, told Mr. Walpole that she had seen a thing by a friend of his which she did not know what to make of, for it aimed at every thing, and meant nothing; to which he replied, that he had always taken her for a woman of sense, and was very sorry to be undeceived. On the other hand, the stanzast which I now inclose to you have had the misfortune, by Mr. Walpole's fault, to be made still more public, for which they certainly were never meant; but it is too late to complain. They have been so applauded, it is quite a shame to repeat it: I mean not to be modest; but it is a shame for those who have said such superlative things about them, that I cannot repeat them. I should have been glad that you and two or three more people had liked them, which would have satisfied my ambition on this head amply. I have been this month in town, not at Newcastle-house; but diverting myself among my gay acquaintance, and return to my cell with so much the more pleasure. I dare not speak of my future excursion to Durham for fear of a disappointment, but at present it is my full intention.
Cambridge, Feb. 11,1751. As you have brought me into a little sort of distress, you must assist me, I believe, to get out of it as well as I can. Yesterday I had the misfortune of receiving a letter from certain gentlemen (as their bookseller expresses it), who having taken the Magazine of Magazines into their hands: they tell me that an ingenious Poem, called Reflections in a Country Churchyard, has been communicated to them, which they are printing forth with; that they are informed that the excellent author of it is I by name, and that they beg not only his
+ Elegy in a Country Churchyard.
indulgence, but the honour of his correspondence, &c. As I am not at all disposed to be either so indulgent, or so correspondent, as they desire, I have but one bad way left to escape the honour they would inflict upon me; and therefore am obliged to desire you would make Dodsley print it immediately (which may be done in less than a week’ time) from your copy, but without my name, in wha: form is most convenient for him, but on his best paperand character; he must correct the press himself and pint it without any interval between the stanzas, because the sense is in some places continued beyond them and the title must be, -Elegy, written in a Country Clurchyard. If he would add a line or two to say it cam into his hands by accident, I should like it better. If rou behold the Magazine of Magazines in the light tht I do, you will not refuse to give yourself this troubl on my account, which you have taken of your own accord before now. If Dodsley do not do this imreliately, he may as well let it alone.
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Dec. 19, 1752.
HÀ E you read Madame de Maintenon's letters ? They areundoubtedly genuine; they begin very early in her lif, before she married Scarron, and continue after the kig's death to within a little while of her own: they bır all the marks of a noble spirit (in her adversity prticularly), of virtue and unaffected devotion; insoruch, that I am almost persuaded she was actually arried to Lewis the XIV. and never his mistress: and is not out of any policy or ambition, but conscience: for he was what we should call a bigot, yet with great good jense: in short, she was too good for a court. Misfortunes in the beginning of her life had formed her mind (naturally lively and impatient) to reflection and a habit
of piety. She was always miserable while she had the care of Madame de Montespan's children; timid and very cautious of making use of that urlimited
power she rose to afterward, for fear of trespassing on the King's friendship for her; and after his death not at all afraid of meeting her own.
I do not know what to say to you with regard to Racine; it sounds to me as if any body should fall upon Shakspeare, who indeed lies infinitely move open to criticism of all kinds; but I should not care to be the person that undertook it. If you do not like Athaliah or Britannicus, there is no more to be said, Ihave done.
Bishop Hall's satires, called Virgidemæ, are lately republished. They are full of spirit ane poetry; as much of the first as Dr. Donne, and far more of the latter: they were written at the university when he was about twenty-three years old, and in Queen Elizabeth's time.
You do not say whether you have read the Crito.* I only recommend the dramatic part of the Prædo to you, not the argumentative. The subject of the Erastæ is good; it treats of that peculiar character and tun of mind which belongs to a true philosopher, but : is shorter than one would wish. The Euthyphro I wald not read at all.
MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
Stoke, Jan. 1753
I am at present at Stoke, to which place I came at ha an hour's warning upon the news I received of my mo ther's illness, and did not expect to have found he alive; but when I arrived she was much better, and continues so. I shall therefore be very glad to make you a visit at Strawberry-Hill, whenever you give me
* Of Plato.
notice of a convenient time. I am surprised at the print,* which far surpasses my idea of London graving: the drawing itself was so finished, that I suppose it did not require all the art I had imagined to copy it tolerably. My aunts seeing me open your letter, took it to be a burying ticket, and asked whether any body had left me a ring; and so they still conceive it to be, even with all their spectacles on. Heaven forbid they should suspect it to belong to any verses of mine, they would burn me for a poet. On my own part I am satisfied, if this design of yours succeed so well as you intend it; and yet I know it will be accompanied with something not at all agreeable to me.—While I write this, I receive your second letter.—Sure you are not out of your wits! This I know, if you suffer my head to be printed, you will infallibly put me out of mine. I conjure you immediately to put a stop to any such design. Who is at the expense of engraving it, I know not; but if it be Dodsley, I will make up the loss to him. The thing as it was, I know, will make me ridiculous enough; but to appear in proper person, at the head of my works, consisting of half a dozen ballads in thirty pages; would be worse than the pillory. I do assure you, if I had received such a book, with such a frontispiece, without any warning, I believe it would have given me a palsy: therefore I rejoice to have received this notice, and shall not be easy till you tell me all thoughts of it are laid aside. I am extremely in earnest, and cannot bear even the idea.
I had written to Dodsley if I had not received yours,
* A proof print of the Cul de Lampe, which Mr. Bentley designed for the Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and which represents a village-funeral; this occasioned the pleasant mistake of his two aunts. The remainder of the letter relates entirely to the projected publication of Mr. Bentley's designs, wbich were printed after by Dodsley this same year. The latter part of it, where he so vehemently declares against having his head prefixed to that work, will appear bighly characteristical, to those readers who were personally acquainted with Mr. Gray. The print, wbich was taken from an original picture, painted by Echart, in Mr.Walpole's possession, was actually more than half engraved; but afterward on this account suppressed.