« ПредишнаНапред »
that whatever truth there might be in his satire at the time it was written, it can by no means affect the present state of the university. There is usually a much greater fluctuation of taste and manners in an academical, than a national body; occasioned (to use a scholastic metaphor) by that very quick succession of its component parts, which often goes near to destroy its personal identity. Whatever therefore may be true of such a society at one time, may be, and generally is, ten years after, absolutely false.
You must know that I do not take degrees, and, after this term, shall have nothing more of college impertinences to 'undergo, which I trust will be some pleasure to you, as it is a great one to me. I have endured lectures daily and hourly since I came last, supported by the hopes of being shortly at full liberty to give myself up to my friends, and classical companions, who, poor souls! though I see them fallen into great contempt with most people here, yet I cannot help sticking to them, and out of a spirit of obstinacy (I think) love them the better for it; and, indeed, what can I do else? Must I plunge into metaphysics ? Alas ! I cannot see in the dark; nature has not furnished me with the optics of a cat. Must I pore upon mathematics? Alas! I cannot see in too much light; I am no eagle. It is very pos-, sible that two and two make four, but I would not give four farthings to demonstrate this ever so clearly; and if these be the profits of life, give me the amusements of it. The people I behold all around me, it seems, know all this and more, and yet I do not know one of them who inspires me with any ambition of being like him. Surely it was of this place, now Cambridge, but formerly known by the name of Babylon, that the pro
phet spoke when he said, “ the wild beasts of the desert shall dwell there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall build there, and satyrs shall dance there ; their forts and towers shall be a den for ever, a joy of wild asses; there shall the great owl make her nest, and lay and hatch and gather under her shadow; it shall be a court of dragons; thes creech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.” You see here is a pretty collection of desolate animals, which is verified in this town to a tittle, and perhaps it may also allude to your habitation, for you know all types may be taken by abundance of handles ; however, I defy your owls to match mine.
If the default of your spirits and nerves be nothing but the effect of the hyp, I have no more to say. We all must submit to that wayward queen; I too in no small degree own her sway.
I feel ber influence while I speak her power. But if it be a real distemper, pray take more care of your health, if not for your own, at least for our sakes, and do not be so soon weary of this little world: I do not know what* refined friendships you may have contracted in the other, but pray do not be in a hurry to see your acquaintance above; among your terrestrial familiars, however, though I say it that should not say it, there positively is not one that has a greater esteem for you than,
Yours most sincerely, &c. Peterhouse, Dec. 1736.
* This thought is very juvenile, but perhaps he meant to ridicule the affected manner of Mrs. Rowe's Letters of the Dead to the Living; a book which
I believe, published about this time.
I CONGRATULATE you on your being about to leave college,* and rejoice much you carry no degrees with you: for I would not have had You dignified, and I not, for the world-you would have insulted me so. My eyes, such as they are, like yours, are neither metaphysical nor mathematical: I have, nevertheless, a great respect for your connoisseurs that way, but am always contented to be their humble admirer. Your collection of desolate animals pleased me much; but Oxford, I can assure you, has her owls that match yours, and the prophecy has certainly a squint that way. Well, you are leaving this dismal land of bondage, and which way are you turning your face? Your friends, indeed, may be happy in you, but what will you do with your classic companions ? An inn of court is as horrid a place as a college, and a moot case is as dear to gentle dulness as a syllogism. But wherever you go, let me beg you not to throw poetry “Jike a nauseous weed away:" cherish its sweets in your bosom, they will serve you now and then to correct the disgusting sober follies of the common law, Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem, Dulce est desipere in loco ; so said Horace to Virgil, those two sons of Anac in poetry, and so say I to you, in this degenerate land of pigmies,
Mix with your grave designs a little pleasure,
Each day of business has its hour of leisure. In one of these hours I hope, dear sir, you will sometimes think of me, write to me, and know me yours,
PEÇaúda, peə xxūde vów, iva sidojev õpeper. that is, write freely to me and openly, as I do to you ;
* I suspect that Mr. West mistook his correspondent; who, in saying he did not take degrees, meant only to let his friend know that he should soon be released from lectures and disputations. It is certain, that Mr. Gray continued at college near two years after the time he wrote the preceding letter.
and, to give you a proof of it, I have sent you an elegy* of Tibullus translated. Tibullus, you must know, is my favourite elegiac poet; for his language is more elegant and his thoughts more natural than Ovid's. Ovid excels him only in wit, of which no poet had more in my opinion. The reason I choose so melancholy a kind of poesy, is because my low spirits and constant ill health (things in me not imaginary, as you surmise, but too real, alas! and I fear constitutional) “ have tuned my heart to elegies of woe;" and this likewise is the reason why I am the most irregular thing alive at college ; for you may depend upon it, I value my health above what they call discipline. As for this poor unlicked thing of an elegy, pray criticise it unmercifully, for I send it with that intent. Indeed, your late translation of Statius might have deterred me, but I know you are not more able to excel others, than you are apt to forgive the want of excellence, especially when it is found in the productions of
Your most sincere friend.
Christ Church, Dec. 22, 1736.
MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
vi.t You can never weary me with the repetition of any thing that makes me sensible of your kindness;
since that has been the only idea of any social happiness that I have almost ever received, and which (begging your pardon for thinking so differently from you in such
* This I omit for the reason given in a preceding note, and for another also, because it is not written in alternate but heroic rhyme; which I think is not the species of English measure adapted to elegiac poetry.
+ Mr. Walpole, on my informing him that it was my intention to publish the principal part of Mr. Gray's correspondence with Mr. West, very obligingly communicated to me the letters which he had also received from Mr. Gray at the same period. From this collection I have selected such as I thought would be most likely to please the generality of readers; omitting, though with regret, many of the more sprightly and humorous sort, because either from their personality, or some other local circumstance, they did not seem so well adapted to hit the public taste. I shall say more upon this subject in a subsequent Section, when I give my idea of Mr. Gray's peculiar vein of humour.
cases) I would by no means have parted with for an exemption from all the uneasiness mixed with it: but it would be unjust to imagine my taste was any rule for yours; for which reason my letters are shorter and less frequent than they would be, had I any materials but myself to entertain you with. Love and brown sugar must be a poor regale for one of your goût; and, alas ! you know I am by trade a grocer.* Scandal.(if I had any) is a merchandize you do not profess dealing in; now and then, indeed, and to oblige a friend, you may perhaps slip a little out of your pocket, as a decayed gentlewoman would a piece of right mecklin, or a little quantity of run tea, but this only now and then, not to make a practice of it. Monsters appertaining to this climate you have seen already, both wet and dry. So you perceive within how narrow bounds my pen is circumscribed, and the whole contents of my share in our correspondence may be reduced under the two heads of 1st, You ; 2dly, I: the first is indeed a subject to expatiate upon, but you might laugh at me for talking about what I do not understand ; the second is so tiny, so tiresome, that you shall hear no more of it than that
Yours. Peterhouse, Dec. 23, 1736.
it is ever,
I HAVE been very ill, and am still hardly recovered. Do you remember Elegy 5th, Book the 3d, of Tibullus, Vos tenet, &c. and do you remember a letter of Mr. Pope's, in sickness, to Mr. Steele? This melancholy elegy and this melancholy letter, I turned into a more melancholy epistle of my own, during my sickness, in the way of imitation; and this I send to you and my friends at
* i. e. A man who deals only in coarse and ordinary wares: to these he compares the plain sincerity of his own friendship, undisguised by flattery; which, had he chosen to carry on the allusion, he might have termed the trade of a con