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rated from the fashionable world by broad St. Giles's; and many a dirty court and alley; yet here is air, and sunshine, and quiet, however, to comfort you : I shall confess that I am basking with heat all the summer, and I suppose shall be blown down all the winter, besides being robbed every night; I trust, however, that the Museum, with all its manuscripts and rarities by the cart-load, will make ample amends for all the aforesaid inconveniences.
I this day passed through the jaws of a great leviathan into the den of Dr. Templeman, superintendant of the reading-room, who congratulated himself on the sight of so much good company. We were, first, a man that writes for Lord Royston ; 2dly, a man that writes for Dr. Burton, of York; 3dly, a man that writes for the Emperor of Germany, or Dr. Pocock, for •he speaks the worst English I ever heard ; 4thly, Dr. Stukely, wha writes for himself, the very worst person he could write for; and, lastly, I, who only read to know if there be any thing worth writing, and that not without some difficulty. I find that they printed one thousand copies of the Harleian Catalogue, and have sold only fourscore; that they have :9001, a year income, and spend 1300, and are building apartments for the under-keepers; so I expect in winter to see the collection advertised and set to auction.
Have you read Lord Clarendon's Continuation of his History? Do you remember Mr. **'s account of it before it came out? How well he recollected all the faults, and how utterly be forgot all the beauties : surely the grossest taste is better than such a sort of delicacy.
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
London, June 22, 1760. I am not sorry to hear you are exceeding busy, except as it has deprived me of the pleasure I should have in hearing often from you; and as it has been occasioned by a little vexation and disappointment. To find one's self business, I am persuaded, is the great art of life; I am never so angry, as when I hear my acquaintance wishing they had been bred to some poking profession, or employed in some office of drudgery, as if it were pleasanter to be at the command of other people than at one's own ;, and as if they could not go unless they were wound up: yet I know and feel what they mean by this complaint; it proves that some spirit, something of genius (more than common) is required to teach a man how to employ himself: I say a man; for women, commonly speaking, never feel this distemper; they have always something to do; time hangs not on their hands (unless they be fine ladies); a variety of small inventions and occupations fill up
the void, and their eyes are never open
in vain. As to myself, I have again found rest for the sole of my gouty foot in your old dining-room,* and hope that you will find at least an equal satisfaction at Old Park; if your bog prove as comfortable as my oven, I shall see no occasion to pity you, and only wish you may brew no worse than I bake.
You totally mistake my talents, when you impute to me any magical skill in planting roses: I know I am no conjurer in these things; when they are done I can find fault, and that is all. Now this is the very reverse of genius, and I feel my own littleness. Reasonable
* The house in Southampton-row, where Mr. Gray lodged, had been tenanted by Dr. Wharton; who, on account of his ill health, left London the year before, and was removed to his paternal estate at Old Park, near Durbam.
people know themselves better than is commonly imagined; and therefore (though I never saw any instance of it) I believe Mason when he tells me that he understands these things. The prophetic eye of taste (as Mr. Pitt called it) sees all the beauties, that a place is susceptible of, long before they are born; and when it plants a seedling, already sits under the shadow of it, and enjoys the effect it will have from every point of view that lies in prospect. You must therefore invoke Caractacus, and he will send his spirits from the top of Snowdon to Cross-fell or Warden-law.
I am much obliged to you for your antique news. Froissard is a favourite book of mine (though I have not attentively read him, but only dipped here and there); and it is strange to me that people, who would give thousands for a dozen portraits (originals of that time) to furnish a gallery, should never cast an eye on so many moving pictures of the life, actions, manners, and thoughts of their ancestors, done on the spot and in strong, though simple colours. In the succeeding century Froissard, I find, was read with great satisfaction by every body that could read; and on the same footing with King Arthur, Sir Tristram, and Archbishop Turpin: not because they thought him a fabulous writer, but because they took them all for true and authentic historians; to so little purpose was it in that man to be at the pains of writing truth. Pray, are you come to the four Irish kings that went to school to King Richard the Second's master of the ceremonies, and the man who informed Froissard of all he had seen in St. Patrick's
purgatory? The town are reading the King of Prussia's poetry (Le Philosophe sans Souci), and I have done like the town; they do not seem so sick of it as I am: 'it is all the scum of Voltaire and Lord Bolingbroke, the Crambe-recocta of our worst freethinkers, tossed up in Ger
age for a
man-French rhyme. Tristram Shandy is still, a greater object of admiration, the man as well as the book; one is invited to dinner, where he dines, a fortnight before: as to the volumes yet published, there is much good fun in them, and humour sometimes hit and sometimes missed. Have
you read his sermons, with his own comic figure, from a painting by Reynolds, at the head of them? They are in the style I think most proper for the pulpit,* and shew a strong imagination and a sensible heart; but you see him often tottering on the verge of laughter, and ready to throw his periwig in the face of the audience.
MR. GRAY TO MR. STONHEWER.
London, June 29, 1760. Though you have had but a melancholy employment, it is worthy of envy, and (I hope) will have all the success it deserves. It was the best and most natural method of cure, and such as could not have been administered by any but your gentle hand. I thank you for communicating to me what must give you so much satisfaction.
I too was reading M. D'Alembert, and (like you) am totally disappointed in his Elements. I could only taste a little of the first course: it was dry as a stick, hard as a stone, and cold as a cucumber. But then the Letter to Rousseau is like himself; and the discourses on Elocution and on the Liberty of Music, are divine. He
Our Author was of opinion, that it was the business of the preacher rather to persuade by the power of eloquence to the practice of known duties, than to reason with the art of logic on points of controverted doctrine : hence, therefore, he thought that sometimes imagination might not be out of its place in a sermon. But let him speak for himself in an extract from one of his letters to me in the following year; “ Your quotation from Jeremy Taylor is a fine one; I have long thought of reading him; for I am persuaded that chopping logic in the pulpit, as our divines have done ever since the Revolution, is not the thing ; but that imagination and warmth of expression, are in their place there, as much as on the stage; moderated, however, and chastised a little by the purity and severity of religion.”
+ Mr. Stonbewer was now at Houghton-le-Spring, in the Bishopric of Durham, attending on bis sick father, rector of that parish.
* Two subsequent volumes of bis “ Melanges de Literature et Philosophie."
has added to his translations from Tacitus; and, what is remarkable, though that author's manner more nearly resembles the best French writers of the present age, than any thing, he totally fails in the attempt. Is it his fault, or that of the language?
I have received another Scotch packet* with a third specimen inferior in kind (because it is merely description), but yet full of nature and noble wild imagination. Five bards pass the night at the castle of a chief (himself a principal bard); each goes out in his turn to observe the face of things, and returns with an extempore picture of the changes he has seen (it is an October night, the harvest-month of the Highlands). This is the whole plan; yet there is a contrivance, and a preparation of ideas, that you would not expect. The oddest thing is, that every one of them sees ghosts (more or less). The idea that struck and surprised me most, is the following: One of them (describing a storm of wind and rain) says,
Ghosts ride on the tempest to-night:
Their songs are of other worlds! Did you never observe (while rocking winds are piping loud) that pause, as the gust is recollecting itself, and rising upon the ear in a shrill and plaintive note, like
* Of the fragments of Erse poetry, many of which Mr. Gray saw in manuscript before they were published. În a letter to Dr. Wharton, written in the following month, he thus expresses himself on the same subject : “If you have seen Mr. Stonhewer, he has probably told you of my old Scotch (or rather Irish) poetry; I am gone mad about them; they are said to be translations (literal and in prose) from the Erse tongue, done by one Macpherson, a young clergyman in the Highlands: he means to publish a collection he has of these specimens of antiquity, if it be antiquity; but what perplexes me is, I cannot come to any certainty on that head. I was so struck with their beauty, that I writ into Scotland to make a thousand inquiries; the letters I have in return, are ill wrote, ill reasoned, unsatisfactory, calculated (one would imagine) to deceive, and yet pot cunning enough to do it cleverly. In short, the whole external evidence would make one believe these fragments counterfeit; but the internal is so strong on the other side, that I am resolved to believe them genuine, spite of the devil and the kirk: it is impossible to conceive that they were written by the same man that writes me these letters; on the other hand, it is almost as hard to suppose (if they are original) that he should be able to translate them so admirably. In short, this man is the very dæmon of poetry, or he has lighted on a treasure hid for ages. The Welch poets are also coming to light; I have seen a discourse in manuscript about them, by one Mr. Evans, a clergyman, with specimens of their writing; this is in Latin ; and though it does not approach the other, there are fine scraps among it."