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their esteem, which you say they are disposed to confer on me.* I embrace, with so deep and just a sense of their goodness, the substance of that honour they do me, that I hope it may plead my pardon with them if I do not accept the form. I have been, Sir, for several years a member of the University of Cambridge, and formerly (when I had some thoughts of the profession) took a bachelor of laws' degree there ; since that time, though long qualified by my standing, I have always neglected to finish my course, and claim my doctor's degree: judge, therefore, whether it will not look like a slight, and some sort of contempt, if I receive the same degree from a sister university. I certainly would avoid giving any offence to a set of men, among whom I have passed so many easy, and I may say, happy hours of
my life; yet shall ever retain in my memory the obligations you have laid me under, and be proud of my connexion with the University of Aberdeen.
It is a pleasure to me to find that you are not of. fended with the liberties I took when you were at Glames ; you took me too literally, if you thought I meant in the least to discourage you in your pursuit of poetry: all I intended to say was, that if either vanity (that is, a general and undistinguishing desire of applause), or interest, or ambition, has any place in the breast of a poet, he stands a great chance in these our days of being severely disappointed ; and yet, after all these passions are suppressed, there may remain in the mind of one,“ ingenti perculsus amore” (and such I take you to be), incitements of a better sort, strong enough to make him write verse all his life, both for his own pleasure and that of all posterity.
I am sorry for the trouble you have had to gratify
The Marischal College of Aberdeen bad desired to know whether it would be agreeable to Mr. Gray to receive from them the degree of doctor of laws. Mr. Beattie wrote to him on the subject, and this is the answer.
my curiosity and love of superstition ;* yet I heartily thank you. On Monday, Sir, I set forward on my way to England; where, if I can be of any little use to you, or should ever have the good fortune to see you, it will be a particular satisfaction to me. Lord Strathmore and the family here desire me to make their compliments to you.
P.S. Remember Dryden, and be blind to all his faults.t
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Pembroke-hall, MÍarch 5, 1766. I am amazed at myself when I think I have never wrote to you; to be sure it is the sin of witchcraft, or something worse. Had I been married, like Mason, some excuse might be made for it; who (for the first time since that great event) has just thought fit to tell me that he never passed so happy a winter as the last, and this in spite of his anxieties, which he says might even make a part of his happiness ; for his wife is by no means in health, she has a constant cough : yet he is assured her lụngs are not affected, and that it is nothing of the consumptive kind. As to me, I have been neither happy nor miserable; but in a gentle stupefaction of mind, and very tolerable health of body hitherto. If they last, I shall not much complain. The accounts one has lately had from all parts, make me suppose you buried in the snow like the old Queen of Denmark. As soon as you are dug out, I should rejoice to hear your voice from the battlements of Old Park.
* Mr. Gray, when in Scotland, had been very inquisitive after the popular superstitions of the country; his correspondent sent him two books on this subject, foolish ones indeed, as might be expected, but the best that could be had; a History of Second Sight, and a History of Witches.
+ Mr. Beattie, it seems, in their late interview, bad expressed himself with less admiration of Dryden that Mr. Gray thought his due. He told him in reply, “ that if there was any excellence in his own numbers, he had learned it wholly from that great poet; and pressed him with great earnestness to study him, as his choice of words and versification were singularly happy and harmonious.”
Every thing is politics. There are no literary productions worth your notice, at least of our country. The French have finished their great Encyclopedia in seventeen volumes ; but there are many flimsy articles very hastily treated, and great incorrectness of the press, There are now thirteen volumes of Buffon's Natural History; and he is not come to the monkeys yet, who are a numerous people. The Life of Petrarch has enter
tained me; it is not well written, but very curious, , and laid together from his own letters and the original
writings of the fourteenth century: so that he takes in much of the history of those obscure times, and the characters of many remarkable persons. There are two volumes quarto; and another, unpublished yet, will complete it.
Mr. Walpole writes me now and then a long and lively letter from Paris ; to which place he went last year with the gout upon him, sometimes in his limbs, often in his stomach and head. He has got somehow well (not by means of the climate, one would think), goes to all public places, sees all the best company, and is very much in fashion. He says he sunk like Queen Eleanor at Charing-cross, and has risen again at Paris. He returns in April. I saw the lady you inquire after, when I was in London, and a prodigious fine one she is, She had a strong suspicion of rouge on her cheeks, a cage of foreign birds and a piping bullfinch at her elbow; two little dogs on a cushion in her lap, and a cockatoo on her shoulder ; they were all exceeding glad to see me, and I them.
LIII, MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Pembroke-ball, Aug. 26, 1766. WHATEVER my pen may do, I am sure my thoughts expatiate no where oftener, or with more pleasure, than to Old Park. I hope you have made my peace with the angry little lady. It is certain, whether her name were in my letter or not, she was as present to my memory as the rest of the whole family, and I desire you would present her with two kisses in my name, and one apiece to all the others; for I shall take the liberty to kiss them all great and small), as you are to be my proxy.*
In spite of the rain, which I think continued, with very short intervals, till the beginning of this month, and quite effaced the summer from the year, I made a shift to pass May and June not disagreeably in Kent. I was surprised at the beauty of the road to Canterbury, which (I know not why) had not struck me before. The whole country is a rich and well-cultivated garden; orchards, cherry-grounds, lop-gardens, intermixed with corn and frequent villages; gentle risings covered with wood, and every where the Thames and Medway breaking in upon the landscape with all their navigation. It was indeed owing to the bad weather that the whole scene was dressed in that tender emerald green, which one usually sees only for a fortnight in the opening of the spring; and this continued till I left the country. My residence was eight miles east of Canterbury, in a little quiet valley on the skirts of Barham-Down.t In these parts the whole soil is chalk, and whenever it holds up, in half an hour it is dry enough to walk out. I took the opportunity of three or four days' fine weather to go
tholomew fair by the sea-side), Ramsgate, and other places there ; and so came by Sandwich, Deal, Dover, Folkstone, and Hithe, back again. The coast is not like Hartlepool; there are no rocks, but only chalky cliffs of
* Some readers will think this paragraph very trifling ; yet many, I hope, will take it, as I give it, for a pleasing example of the amiableness of his domestic character.
+ At Denton, where his friend the Rev. William Robinson, brother to Matthew Robinson, Esq. late member for Canterbury, then resided.
no great height till you come to Dover; there indeed they are noble and picturesque, and the opposite coasts of France begin to bound your view, which was left before to range unlimited by any thing but the horizon; yet it is by no means a shipless sea,
but every where peopled with white sails, and vessels of all sizes in motion : and take notice (except in the Isle, which is all corn-fields, and has very little inclosure), there are in all places hedge-rows, and tall trees even within a few yards of the beach. Particularly, Hithe stands on an eminence covered with wood. I shall confess we had fires at night (ay, and at day too) several times in June ; but do not go and take advantage in the north at this, for it was the most untoward year that ever I remember.
Have you read the New Bath Guide ? It is the only thing in fashion, and is a new and original kind of hu
Miss Prue's conversion, I doubt, you will paste down, as a certain Yorkshire baronet did before he carried it to his daughters : yet I remember you all read Crazy Tales without pasting. Buffon's first collection of Monkeys is come out (it makes the fourteenth volume), something, but not much to my edification; for he is pretty well acquainted with their persons, but not with their manners.
My compliments to Mrs. Wharton and all your family; I will not name them, lest I should affront any body.
LIV. MR. GRAY TO MR. MASON.
March 28, 1767. I BREAK in upon you at a moment, when we least of all are permitted to disturb our friends, only to say, that you are daily and hourly present to my thoughts. If the worst* be not yet past, you will neglect and pardon
* As this little billet (which I received at the Hot Wells at Bristol) then breathed, and still seems to breathe, the very voice of friendship in its tenderest and most pathetic note, I cannot refrain from publishing it in this place. I opened it almost at the precise moment when it would necessarily be the most affecting.