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LVI. MR. GRAY TO MR. BEATTIE.
Pembroke-hall, Dec. 24, 1767.
SINCE I had the pleasure of receiving your last letter, which did not reach me till I had left the north, and was come to London, I have been confined to my room with a fit of the gout: now I am recovered and in quiet at Cambridge, I take up my pen to thank you for your very friendly offers, which have so much the air of frankness and real good meaning, that were my body as tractable and easy of conveyance as my mind, you would see me to-morrow in the chamber you have so hospitably laid out for me at Aberdeen. But, alas! I am a summer-bird, and can only sit drooping till the sun returns: even then too my wings may chance to be clipped, and little in plight for so distant an excursion.
The proposal you make me, about printing at Glasgow what little I ever have written, does me honour. I leave my reputation in that part of the kingdom to your care; and only desire you would not let your partiality to me and mine mislead you. If you persist in your design, Mr. Foulis certainly ought to be acquainted with what I am now going to tell you. When I was in London the last spring, Dodsley, the bookseller, asked my leave to reprint, in a smaller form, all I ever published; to which I consented: and added, that I would send him a few explanatory notes; and if he would omit entirely the Long Story (which was never meant for the public, and only suffered to appear in that pompous edition because of Mr. Bentley's designs, which were not intelligible without it), I promised to send him something else to print instead of it, lest the bulk of so small a volume should be reduced to nothing at all. Now it is very certain that I had rather see them printed at Glasgow (especially as you will condescend to revise the press) than at London; but I
know not how to retract my promise to Dodsley. By the way, you perhaps may imagine that I have some kind of interest in this publication; but the truth is, I have none whatever. The expense is his, and so is the profit, if there be any. I therefore told him the other day, in general terms, that I heard there would be an edition put out in Scotland by a friend of mine, whom I could not refuse; and that, if so, I would send thither a copy of the same notes and additions that I had promised to send to him. This did not seem at all to cool his courage; Mr. Foulis must therefore judge for himself, whether he thinks it worth while to print what is going to be printed also at London. If he does, I will send him (in a packet to you) the same things I shall send to Dodsley. They are imitations of two pieces of old Norwegian poetry, in which there was a wild spirit that struck me but for my paraphrases I cannot say much; you will judge. The rest are nothing but a few parallel passages, and small notes just to explain what people said at the time was wrapped in total darkness. You will please to tell me, as soon as you can conveniently, what Mr. Foulis says on this head; that (if he drops the design) I may save myself and the trouble of this packet. I ask your pardon for talking so long about it; a little more and my letter would be as big as all my works.
I have read, with much pleasure, an ode of yours (in which you have done me the honour to adopt a measure that I have used) on Lord Hay's birth-day. Though I do not love panegyric, I cannot but applaud this, for there is nothing mean in it. The diction is easy and noble, the texture of the thoughts lyric, and the versification harmonious. The few expressions I object to are ****.† These, indeed, are minutia; but they weigh for something, as half a grain makes a difference in the value of a diamond.
† Another paragraph of particular criticism is here omitted.
LVII. MR. GRAY TO MR. BEATTIE.
Pembroke-hall, Feb. 1, 1768.
I AM almost sorry to have raised any degree of impatience in you, because I can by no means satisfy it. The sole reason I have to publish these few additions now, is to make up (in both) for the omission of that Long Story; and as to the notes, I do it out of spite, because the public did not understand the two odes (which I have called Pindaric); though the first was not very dark, and the second alluded to a few common facts to be found in any sixpenny history of England, by way of question and answer, for the use of children. The parellel passages I insert out of justice to those writers from whom I happened to take the hint of any line, as far as I can recollect.
I rejoice to be in the hands of Mr. Foulis, who has the laudable ambition of surpassing his predecessors, the Etiennes and the Elzevirs, as well in literature, as in the proper art of his profession: he surprises me in mentioning a lady, after whom I have been inquiring these fourteen years in vain. When the two odes were first published, I sent them to her; but as I was forced to direct them very much at random, probably they never came to her hands. When the present edition comes out, I beg of Mr. Foulis to offer her a copy, in my name, with my respects and grateful remembrances; he will send another to you, Sir, and a third to Lord Gray, if he will do me the honour of accepting it. These are all the presents I pretend to make (for I would have it considered only as a new edition of an old book); after this, if he pleases to send me one or two, I shall think myself obliged to him. I cannot advise him to print a great number; especially as Dodsley has it in his power to print as many as he pleases, though I desire him not to do so.
You are very good to me in taking this trouble upon you: all I can say is, that I shall be happy to return it in kind, whenever you will give me the opportunity.
MR. GRAY TO THE DUKE OF GRAFTON, Cambridge, July, 1768. YOUR Grace has dealt nobly with me; and the same delicacy of mind that induced you to confer this favour on me, unsolicited and unexpected, may perhaps make you averse to receive my sincerest thanks and grateful acknowledgments. Yet your Grace must excuse me, they will have their way: they are indeed but words; yet I know and feel they come from my heart, and therefore are not wholly unworthy of Grace's acceptyour ance. I even flatter myself (such is my pride) that you have some little satisfaction in your own work. If I did not deceive myself in this, it would complete the happiness of, My Lord,
Your Grace's most obliged
And devoted servant.
[The following letter of Mr. Gray, to Mary Antrobus, is found in a curious collection of autographs, made by Dr. E. D. Clarke in the latter part of his life. It was written on the day of his presentation to George III., upon his appointment to the Professorship of Modern History at Cambridge, and contains some traits highly characteristic of the poet.
29th July, 1768.
I THANK you for all your intelligence (and the first news I had of poor Brocket's death was from you), and to reward you in part for it, I now shall tell you, that this day, hot as it is, I kissed the King's hand; that my warrant was signed by him last night; that on Wednesday I received a very honourable letter from the Duke of Grafton, acquainting me, that his Majesty had ordered him to offer me this Professorship; and much
* The three following letters explain the occasion of this address, in a way n honourable to his Grace, and are withal so authentic a testimony of Mr gratitude, that they leave me nothing to add on the subject.
more, which does me too much credit by half, for me to mention it: the Duke adds, that from private as well as public considerations, he takes the warmest part, in approving this measure of the king. These are his own words. You see there are princes (or ministers,) left in the world, that know how to do things handsomely; for I profess I never asked for it, nor have I seen his Grace, before or after this event.
Dr. R. (not forgetting a certain lady of his), is so good to you and to me, that you may (if you please) shew him my letter: he will not be critical as to the style, and I wish you would send it also to Mr. Brown, for I have not time to write to him, by this post: they need not mention this circumstance to others--they may learn it as they can. Adieu.
I receive your letter of July 28 (while I am writing). Consult your friends over the way; they are as good as I, and better. All I can say is, the Board have been so often used to the name of Antrobus lately, that I fear they may take your petition not in good part: if you are sure of the kindness or interest of Mr. A., the opportunity should not be lost; but I always a little distrust new friends and new lawyers.
I have found a man, who has brought Mr. Eyres (I think) up to my price in a hurry; however, he defers his final answer till Wednesday next. He shall not have it a shilling lower, I promise; and if he hesitates, I will rise upon him like fury. Good night. I am ever Yours.
How could you dream that St-, or Hinchl— would ask this for themselves? The only people that asked it were Lort, Marriet, Delavel, Tibb, and Peckat least I have heard of no more. Delavel always communicated his thoughts to me, knowing I would make no ill use of that knowledge. Lort is a worthy man, and I wish he could have it, or something as good: the rest are nothing.]