Графични страници
PDF файл


At a time when I am enumerating the more considerable of Mr. Gray's antiquarian pursuits, I must not omit to mention his great knowledge of Gothic architecture. He had seen, and accurately studied, in his youth, while abroad, the Roman proportions on the spot, both in ancient ruins and in the works of Palladio. In his later years he applied himself to consider those stupendous structures of more modern date, that adorn our own country; which, if they have not the same grace, have undoubtedly equal dignity. He endeavoured to trace this mode of building, from the time it commenced, through its various changes, till it arrived at its perfection, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, and ended in that of Elizabeth. For this purpose he did not so much depend upon written accounts, as that internal evidence which the buildings themselves give of their respective antiquity; since they constantly furnish to the wellinformed eye, arms, ornaments, and other undubitable marks, by which their several ages may be ascertained. On this account he applied himself to the study of heraldry as a preparatory science, and has left behind him a number of genealogical papers, more than sufficient to prove him a complete master of it. By these means he arrived at so very extraordinary a pitch of sagacity, as to be enabled to pronounce, at first sight, on the precise time when every particular part of any of our cathedrals was erected. He invented also several terms of art, the better to explain his meaning on this subject. I frequently pressed him to digest these in a regular order; and offered, under his direction, to adapt a set of drawings to them, which might describe every ornament peculiarly in use in different æra. every But though he did not disapprove this hint, he neglected it; and has left no papers that would lead to its prosecution. I therefore mention it in this place, only to induce certain of his friends, to whom I know he communicated

more of his thoughts upon this subject than to me, to pursue the design, if they think it would be attended with utility to the public.

There is an Eloge on M. l'Abbé Le Beuf, published in the "Histoire de l'Acad. des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, Vol. XXIXth," by which it appears that gentleman had precisely the same idea with Mr. Gray on this subject; and, by pursuing it, had arrived at the same degree of skill. "Les Voyages et les Lectures

de M. l'Abbé Le Beuf l'avoient tellement familiarisé avec les monumens, qu'il apercevoit les differences les plus delicates de l'ancienne architecture; il demêloit du premier coup-d'œil, les caractères de chaque siècle; à l'inspection d'un bâtiment il pouvoit dire, quelquefois à vingt années près, dans quel temps il avoit été construit les ceintres, les chapiteaux, les moulures portoient à ses yeux la date de leur bâtisse; beaucoup de grands edifices ont été l'ouvrage de plusieurs siècles; plus encore ont été reparés en des siècles differens; il décomposoit un même bâtiment avec une facilité singulière, il fixoit l'age des diverses parties, et ses decisions étoient toujours fondées sur des preuves indubitables; on en trouve une foule d'exemples dans son Histoire du Diocèse de Paris." His panegyrist also informs us, that he was solicited by his friend, M. Joly de Fleury, to reduce into a body of science the discoveries which he had made, that his ill health prevented him; but that the work is now in the hands of a person very capable of perfecting his idea. Yet I question whether a work of this kind, from a French writer, will be of any great importance, since I am informed by a very competent judge, that the resemblance between Gothic architecture in England and in France is surprisingly slight, except in the cathedral at Amiens, and a few other churches, supposed to be built by the English while in possession of French provinces. The public

has much more to hope from Mr. T. Warton's late pro'mise to it, as he, of all other living writers, is best qualified to give complete satisfaction to the curious on this subject; in the meanwhile, it may not be amiss to inform the reader, that Mr. Bentham's Remarks on Saxon Churches, which make a part of an elaborate Introduction to his History of Ely Cathedral, lately published, will convey to him many sentiments of Mr. Gray; as, amongst other antiquaries, he contributed his assistance to that gentleman; who, in his preface, has accordingly mentioned the obligation.

But the favourite study of Mr. Gray, for the last ten years of his life, was natural history, which he then rather resumed than began; as, by the instructions of his uncle Antrobus, he was a considerable botanist at fifteen. He followed it closely, and often said that he thought it a singular felicity to have engaged in it; as, besides the constant amusement it gave him in his chamber, it led him more frequently out into the fields; and, by making his life less sedentary, improved the general course of his health and spirits.

Habituated, as he had long been, to apply only to first-rate authors, as to the fountain-head of that knowledge, which he was at the time solicitous to acquire, it is obvious that, when he resolved to make himself master of natural history, he would immediately become the disciple of the great Linnæus. His first business was to understand accurately his "termini artis," which called justly the learning a new original language. He then went regularly through the vegetable, animal, and fossile kingdoms. The marginal notes which he has left, not only on Linnæus, but the many other authors which he read on these subjects, are very numerous but the most considerable are on Hudson's Flora Anglica, and the tenth edition of the Systema Naturæ; which latter he interleaved, and filled almost

[ocr errors]

entirely. While employed on zoology, he also read Aristotle's treatise on that subject with great care, and explained many difficult passages of that obscure ancient, from the lights he had acquired from modern naturalists.

Having now given a general account of that variety of literary pursuits, which, in their turns, principally engaged his attention, and which were either not mentioned, or only glanced at in the preceding letters, let me be permitted to say a word or two of his amusements. The chief, and almost the only one of these (if we except the frequent experiments he made on flowers, in order to mark the mode and progress of their vegetation), was music. His taste in this art was equal to his skill in any more important science. It was founded on the best models, those great masters in Italy, who flourished about the same time with his favourite Pergolesi. Of his and of Leo's, Bononcini's, Vinci's, and Hasse's works, he made a valuable collection while abroad, chiefly of such of their vocal compositions as he had himself heard and admired; observing in his choice of these, the same judicious rule which he followed in making his collection of prints; which was not so much to get together complete sets of the works of any master, as to select those (the best in their kind) which would recal to his memory the capital pictures, statues, and buildings which he had seen and studied. By this means, as he acquired in painting great facility and accuracy in the knowledge of hands, so in music he gained supreme skill in the more refined powers of expression; especially when we consider that art as an adjunct to poetry: for vocal music, and that only (excepting perhaps the lessons of the younger Scarlatti), was what he chiefly regarded. His instrument was the harpsichord; on which, though he had little execution, yet, when he sung to it, he so modulated the small


powers of his voice,* as to be able to convey to the intelligent hearer no common degree of satisfaction. This, however, he could seldom be prevailed upon to do, even by his most intimate acquaintance,

To conclude this slight sketch of his literary character, I believe I may with great truth assert, that excepting pure mathematics, and the studies dependent on that science, there was hardly any part of human learning, in which he had not acquired a competent skill: in most of them a consummate mastery.

I proceed now, as I did in the former sections, to select, for the reader's perusal, the last series of his letters. They are few in number; yet contain all the incidents that occurred in that very short space of time during which Providence was pleased further to continue him a blessing to his friends, and an ornament to his country.




I WAS absent from college, and did not receive your melancholy letter, till my return hither yesterday; so you must not attribute this delay to me, but to accident: to sympathize with you in such a loss† is an easy task for me, but to comfort you not so easy; can I wish to see you unaffected with the sad scene now before eyes, or with the loss of a person that, through a great part of your life, has proved himself so kind a friend to you? He who best knows our nature (for he made us what we are) by such affliction recals us from our wandering thoughts and idle merriment; from the insolence of youth and prosperity, to serious reflection, to our

*He was much admired for his singing in his youth; yet he was so shy in exercising this talent, that Mr. Walpole tells me he never could but once prevail on him to give a proof of it; and then it was with so much pain to himself, that it gave him no manner of pleasure.

✦ The death of his uncle, Governor Floyer.

« ПредишнаНапред »