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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. 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.
MR. GRAY TO MR. NICHOLLS.
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 losst 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 your 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.
duty, and to himself; nor need we hasten to get rid of these impressions; time (by appointment of the same Power) will cure the smart, and in some hearts soon blot out all the traces of sorrow : but such as preserve them longest (for it is partly left in our own power) do perhaps best acquiesce in the will of the chastiser.
For the consequences of this sudden loss, I see them well, and I think, in a like situation, could fortify my mind, so as to support them with cheerfulness and good hopes, though not naturally inclined to see things in their best aspect. When you have time to turn yourself round, you must think seriously of your profession; you know I would have wished to see you wear the livery of it long ago : but I will not dwell on this subject at present. To be obliged to those we love and esteem is a pleasure ; but to serve and oblige them is a still greater; and this, with independence (no vulgar blessing), are what a profession at your age may reasonably promise: without it they are hardly attainable. Remember I speak from experience.
In the mean time while your present situation lasts, which I hope will not be long, continue your kindness and confidence in me, by trusting me with the whole of it; and surely you hazard nothing by so doing; that situation does not appear so new to me as it does to you, You well know the tenour of my conversation (urged at times perhaps a little farther than you liked) has been intended to prepare you for this event, and to familiarize your mind with this spectre, which you call by its worst name; but remember that “ Honesta res est læta paupertas.” I see it with respect, and so will every one, whose poverty is not seated in their mind.* There is but one real evil in it (take my word who know it well), and that is, that you have less the power of assisting others, who have not the same resources to
* An excellent thought finely expressed.
support them. You have youth: you have many kind well-intentioned people belonging to you; many acquaintance of your own, or families that will wish to serve you. Consider how many have had the same, or greater cause for dejection, with none of these resources before their eyes. Adieu ! I sincerely wish your happiness.
P.S. I have just heard that a friend of mine is struck with a paralytic disorder, in which state it is likely he may live incapable of assisting himself, in the hands of servants or relations that only gape after his spoils, perhaps for years to come: think how many things may befal a man far worse than poverty or death.*
Pembroke-college, June 24, 1769. And so you have a garden of your own,t and you plant and transplant, and are dirty and amused! Are not you ashamed of yourself? Why, I have no such thing, you monster, nor ever shall be either dirty or amused as long as I live. My gardens are in the windows, like those of a lodger up three pair of stairs in Petticoat-lane, , or Camomile-street, and they go to bed regularly under the same roof that I do. Dear, how charming it must be to walk out in one's own garding, and sit on a bench in the open air, with a fountain and leaden statue, and a rolling stone, and an arbour : have a care of sore throats though, and the agoe.
* This letter was written a year or two before the time when this series of letters should commence; but as it was not communicated to me before the last Section was printed off, and has a connexion with that which follows it, I chose to begin this Section with it; the date not appearing to be very material, and the pathetic and friendly turn of it strongly pleading for its insertion.
+ Mr. Nicholls, by having pursued the advice of his correspondent, we find was now possessed of that competency which he wished him. Happy, not only in having so sage an adviser, but in his own good sense which prompted him to follow such advice. The gaiety, wbim, and humour this letter contrast prettily with the gravity and serious reflection of the former.
However, be it known to you, though I have no garden, I have sold my estate and got a thousand guineas,* and fourscore pounds a year for my old aunt, and a twenty pound prize in the lottery, and Lord knows what arrears in the treasury, and am a rich fellow enough, go to; and a fellow that hath had losses, and one that hath two gowns, and every thing handsome about him, and in a few days shall have new window-curtains : are you avized of that? Ay, and a new mattress to lie
upon. My Ode has been rehearsed again and again,t and the scholars have got scraps by heart: I expect to see it torn piece-meal in the North-Briton before it is born. If you will come you shall see it, and sing in it amidst a chorus from Salisbury and Gloucester music meeting, great names there, and all well versed in Judas Maccabæus. I wish it were once over; for then I immediately go for a few days to London, and so with Mr. Brown to Aston, though I fear it will rain the whole summer, and Skiddaw will be invisible and inaccessible to mortals.
I have got De la Landes' Voyage through Italy, in eight volumes; he is a member of the academy of sciences, and pretty good to read. I have read too an octavo volume of Shenstone's Letters : poor man! he was always wishing for money, for fame, and other distinctions; and his whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, and in a place which his taste had adorned; but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see and commend it: his correspondence is about nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three neighbouring clergymen who wrote verses too.
• Consisting of houses on the west side of Hand-alley, London : Mrs. Olliffe was the aunt here mentioned, who had a share in this estate, and for whom he procured this annuity. She died in 1771, a few months before her nephew.
† Ode for Music on the Duke of Grafton's Installation. See Poems. His ren son for writing it is given in the next letter.