Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

science: and yet travel I must, or cease to exist. Till this year I hardly knew what (mechanical) low spirits were, but now I even tremble at an east wind.

This is the last letter which I have selected for this Section; and I insert it chiefly for the occasion which it affords me of commenting on the latter part of it, where he speaks of his own employment as Professor of Modern History; an office which he had now held nearly three years, and had not begun to execute the duties of it. His health, which was all the time gradually on the decline, and his spirits only supported by the frequent summer excursions, during this period, might, to the candid reader, be a sufficient apology for this omission, or rather procrastination : but there is more to be said in his excuse; and I should ill execute the office I have undertaken of arranging these papers, with a view of doing honour to his memory, if I did not endeavour to remove every exception that might, with a shew of reason, be taken to his conduct in this instance.

His business, as professor, consisted of two parts; one, the teaching of modern languages; the other, the reading of lectures on modern history. The patent, which created the office, authorized him to execute the former of these by deputies; the latter, the same patent prescribed to him, to commence by reading a public lecture in the schools, and to continue to do so, once at least in every term. As this patent did not ascertain the language in which the lecture was to be read, he was at liberty to do it either in Latin or English; he chose the former, and I thinkrather injudiciously: because, though no man, in the earlier part of his life, was more ready in Latin composition, he had now lost the habit, and might therefore well have excused himself, by the nature

of his subject, from any superadded difficulty of language. However, immediately on his appointment, he sketched out an admirable plan for his inauguration speech ; in which, after enumerating the preparatory and auxiliary studies requisite, such as Ancient History, Geography, Chronology, &c.* he descended to the authentic sources of the science, such as public treaties--state recordsprivate correspondence of ambassadors, &c. He also wrote the exordium of this thesis ; not indeed in a manner correct enough be here given by way of fragment: but so spirited, in point of sentiment, as leaves it much to be lamented, that he did not proceed to its completion. At the same time he drew up, and laid before the Duke of Grafton, just then chosen chancellor of the University, three different schemes for regulating the method of choosing pupils privately to be instructed by him: one of these was so much approved as to be sent to Oxford, in order to be observed by the new professor then appointed in that place: and the same plan, or something very similar to it, regulates the private lectures which Mr. Gray's successor now reads at Cambridge ; but the public ones, I believe, are still omitted in both universities : and yet I conceive, that on these (had Mr. Gray been appointed earlier in life to the office) he would have chosen chiefly to exert his uncommon abilities. Indeed, if we consider the nature of the study itself, modern history, so far as it is a detail of facts (and so far only, a boy just come from school can be supposed to be taught it), may be as completely learned from private reading as from the mouth of any lecturer whatever. What can his lecture consist of, if it aims to teach what it ought, but a chain of well-authenticated events, judiciously selected from the numerous writers on the subject? What can it then be

* Amongst these auxiliaries, he has set down Memoria Technica; an art in which he had much exercised himself when young. I find many memorial verses among his scattered papers; and I suspect he found good account in the practice; for few men were more ready and more accurate in their dates and events than our Author.

more than an abridgementadded to the innumerable ones with which our libraries are already crowded ? I know of no difficult propositions which this study contains, to the proof of which the pupil must be led step after step by the slow hand of demonstration ; or that require to be elucidated by the conviction of a mechanical experiment. On this subject carefully to read, is completely to understand ; it is the exercise of memory, not of reason. But a public lecturer, reading to an audience well instructed in these facts, has a wider and nobler field. It is his province to trace every important event to its political spring; to develope the cause, and thence deduce the consequence. In the course of such disquisitions, the rational faculties of his auditors are employed in weighing the force of his arguments, and their judgments finally convinced by the decisive strength of them. What would be an idle display of either logic or rhetoric, where youths are only to be initiated into the knowledge of facts, becomes before this circle of mature hearers, a necessary exertion of erudition and genius. From such lectures afterward collected into a volume, not only the university, but the nation itself, nay all other nations might reap their advantage ; and receive from this, the benefit they have received from other, similar institutions : for though Mr. Gray, in one of the plans lately mentioned, observes, that “ Lectures read in public are generally things of more ostentation that use : yet (he adds), if indeed they should gradually swell into a book, and the Author should find reason to hope they might deserve the attention of the public, it is possible they might become of general service: of this we have already some instances,as Judge Blackstone's Lectures on the Common-Law, and the Bishop of Oxford's on Hebrew Poetry.”

But these reflections lead me beyond my purpose, which was only to remove from my deceased friend any

imputation which, on this account, might rest on his memory. Certain it is, that notwithstanding his ill health, he constantly intended to read lectures ; and I remember the tast time he visited me at Aston, in the summer of the year 1770, he expressed much chagrin on this subject, and even declared it to be his steadfast resolution to resign his professorship, if he found himself unable to do real service in it. What I said to dissuade him from this, though I urged, as may be supposed, every argument I could think of, had, I found, so little weight with him, that I am almost persuaded he would very soon have put this intention into execution. But death prevented the trial: the particulars of which it is now my melancholy office to relate.

The gout, which he always believed hereditary in his constitution (for both his parents died of that distemper), had for several years attacked him in a weakly and unfixed manner; and the great temperance which he observed, particularly in regard to his drinking, served, perhaps, to prevent any severe paroxysm, but by no means eradicated the constitutional malady. In the latter end of May, 1771, just about the time he wrote the last letter, he removed to London, where he became feverish, and his dejection of spirits increased : the weather being then very sultry, our common friend, Dr. Gisborne, * advised him, for an opener and freer air, to remove from his lodgings in Jermyn-street to Kensington, where he frequently attended him, and where Mr. Gray so far got the better of his disorder, as to be able to return to Cambridge; meaning from thence to set out very soon for Old Park, in hopes that travelling, from which he usually received so much benefit, would complete his cure : but, on the 24th of July, while at dinner in the College Hall, he felt a sudden nausea, which obliged him to rise from table and retire to his chamber. This continued

* Physician to his Majesty's household.

to increase, and nothing staying on his stomach, he sent for his friend Dr. Glynn, who, finding it to be the gout in that part, thought his case dangerous, and called in Dr. Plumptree, the physical professor : they prescribed to him the usual cordials given in that distemper, but without any good effect; for on the 29th he was seized with a strong convulsion fit, which, on the 30th, returned with increased violence, and on the next evening he expired. He was sensible at times almost to the last, and from the first aware of his extreme danger; but expressed no visible concern at the thoughts of his approaching dissolution.

This account I draw up from the letters which Dr. Brown, then on the spot, wrote to me during his short illness ; and as I felt strongly at the time what Tacitus has so well expressed on a similar occasion, I may, with propriety, use his words: “ Mihi, præter acerbitatem amici erepti, auget mæstitiam, quod adsidere valetudini, fovere deficientem, satiari vultu, complexu, non contigit."* I was then on the eastern side of Yorkshire, at a distance from the direct post, and therefore did not receive the melancholy intelligence soon enough to be able to reach Cambridge before his corpse had been carried to the place he had, by will, appointed for its interment. To see the last rights duly performed, therefore, fell to the lot of Dr. Brown; I had only to join him, on his return from the funeral, in executing the other trusts which his friendship had authorized us jointly to perform.

The method in which I have arranged the foregoing pages, has, I trust, one degree of merit—that it makes the reader so well acquainted with the man himself, as to render it totally unnecessary to conclude the whole with his character. If I am mistaken in this point, I have been a compiler to little purpose ; and I chose to be this rather than a biographer, that I might do the

* Vita Agricolæ, cap. xlv.

« ПредишнаНапред »