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MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Sunday, April 9, 1758. I am equally sensible of your affliction, * and of your kindness, that made you think of me at such a moment; would to God I could lessen the one, or requite the other, with that consolation which I have often received from you
when I most wanted it! but your grief is too just, and the cause of it too fresh, to admit of any such endeavour : what, indeed, is all human consolation? Can it efface every little amiable word or action of an object we loved, from our memory? Can it convince us, that all the hopes we had entertained, the plans of future satisfaction we had formed, were ill-grounded and vain, only because we have lost them? The only comfort (I am afraid) that belongs to our condition, is to reflect (when time has given us leisure for reflection) that others have suffered worse; or that we ourselves might have suffered the same misfortune at times and in circumstances that would probably have aggravated our
You might have seen this poor child arrived at an age to fulfil all your hopes, to attach you more strongly to him by long habit, by esteem, as well as natural affection, and that towards the decline of your life, when we most stand in need of support, and when he might chance to have been your only support; and then by some unforeseen and deplorable accident, or some painful lingering distemper, you might have lost him. Such has been the fate of many an unhappy father! I know there is a sort of tenderness which infancy and innocence alone produce; but I think you must own the other to be a stronger and a more overwhelming sorrow. Let me then beseech you to try, by every method of avocation and amusement, whether you cannot, by de
Occasioned by the death of his eldest (and at the time his only) son.
grees, get the better of that dejection of spirits, which inclines you to see every thing in the worst light possible, and throws a sort of voluntary gloom, not only over your present, but future days; as if even your situation now were not preferable to that of thousands round you ; and as if your prospect hereafter might not open as much of happiness to you as to any person you know: the condition of our life perpetually instructs us to be rather slow to hope, as well as to despair ; and (I know
you will forgive me, if I tell you) you are often a little too hasty in both, perhaps from constitution; it is sure we have great power over our own minds, when we choose to exert it; and though it be difficult to resist the mechanic impulse and bias of our own temper, it is yet possible, and still more so, to delay those resolutions it inclines us to take, which we almost always have cause to repent.
You tell me nothing of Mrs. Wharton's or your own state of health : I will not talk to you more upon this subject till I hear you are both well; for that is the grand point, and without it we may as well not think at all. You flatter me in thinking that any thing I can do,* could at all alleviate the just concern your loss has given you; but I cannot flatter myself so far, and know how little qualified I am at present to give any satisfaction to myself on this head, and in this way, much less to you. I by no means pretend to inspiration; but yet I affirm, that the faculty, in question, is by no means voluntary; it is the result (I suppose) of a certain disposition of mind, which does not depend on one's self, and which I have not felt this long time. You that are a witness how seldom this spirit has moved me in my life, may easily give credit to what I say.
* His friend had requested him to write an epitaph on the child.
MR. GRAY TO MR. PALGRAVE.
Stoke, Sept. 6, 1758. I do not know how to make you amends, having neither rock, ruin, nor precipice near me to send you ;; they do not grow in the south : but only say the word, if you would have a compact neat box of red brick with sash windows, or a grotto made of flints and shell-work, or a walnut-tree with three mole-hills under it, stuck with honey-suckles round a basin of gold-fishes, and you shall be satisfied; they shall come by the Edinburgh coach.
In the mean time I congratulate you on your new acquaintance with the savage, the rude, and the tremendous. Pray, tell me, is it any thing like what you had read in your book, or seen in two-shilling prints? Do not you think a man may be the wiser (I had almost said the better) for going a hundred or two of miles; and that the mind has more room in it than most people seem to think, if you will but furnish the apartments ? I almost envy your last month, being in a very insipid situation myself; and desire you would not fail to send me some furniture for my gothic apartment, which is very cold at present. It will be the easier task, as you have nothing to do but transcribe your little red books, if they are not rubbed out; for I conclude you have not trusted every thing to memory, which is ten times worse than a leadpencil : half a word fixed upon or near the spot, is worth à cart-load of recollection. When we trust to the picture that objects draw of themselves on our mind, we deceive ourselves; without accurate and particular observation, it is but ill-drawn at first, the outlines are soon blurred, the colours every day grow fainter; and at last, when
* Rector of Palgrave and Thrandeston in Suffolk. He was making a tour
in Scotland when this letter was written to him.
we would produce it to any body, we are forced to supply its defects with a few strokes of our own imagination.* God forgive me, I suppose I have done so myself before now, and misled many a good body that put their trust in me. Pray, tell me (but with permission, and without any breach of hospitality), is it so much warmer on the other side of the Swale (as some people of honour say) than it is here? Has the singing of birds, the bleating of sheep, the lowing of herds, deafened you at Rainton? Did the vast old oaks and thick groves in Northumberland keep off the sun too much from you? I am too civil to extend my inquiries beyond Berwick. Every thing, doubtless, must improve upon you as you advance northward. You must tell me, though, about Melross, Rosslin Chapel, and Arbroath. In short, your Portfeuille must be so full, that I only desire a loose chapter or two, and will wait for the rest till it comes out.
MR. GRAY TO MR. MASON.
Stoke, Nov. 9, 1758. I SHOULD have told you that Caradoc came safe to hand;t but my critical faculties have been so taken up in dividing nothing with an old woman,I that they are not yet composed enough for a better and more tranquil employment: shortly, however, I will make them obey
But am I to send this copy to Mr. Hurd, or return it to you? Methinks I do not love this travelling to and again of manuscripts by the post. While I am writing, your second packet is just arrived. I can only tell
you in gross, that there seem to me certain passages altered
Had this letter nothing else to recommend it, the advice here given to the curious traveller of making all his memoranda on the spot, and the reasons for it, are so well expressed, and withal so important, that they certainly deserve our notice. + A second manuscript of Caractacus with the Odes inserted.
Mrs. Rogers died about this time, and left Mr. Gray and Mrs. Olliffe, another of his aunts, her joint executors.
which might as well have been let alone : and that I shall not be easily reconciled to Mador's own song:
* I must not have my fancy raised to that agreeable pitch of heathenism and wild magical enthusiasm, and then have you let me drop into moral philosophy and cold good sense. I remember you insulted me when I saw you last, and affected to call that which delighted my imagination, nonsense: now I insist that sense is nothing in poetry, but according to the dress she wears, and the scene she appears in. If you should lead me into a superb gothic building with a thousand clustered pillars, each of them half a mile high, the walls all covered with fretwork, and the windows full of red and blue saints that had neither head nor tail; and I should find the Venus of Medici, in person, perked up in a long niche over the high altar, do you think it would raise or damp my devotions? I say that Mador must be entirely a Briton; and that his pre-eminence among his companions must be shewn by superior wildness, more barbaric fancy, and a more striking and deeper harmony both of words and numbers : if British antiquity be too narrow, this is the place for invention; and if it be pure invention, so much the clearer must the expression be, and so much the stronger and richer the imagery. There's for you now!
MR. GRAY TO MR. PALGRAVE.
London, July 24, 1759. I am now settled in my new territories commanding Bedford Gardens, and all the fields as far as Highgate and Hampstead, with such a concourse of moving pictures as would astonish you; so rus-in-urbe-ish, that I believe I shall stay here, except little excursions and vagaries, for a year to come. What though I am sep
• He means here the second ode, wbich was afterward greatly altered.