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MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
Cambridge, March 1, 1747. As one ought to be particularly careful to avoid blunders in a compliment of condolence, it would be a sensible satisfaction to me (before I testify my sorrow, and the sincere part I take in your misfortune) to know for certain, who it is I lament. I knew Zara and Selima, (Selima, was it? or Fatima) or rather I knew them both together; for I cannot justly say which was which. Then as to your handsome cat, the name you distinguish her by, I am no less at a loss, as well knowing one's handsome cat is always the cat one likes best; or, if one be alive and the other dead, it is usually the latter that is the handsomest. Besides, if the point were never so clear, I hope you do not think me so ill-bred or so imprudent as to forfeit all my interest in the survivor: Oh no! I would rather seem to mistake, and imagine to be sure it must be the tabby one that had met with this sad accident. Till this affair is a little better determined, you will excuse me if I do not begin to cry:
“ Tempus inane peto, requiem, spatiumque doloris.” Which interval is the more convenient, as it gives time to rejoice with you on your new honours.* This is only a beginning ; I reckon next week we shall hear you are a Freemason, or a Gormogon at least—Heigh ho! I feel, (as you to be sure have done long since) that I have very little to say, at least in prose. Somebody will be the better for it; I do not mean you, but your cat, feuë Mademoiselle Selime, whom I am about to immortalize for one week or fortnight, as follows * * t. There's a poem for you, it is rather too long for an epitaph.
* Mr. Walpole was about this time elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Stoke, June 5, 1748. Your friendship has interested itself in my affairs so naturally, that I cannot help troubling you a little with a detail of them. I And now, my dear Wharton, why must I tell you a thing so contrary to my own wishes and yours? I believe it is impossible for me to see you in the North, or to enjoy any of those agreeable hours I had flattered myself with. This business will oblige me to be in town several times during the summer, particularly in August, when half the money is to be paid; besides the good people here would think me the most ruinous and careless of mortals, if I should take such a journey at this time. The only satisfaction I can pretend to,
+ The reader need hardly be told, that the 4th Ode in the collection of his poems was inserted in the place of these asterisks. This letter (as some other slight ones have been, is printed chiefly to mark the date of one of his compositions.
# The paragraph here omitted contained an account of Mr. Gray's loss of a house by fire in Cornhill, and the expense he should be at in rebuilding it. Though it was insured, he could at this time ill bear to lay out the additional sum necessary for the purpose.
is that of hearing from you, and particularly at this time when I was bid to expect the good news of an increase of your family. Your opinion of Diodorus is doubtless right: but there are things in him very curious, got out of better authorities now lost. Do you remember the Ægyptian history, and particularly the account of the gold mines? My own readings have been cruelly interrupted: what I have been highly pleased with, is the new comedy from Paris by Gresset, called le Mechant; if you have it not, buy his works altogether in two little volumes, they are collected by the Dutch booksellers, and consequently contain some trash; but then there are the Ver-vert, the Epistle to P. Bougeant, the Chartreuse, that to his sister, an Ode on his country, and another on Mediocrity, and the Sidnei, another comedy, all which have great beauties: there is also a poem lately published by Thompson, called the Castle of Indolence, with some good stanzas in it. Mr. Mason is my acquaintance; I liked that ode* much, but have found no one else that did. He has much fancy, little judgment, and a good deal of modesty: I take him for a good and well meaning creature; but then he is really in simpli
* Ode to a Water Nymph, published about this time in Dodsley's Miscellany. On reading what follows, many readers, I suspect, will think me as simple as ever, in forbearing to expunge the paragraph: but as I publish Mr. Gray's sentiments of authors, as well living as dead, without reserve, I should do them injustice, if I was more scrupulous with respect to myself. My friends, I am sure, will be much amused with this and another passage hereafter of a like sort. My enemies, if they please, may sneer at it; and say, which they will very truly, that twenty-five years had made a very considerable abatement in my general philanthropy. Men of the world will not blame me for writing from so prudent a motive, as that of making my fortune by it; and yet the truth, I believe at the time was, that I was perfectly well satisfied, if my publications furnished me with a few guineas to see a play or an opera.
city a child, and loves every body he meets with: he reads little or nothing ; writes abundance, and that with a design to make his fortune by it. My best compliments to Mrs. Wharton and your family: does that name include any body I am not yet acquainted with?
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Stoke, August 19, 1748. I AM glad you have had any pleasure in Gresset; he seems to me a truly elegant and charming writer; the Mechant is the best comedy I ever read; his Edward I can scarce get through, it is puerile; though there are good lines, such as this for example:
“Le jour d'un nouveau regne est le jour des ingrats.” But good lines will make any thing rather than a good play: however, you are to consider this is a collection made up by the Dutch booksellers ; many things unfinished, or written in his youth, or designed not for the world, but to make his friends laugh, as the lutrin vivant, &c. There are two noble lines; which, as they are in the middle of an Ode to the King, may perhaps have escaped
“Le cri d'un peuple heureux est la seule eloquence,
“Qui sçait parler des Rois.” Which is very true, and should have been a hint to himself not to write odes to the king at all.
: As I have nothing more to say at present, I fill my paper with the beginning of an essay; what pame to give it I know not; but the subject is the Alliance of Education and Government: I mean to shew that they must both concur to produce great and useful men. I desire your judgment upon it before I proceed any further.
The first fifty-seven verses of an ethical essay accompanied this letter, which I shall here insert, with about fifty lines more, all of them finished in his highest manner. Had this noble design been completed, I may, with great boldness, assert, that it would have been one of the most capital poems of the kind that ever appeared either in our own, or any language. I am not able to inform the reader how many essays he meant to write upon the subject; nor do I believe that he had ever so far settled his plan as to determine that point: but since his theme was as extensive as human nature, (an observation he himself makes in a subsequent letter on the “ Esprit des Loix”) it is plain the whole work would have been considerable in point of size. He was busily employed in it at the time when M. de Montesquieu's book was first published: on reading it, he said the baron had forestalled some of his best thoughts ; and yet the reader will find, from the small fragment he has left, that the two writers differ a ļittle in one very material point, viz. the influence of soil and climate on national manners. * Some
* See L'Esprit des Loix, Liv. xiv. chap. 2, &c.