« PreviousContinue »
MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
My dear Sir, I should say Mr. Inspector General of the Exports and Imports;* but that appellation would make but an odd figure in conjunction with the three familiar monosyllables above written, for
Non benè conveniunt nec in unâ sede morantur
Majestas et amor. Which is, being interpreted, Love does not live at the Custom-house: however, by what style, title, or denomination soever you choose to be dignified or distinguished hereafter, these three words will stick by you like a burr, and you can no more get quit of these and your Christian name than St. Anthony could of his pig. My motions at present (which you are pleased to ask after) are much like those of a pendulum or (Dr. Longicallyt speaking) oscillatory. I swing from chapel or hall home, and from home to chapel or hall. All the strange incidents that happen in my journies and returns I shall be sure to acquaint you with: the most wonderful is, that it now rains exceedingly; this has refreshed the prospect, $ as the way for the most part lies between green fields on either
* Mr. Walpole was just named to that post, which he exchanged soon after for that of Usher of the Exchequer,
+ Dr. Long, the master of Pembroke-hall, at this time read lectures in experimental philosophy.
# All that follows is a humorously-hyperbolic description of the quadrangle of Peterhouse.
hand, terminated with buildings at some distance,
MR. GRAY TO MR. WEST.
I am coming away all so fast, and leaving behind me, without the least remorse, all the beauties of Sturbridge Fair. Its white bears may roar, its apes may wring their hands, and crocodiles cry their eyes out, all's one for that; I shall not once visit them, nor so much as take my leave. The university has published a severe edict against schismatical congregations, and created half a dozen new little procterlings to see its orders executed, being under mighty apprehensions lest Henley* and his gilt tub should come to the fair and seduce their young ones: but their pains are to small purpose; for lo! after all, he is not coming. :
* Orator Henley,
I am at this instant in the very agonies of leaving college, and would not wish the worst of
my enemies a worse situation. If you knew the dust, the old boxes, the bedsteads, and tutors, that are about my ears, you would look upon this letter as a great effort of my resolution and unconcernedness in the midst of evils. I fill up my paper with a loose sort of version of that scene in Pastor Fido that begins, Care selve beati*
MR. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
I THANK you again and again for your two last most agreeable letters. They could not have come more a-propos; I was without any books to divert me, and they supplied the want of every thing: I made them my classics in the country;
* This Latin version is extremely elegiac, but, as it is only a version, I do not insert it. Mr. Gray did not begin to learn Italian till about a year and a half before he translated this scene; and I find amongst his papers an English translation of part of the fourth Canto of Tasso's Gierusalemma Liberata, done previously to this, which has great merit. In a letter to Mr. West, dated March,
says, “ I learn Italian like any dragon, and in two months am got through the sixteenth book of Tasso, whom I hold in great admiration : I want you to learn too, that I may know your opinion of him; nothing can be easier than that language to any one who knows Latin and French already, and there are few so copious and expressive.” In the same letter he tells him, “ that his college has set him a versifying on a public occasion, (viz. those verses which are called Tripos) on the theme of Luna est habitabilis.” The poem, I believe, is to be found in the Musæ Etonenses. I would further observe, on this occasion, that though Mr. Gray had lately, read and translated Statius, yet when he attempted composition, his judgment immediately directed him to the best model of versification ; accordingly his hexameters are, as far as modern'ones can be, after the manner of Virgil : they move in the succession of his pauses and close with his elisions.
they were my Horace and Tibullus-Non ita loquor assentandi causå, ut probè nosti si me noris, verum quia sic mea est sententia. I am but just come to town, and, to shew you my esteem of your favours, I venture to send you by the penny post, to your father's, what you will find on the next page; I hope it will reach you soon after your arrival, your boxes out of the waggon, yourself out of the coach, and tutors out of your memory.
Adieu! we shall see one another, I hope, tomorrow,
Quod mihi tam gratæ misisti dona Camoenæ,
Qualia Mænalius Pan Deus ipse velit, Amplector te, Graie, et toto corde reposco,
Oh desiderium jam nimis usque meum : Et mihi rura placent, et me quoq; sæpe
volentem Duxerunt Dryades per sua prata Deæ; Sicubi lympha fugit liquido pede, sive virentem
Magna, decus nemoris, quercus opacat humum :
Et, noto ut jacui gramine, nota cano.
Ah, si desit amor, nil mibi rura placent.
Regnat et in Cælis, regnat et Oceano ; Ille gregem taurosq; domat, sæviq; leonem
Seminis ; ille feros, ultus Adonin, apros: Quin et fervet amore nemus, ramoq; sub omni
Concentu tremulo plurima gaudet avis. Duræ etiam in sylvis agitant connubia plante,
Dura etiam et fertur saxa animasse Venus.
Sincero siquis pectore amare vetat :
Non illi arcanum cor aperire velim;
Nescit amicitias, teneros qui nescit amores :
Ah! si nulla Venus, nil mihi rura placent.
Externâ positum ducere fata dies ;
Plorarem magnos voce querente Deos.
Nil caperem præter posse placere meæ;
Illa intrà optarem brachia cara mori.
Sept. 17, 1738.
Mr. Gray, on his return to town, continued at his father's house in Cornhill till the March following, in which interval Mr. Walpole being disinclined to enter so early into the business of Parliament, prevailed on Sir Robert Walpole to permit him to go abroad, and on Mr. Gray (as was said before) to be the companion of his travels. Mr. West spent the greatest part of the winter with his mother and sister at Epsom, during which time a letter or two more passed between the two friends. But these I think it unnecessary to insert, as I have already given sufficient specimens of the blossoms of their genius. The reader of taste and candour will, I trust, consider them only as such; yet will be led to think that, as the one produced afterwards "fruits worthy of paradise, the other would also have produced them, had he lived to a more mature age.