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which I now inclose to you have had the misfortune, by Mr. Walpole's fault, to be made still more public, for which they certainly were never meant; but it is too late to complain. They have been so applauded, it is quite a shame to repeat it: I mean not to be modest; but it is a shame for those who have said such superlative things about them, that I cannot repeat them. I should have been glad that you and two or three more people had liked them, which would have satisfied my ambition on this head amply. I have been this month in town, not at Newcastle-house; but diverting myself among my gay acquaintance, and return to my cell with so much the more pleasure. I dare not speak of my future excursion to Durham for fear of a disappointment, but at present it is my full intention.
MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
Cambridge, Feb. 11, 1751.
As you have brought me into a little sort of distress, you must assist me, I believe, to get out of it as well as I can. Yesterday I had the misfortune of receiving a letter from certain gentlemen (as their bookseller expresses it,) who have taken the Magazine of Magazines into their hands they tell me that an ingenious Poem, called Reflections in a Country Churchyard, has been communicated to them, which they are printing forthwith; that they are informed that the excellent
author of it is I by name, and that they beg not only his indulgence, but the honour of his correspondence, &c. As I am not at all disposed to be either so indulgent, or so correspondent, as they desire, I have but one bad way left to escape the honour they would inflict upon me; and therefore am obliged to desire you would make Dodsley print it immediately (which may be done in less than a week's time) from your copy, but without my name, in what form is most convenient for him, but on his best paper and character; he must correct the press himself, and print it without any interval between the stanzas, because the sense is in some places continued beyond them; and the title must be,-Elegy, written in a Country Churchyard. If he would add a line or two to say it came into his hands by accident, I should like it better. If you behold the Magazine of Magazines in the light that I do, you will not refuse to give yourself this trouble on my account, which you have taken of your own accord before now. If Dodsley do not do this immediately, he may as well let it alone.
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Dec. 19, 1752.
HAVE you read Madame de Maintenon's letters? They are undoubtedly genuine; they begin very early in her life, before she married Scarron, and continue after the king's death to
within a little while of her own: they bear all the marks of a noble spirit (in her adversity particularly), of virtue and unaffected devotion; insomuch, that I am almost persuaded she was actually married to Lewis the XIV, and never his mistress: and this not out of any policy or ambition, but conscience: for she was what we should call a bigot, yet with great good sense: in short, she was too good for a court. Misfortunes in the beginning of her life had formed her mind (naturally lively and impatient) to reflection and a habit of piety. She was always miserable while she had the care of Madame de Montespan's children; timid and very cautious of making use of that unlimited power she rose to afterwards, for fear of trespassing on the King's friendship for her; and after his death not at all afraid of meeting her
I do not know what to say to you with regard to Racine; it sounds to me as if any body should fall upon Shakespear, who indeed lies infinitely more open to criticism of all kinds; but I should not care to be the person that undertook it. If you do not like Athaliah or Britannicus, there is no more to be said, I have done.
Bishop Hall's satires, called Virgidemiæ, are lately republished. They are full of spirit and poetry; as much of the first as Dr. Donne, and far more of the latter: they were written at the university when he was about twenty-three years old, and in Queen Elizabeth's time.
You do not say whether you have read the Crito.*
* Of Plato.
I only recommend the dramatic part of the Phædo to you, not the argumentative. The subject of the Erasta is good; it treats of that peculiar character and turn of mind which belongs to a true philosopher, but it is shorter than one would wish. The Euthyphro I would not read at all.
MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
Stoke, Jan. 1753.
I AM at present at Stoke, to which place I came at half an hour's warning upon the news I received of my mother's illness, and did not expect to have found her alive; but when I arrived she was much better, and continues so. I shall therefore be very glad to make you a visit at Strawberry-Hill, whenever you give me notice of a convenient time. I am surprised at the print,* which far surpasses my idea of London graving: the drawing itself was so finished, that I suppose it did not require all the art I had imagined to copy it tolerably. My aunts seeing me open your
* A proof print of the Cul de Lampe, which Mr. Bentley designed for the Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and which represents a village-funeral; this occasioned the pleasant mistake of his two aunts. The remainder of the letter relates entirely to the projected publication of Mr. Bentley's designs, which were printed after by Dodsley this same year. The latter part of it, where he so vehemently declares against having his head prefixed to that work, will appear highly characteristical to those readers who were personally acquainted with Mr. Gray. The print, which was taken from an original picture, painted by Echart, in Mr. Walpole's possession, was actually more than half engraved; but afterwards on this account suppressed.
letter, took it to be a burying-ticket, and asked whether any body had left me a ring; and so they still conceive it to be, even with all their spectacles on. Heaven forbid they should suspect it to belong to any verses of mine, they would burn me for a poet. On my own part I am satisfied, if this design of yours succeed so well as you intend it; and yet I know it will be accompanied with something not at all agreeable to me.-While I write this, I receive your second letter. Sure, you are not out of your wits! This I know, if you suffer my head to be printed, you will infallibly put me out of mine. I conjure you immediately to put a stop to any such design. Who is at the expense of engraving it, I know not; but if it be Dodsley, I will make up the loss to him. The thing as it was, I know, will make me ridiculous enough; but to appear in proper person, at the head of my works, consisting of half a dozen ballads in thirty pages, would be worse than the pillory. I do assure you, if I had received such a book, with such a frontispiece, without any warning, I believe it would have given me a palsy: therefore I rejoice to have received this notice, and shall not be easy till you tell me all thoughts of it are laid aside. I am extremely in earnest, and cannot bear even the idea.
I had written to Dodsley if I had not received yours, to tell him how little I liked the title which he meant to prefix; but your letter has put all that out of my head. If you think it necessary to print these explanations* for the use of people
See the above-mentioned designs, where the explanations here alluded to are inserted.