« PreviousContinue »
that have no eyes, I should be glad to have them a little altered. I am, to my shame, in your debt for a long letter ; but I cannot think of any thing else till you have set me at ease on this matter.
While Mr. Bentley was employed in making the designs mentioned in the preceding letter, Mr. Gray, who greatly admired not only the elegance of his fancy, but also the neatness as well as facility of his execution, began a complimentary poem to him, which I shall now insert. Many readers will perhaps think the panegyric carried too far; as I own I did when he first shewed it me. Yet it is but justice to declare, that the original drawings, now in Mr. Walpole's possession, which I have since seen, are so infinitely superior to the published engravings of them, that a person, who has only seen the latter, can by no means judge of the excellencies of the former: besides, there is so much of grotesque fancy in the designs themselves, that it can be no great matter of wonder (even if the engravers had done justice to them) that they failed to please universally. What I have said in defence of the Long Story might easily be applied to these productions of the sister art: but not to detain the reader from the perusal of a fragment, many stanzas of which are equal in poetical merit to the best of his most finished poems, I shall here only add, that it was for the sake of the design which Mr. Bentley made for the Long Story that Mr. Gray permitted it to be printed; yet not without clearly foreseeing that he risked somewhat by the publication of it, as he intimates in the preceding letter: and indeed the event shewed his judgment to be true in this particular, as it proved the least popular of all his productions.
STANZAS TO MR. BENTLEY.
In silent gaze the tuneful choir among,
Half pleas'd, half blushing let the Muse admire,
And bids the pencil answer to the lyre.
Fix'd by his touch, a lasting essence take;
To local symmetry and life awake !
To censure cold, and negligent of fame,
And catch a lustre from his genuine flame.
His quick creation, his unerring line;
And Dryden's harmony submit to mine.
Is that diviner inspiration giv'n,
The pomp and prodigality of heav'n.
The meaner gems, that singly charm the sight,
And dazzle with a luxury of light.
My lines a secret sympathy impart;
A sigh of soft reflection heave the heart.
+ A corner of the only manuscript copy, which Mr. Gray left of this fragment is unfortunately torn, and though I have endeavoured to supply the chasm, I
In the March following Mr. Gray lost that mother for whom, on all occasions, we have seen he shewed so tender a regard. She was buried in the same vault where her sister's remains had been deposited more than three years before. As the inscription on the tombstone (at least the latter part of it) is undoubtedly Mr. Gray's writing, it here would claim a place, even if it had not a peculiar pathos to recommend it, and, at the same time, a true inscriptive simplicity.
IN THE VAULT BENEATH ARE DEPOSITED,
THE REMAINS OF
SHE DIED, UNMARRIED, NOV. V. MDCCXLIX.
IN THE SAME PIOUS CONFIDENCE,
SHE DIED MARCH XI. MDCCLIII.
am not quite satisfied with the words which I have inserted in the third line. I print my additions in italics, and shall be much pleased if any reader finds a better supplement to this imperfect stanza.
MR. GRAY TO MR. MASON.
Durham, Dec. 26, 1753. A LITTLE while before I received your melancholy letter, I had been informed by Mr. Charles Avison of one of the sad events you mention. I know what it is to lose persons that one's eyes and heart have long been used to; and I never desire to part with the remembrance of that loss, nor would wish you should. It is something that you had a little time to acquaint yourself with the idea beforehand; and that your father suffered but little pain, the only thing that makes death terrible. After I have said this, I cannot help expressing my surprise at the disposition he has made of his affairs. I must (if you will suffer me to say so) call it great weakness; and yet perhaps your affliction for him is heightened by that very weakness; for I know it is possible to feel an additional sorrow for the faults of those we have loved, even where that fault has been greatly injurious to ourselves. Let me desire you not to expose yourself to any further danger in the midst of that scene of sickness and death; but withdraw as soon as possible to some place at a little distance in the country: for I do not, in the least, like the situation you are in. I do not attempt to console you on the situation
The death of my father, and of Dr. Marmaduke Pricket, a young physician of my own age, with whom I was brought up from my infancy, who died of the same infectious fever.
your fortune is left in; if it were far worse, the good opinion I have of you tells me, you will never the sooner do any thing mean or unworthy of yourself; and consequently I cannot pity you on this account, but I sincerely do the new loss you have had of a good and friendly man, whose memory I honour. I have seen the scene you describe, and know how dreadful it is; I know too I am the better for it. We are all idle and thoughtless things, and have no sense, no use in the world any longer than that sad impression lasts; the deeper it is engraved the better.
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Stoke, Sept. 18, 1754. I am glad you enter into the spirit of Strawberry-castle ; it has a purity and propriety of gothicism in it (with very few exceptions) that I have not seen elsewhere. My Lord Radnor's vagaries I see did not keep you from doing justice to his situation, which far surpasses every thing near it; and I do not know a more laughing scene than that about Twickenham and Richmond. Dr. Akenside, I perceive, is no conjurer in architecture; especially when he talks of the ruins of Persepolis, which are no more gothic than they are Chinese. The Egyptian style (see Dr. Pococke, not his discourses, but his prints) was apparently the mother of the Greek; and there is such a similitude between the Egyptian and those Persian