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MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Pembroke-hall, March 25, 1756.
THOUGH I had no reasonable excuse for myself before I received your last letter, yet since that time I have had a pretty good one; having been taken up in quarrelling with Peter-house,* and in removing myself from thence to Pembroke. This may be looked upon as a sort of æra in a life so barren of events as mine; yet I shall treat it in Voltaire's manner, and only tell you that I left my lodgings because the rooms were noisy, and the people of the house uncivil. This is all I would choose to have said about it; should be curious enough to enter into a particular detail of facts and minute circumstances, the bearer, who was witness to them, will probably satisfy you. All I shall say more is, that I am for the present extremely well lodged here, and as quiet as in the Grand Chartreuse; and that every body (even Dr. Long himself) are as civil as they could be to Mary of Valenst in person.
but if you in private
* The reason of Mr. Gray's changing his college, which is here only glanced at, was in few words this: two or three young men of fortune, who lived in the same stair-case, had for some time intentionally disturbed him with their riots, and carried their ill behaviour so far as frequently to awaken him at midnight. After having borne with their insults longer than might reasonably have been expected even from a man of less warmth of temper, Mr. Gray complained to the governing part of the society; and not thinking that his remonstrance was sufficiently attended to, quitted the college. The slight manner in which he mentions this affair, when writing to one of his most intimate friends, certainly does honour to the placability of his disposition.
+ Foundress of the college.
With regard to any advice I can give you about your being physician to the hospital, I frankly own it ought to give way to a much better judge, especially so disinterested a one as Dr. Heberden. I love refusals no more than you do. But as to your fears of effluvia, I maintain that one sick rich patient has more of pestilence and putrefaction about him than a whole ward of sick poor.
The similitude between the Italian republics and those of ancient Greece has often struck me, as it does you. I do not wonder that Sully's Memoirs have highly entertained you; but cannot agree with you in thinking him or his master two of the best men in the world. The King was indeed one of the best-natured men that ever lived; but it is owing only to chance that his intended narriage with Madame d'Estreés, or with the Marquise de Verneuil, did not involve him and the kingdom in the most inextricable confusion; and his design upon the Princess of Condé (in his old ge) was worse still. As to the minister, his base application to Concini, after the murder of Henry, has quite ruined him in my esteem, and destroyed all the merit of that honest surly pride for which I honoured him before; yet I own that as kings and ministers go, they were both extraordinary men. Pray look at the end of Birch's State Papers of Sir J. Edmonds, for the character of the French court at that time; it is written by Sir George Carew.
You should have received Mason's present* last Saturday. I desire you to tell me your critical
* The four odes which I had just published separately.
opinion of the new odes, and also whether you have found out two lines which he has inserted in his third to a friend, which are superlative.* We do not expect the world, which is just going to be invaded, will bestow much attention on them; if you hear any thing, you will tell us.
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
June 14, 1756.
THOUGH I allow abundance for your kindness and partiality to me, I am yet much pleased with the good opinion you seem to have of the Bard I have not, however, done a word more than the little you have seen, having been in a very listless, unpleasant, and inutile state of mind for this long time, for which I shall beg you to prescribe me somewhat strengthening and agglutinant, lest it turn to a confirmed pthisis.
I recommend two little French books to you, one called Memoirs de M. de la Porte; it has all the air of simplicity and truth, and contains some few very extraordinary facts relating to Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarine. The other is in
I should leave the reader to guess (if he thought it worth his while) what this couplet was, which is here commended so much beyond its merit, did not the Ode conclude with a compliment to Mr. Gray, in which part he might probably look for it, as those lines were written with the greater care. To secure, therefore, my friend from any imputation of vanity, whatever becomes of myself, I shall here insert the passage.
While through the west, where sinks the crimson Day,
two small volumes, "Memoires de Madame Staal." The facts are no great matter, but the manner and vivacity make them interesting. She was a sort of confidante to the late Dutchess of Maine, and imprisoned a long time on her account during the regency.
I ought before now to have thanked you for your kind offer, which I mean soon to accept, for a reason which to be sure can be none to you and Mrs. Wharton; and therefore I think it my duty to give you notice of it. I have told you already of my mental ailments; and it is a very possible thing also that I may be bodily ill again in town, which I would not choose to be in a dirty inconvenient lodging, where, perhaps, my nurse might stifle me with a pillow; and therefore it is no wonder if I prefer your house: but I tell you of this in time, that if either of you are frightened at the thoughts of a sick body, you may make a handsome excuse and save yourselves this trouble. You are not however to imagine my illness is in esse; no, it is only in posse; otherwise I should be scrupulous of bringing it home to you. I think I shall be with you in about a fortnight.
MR. GRAY TO MR. MASON.
Stoke, July 25, 1756.
I FEEL a contrition for my long silence; and yet perhaps it is the last thing you trouble your head about. Nevertheless I will be as sorry
as if you took it ill. I am sorry too to see you so punctilious as to stand upon answers, and never to come near me till I have regularly left my name at your door, like a mercer's wife, that imitates people who go a visiting. I would forgive you this, if you could possibly suspect I were doing any thing that I liked better; for then your formality might look like being piqued at my negligence, which has somewhat in it like kindness: but you know I am at Stoke, hearing, seeing, doing absolutely nothing. Not such a nothing as you do at Tunbridge, chequered and diversified with a succession of fleeting colours; but heavy, lifeless, without form and void; sometimes almost as black as the moral of Voltaire's Lisbon,* which angers you so. I have had no more muscular inflations, and am only troubled with this depression of mind. You will not expect therefore I should give you any account of my verve, which is at best (you know) of so delicate a constitution, and has such weak nerves, as not to stir out of its chamber above three days in a year. But I shall enquire after yours, and why it is off again? It has certainly worse nerves than mine, if your reviewers have frighted it. Sure I (not to mention a score of your other critics) am something a better judge than all the man-midwives and presbyterian parsons that ever were born. Pray give me leave to ask you, do you find yourself tickled with the commendations of such people? (for you have your share of these too) I dare say not; your vanity has a better taste. And can then the censure of
* His poem sur la Destruction de Lisbon, published about that time. The reviewers, at the time, were supposed to be of these professions.