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“ rick wrote a few lines in their praise*. Some “hardy champions undertook to rescue them “ from neglect; and in a short time many were “ content to be shown beauties which they could “ not see.”
From this splenetic effusion I turn with pleasure to the more just remarks of Mr. Gilbert Wakefield, who says of Mr. Gray's Pindaric Odes, that “ They have a much greater resemblance to the “ Odes of the Theban bard than any thing of the “ kind in our own, and probably in any other “ language. Wildness of thought and irregularity “ of verse, had usually been esteemed the only “ way to resemble Pindar. The characteristic “excellencies of Pindar's poetry arc, sublimity “ of conception, boldness of metaphor, dignity of “ stile, rapidity of composition, and magnificence “ of phraseology. If a fair judgment can be “ formed upon those few specimens which the
* These are inserted in p. 191 of this Volume.
“ desolations of time have spared, in grandeur of “ imagery and regularity of thought, he is sur“passed by Mr. Gray.—These sublime and ela" borate productions of genius chastised by learn“ing, and of learning invigorated by genius, are " from their nature by no means calculated to “please the generality of readers, especially upon “ a slight acquaintance.-- That spirit of lyrical ino spiration which they breathe; that divine glow “ of pathos, which at the same time melts and in“ flames the reader, cannot operate with their full “ effect, but on a congenial soul, attuned to the “ bold vibrations of enthusiastic poesy.—He who “ can continue amidst the blaze of splendour that “ bursts around him, amidst the torrent of sub" limity that pours along, sedately speculating “ upon petty blemishes, is certainly a stranger to “ those sensations which animated Pindar and “ Mr. Gray."
A vacancy in the office of Poet Laureate was in 1757 occasioned by the death of Colley Cibber. The Duke of Devonshire, being at that time Chamberlain, made a polite offer of it to Mr. Gray, through the medium of Lord John Cavendish, his brother; but, whether on account of the disgrace that had been brought upon that office by the profligacy and inability of some who had filled it, or for what other reason we cannot now discover, Mr. Gray declined it, and it was conferred on Mr. Whitehead.
Our poet's life was now chiefly devoted to literary pursuits, and the cultivation of friendship. It is obvious, from the testimony of his letters, that he was indefatigable in the former, and that he was always ready to perform kind offices in the latter. Sir William Williams, an accomplished and gallant young officer, having been killed at Belleisle, his friend Mr. Frederic Montagu proposed to erect a monument over him, and with this view requested Mr. Gray to furnish the epitaph. His slight acquaintance with Sir William would have been a sufficient reason for declining the task; but the friendliness of Mr. Montagu's disposition, and the sincerity of affliction with which he was affected, wrought so powerfully upon Mr. Gray, that he could not refuse him, though he was by no means able to satisfy himself with the verses he wrote*.
The professorship of modern languages and history, in the University of Cambridge, becoming vacant in 1762, through the death of Mr. Turner, Mr. Gray was spirited up by some of his friends to ask of Lord Bute the succession. His application however failed, the office having been promised to Lady Lowther for the tutor of Sir James.
In 1765, Mr. Gray, ever attached to the beauties of nature as well as to the love of antiquities, undertook a journey to Scotland for the purpose of gratifying his curiosity and taste. During his stay in that country Dr. Beattie found the means of engaging his notice and friendship. Through the intervention of this gentleman the Marischal College of Aberdeen had requested to know if the
* See p. 176.
degree of Doctor of Laws would be acceptable to Gray; but this mark of their attention he civilly declined.
In December 1767, Dr. Beattie, still desirous that his country should afford some testimony of its regard to the merit of our poet, solicited his permission to print at the University press of Glasgow an elegant edition of his works; Dodsley had before asked the like favour, and Mr. Gray, unwilling to refuse, gratified both with a copy containing a few notes and the imitations of the old Norwegian poetry, intended to supplant the Long Story, which was printed at first only to illustrate Mr. Bentley's designs.
The death of Mr. Brocket, in the July following, left another opening to the professorship which he had before unsuccessfully sought. Lord Bute however was not in office, and the Duke of Grafton, to preclude a request, within two days of the vacancy appointed Mr. Gray.