Page images

Such as in silence of the night

Come (sweep) along some winding entry, (Tyacke* has often seen the sight)

Or at the chapel door stood sentry t:

In peaked hoods and mantles tarnish’d,

Sour visages enough to scare ye,
High dames of honour once, that garnish'd

The drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary.

The peeress comes. The audience stare,

And doff their hats with due submission : She curtsies, as she takes her chair,

To all the people of condition..

The bard, with many an artful fib,

Had in imagination fenced him,
Disproved the arguments of Squib I,
And all that Groom I could urge against him.

* The housekeeper. Her name which has hitherto, in ALL editions of Gray's Poems, been written Styack, is corrected from

I her grave-stone in the churchyard, and the accounts of contemporary persons in the parish. Housekeepers are usually styled Mrs.; the final s, doubtless caused the name to be misapprehended and mispelt.

+ The old chapel, the door of which was at the opposite extremity of the hall.

# The former bas hitherto been styled groom of the cham

", and the latter steward, but the legend on a grave-stone, close

ose to Tyacke's, is to the memory of William Groom, and appears to offer evidence that Gray mistook the name of the one for the office of the other.

ber, a

But soon his rhetoric forsook him,

When he the soleinn hall had seen;
A sudden fit of ague shook him,
He stood as mute as poor Macleane * ,

Yet something he was heard to mutter,

“ How in the Park beneath an old tree (Without design to hurt the butter,

Or any malice to the poultry),

[ocr errors]

“ He once or twice had penn'd a sonnet;

Yet hoped that he might save his bacon:
Numbers would give their oaths upon it,

He ne'er was for a conjurer taken.”

[ocr errors]

The ghostly prudes with hagged face

Already had condemn’d the sinner.
My lady rose, and with a grace-

She smiled, and bid him come to dinner.

[ocr errors]

“ Jesu-Maria! Madam Bridget,

Why, what can the viscountess mean? (Cried the square-hoods in woful fidget)

The times are alter'd quite and clean!

“ Decorum's turn'd to mere civility;

Her air and all her manners show it. Commend me to her affability!

Speak to a commoner and poet!”

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

And so God save our noble king,

And guard us from long-winded lubbers,
That to eternity would sing,
And keep my lady from her rubbers *.


* See a Sequel to the Long Story, in Hakewill's History of Windsor, by John Penn, Esq., and a farther Sequel to that, by the late laureate, H.J. Pye, Esq.

Anecdotes of the personages commemorated in the Long Story, while they continued to live in the same society, furnish a natural appendix to that lively narrative. Of these, it would have appeared preferable to select such as related to the short period which immediately succeeded it; and which preceded the death of the Poet's mother in 1753, so much deplored by him. None, however, can be at present known. We have indeed some account of one of the principal personages in the year 1752, in another society; and it appears from the f

e following passage, in a letter of Mrs. Montagu, of that date, that the lady had then admitted the attention and homage or her future husband. “I wish the fair shepherdess (Miss speed) a happy meeting with her Pastor Fido, at the next masquerade, for I think it more probable she will meet him

ere than under the shady' oak, or spreading beech.'” But, Whether it be owing to the charms of this new and favoured lover on'her leisure hours, or to any disposition of reserve, or which the letter of Gray in answer to Mr. Walpole (vide

3 Works, vol. v. p. 392), seems to convey a proof, or other causes, the little information that can now be gleaned relative

ive to the society of Stoke in those times, is due to the

ections and friendly communication of Admiral Sir John T. Duck

Duckworth, K. B.; whose respected father became vicar of this place in the year 1756. This distinguished or

YS, that he and his elder brother at that time, when they were about eight or ten years of

teight or ten years of age, were regularly and frequently invited, with their father and mother, to dine at the

Orford's V


Great House,” the presence of youthful company being nówise unwelcome in the cheerful circle. He likewise remem- fres sur bers, that he was then used to accompany his father in his ki visits to Mr. Gray and his aunt, Mrs. Rogers, at West End; that he has often been at home when those visits were returned ; and that on these occasions, the author of the Ode Alpenpo to Eton College would frequently take pleasure in gratifying dan the young Etonian by the gift of a shilling, or half-a-crown; UVE " which (adds the gallant admiral) was at that time no in- perit considerable present.” But a circumstance, which, from its singularity, made a stronger impression upon his mind than even this claim upon his gratitude, affords a substantial proot that the social ease, from which the ghostly female champions of false decorum, a few years before, had inferred a lamentable decay of manners, had undergone no change that could give them cause for triumph. He relates that he has "more than once" been an eye-witness of the potent effect wrought by the exuberant spirits of the “ witty amazon,” in prevailing upon the poet, instead of being conducted by a muse, or mounted on his Pegasus, to trust himself to her guidance, along the parish lanes, in a butcher's cart; which unusual spectacle could hardly have failed to stir the surprise and surmises of the ploughman,yet delaying “homeward to plod his weary way.” We may conclude from this frolic, that the policy which determined “ the first marching of the troops,” proceeded from no cause more probable than from her bostility to the stern character of “ the drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary.” On the other hand, it must be confessed that the poet thus gave ample proof of the sincerity of his ejaculation, " Alas! who would not wish to please her!” But that his gallantry had no deeper root than the complaisance of friendship he seems to proclaim, not only in his letter to Mr. Wal pole, but in another to Dr. Wharton, written shortly after the incident of the Long Story. “My heart,” says he, “is no Tess yours than it has long been; and the last thing in the world that will throw it into tumult is a fine lady.Another

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


compaar buite

He literis me erroneous surmise of the same nature might be formed on as his father be hearing (what nevertheless is trae) that the beautiful rondeau

teis, at Wed by which appears in the latter editions of his works, was inspired
ase visits were by“ the wish to please” this lady. The fact is, however,

that it was produced (and probably about this time) on a re-
quest she made to the poet one day, when he was in company
with Mr. Walpole, that she might possess something from
bis pen, written on the subject of love. We collect from the
Memoirs by Mason, that the society of neighbourhood be-
tween the lady and the poet must have closed about the year
1758, at which time the death of his aunt, Mrs. Rogers, deter-
mined the final departure of the latter from Stoke. A circum-
stance connected with that occasion contributes some evidence
of the general activity of his mind. The Rev. Mr. Duckworth,
who held the living of Stoke until his death in the year 1794,
remarked that the difficulty experienced by Gray in relin-
quishing the tenure of the premises to which he had succeeded,
and from the concern of which he was anxious to relieve him-
self, was finally surmounted by means of his own knowledge

author of th: Esare in mani , or balfacom

that time di 2, which, free on bis made

substanteler emale champir ferred a 105 mange that we t he has e effect wront " in prezi Zse, or DOZE ace, alene er sual spectes

d surmulier i Jod bis man at the pain



of law.

roops," ja

hier bostit

The local poems by which Gray has impressed a classical Stamp upon Stoke are, The Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, The Long Story, both written in 1750, and his Ode to Etor Lion College, written before, in the year 1742; in which year were also written the Ode to Spring, the Hymn to Adversity, and the Sonnet on the Death of Mr. West, (the first certainly, and the two last probably) at Stoke.

s in the year 1780 that (Miss Speed, now) Countess de Viry enabled the lover of poetry to see in print the Rundeau, and another small amatory poem of Gray, called Thyris, by presenting them to the Rev. Mr. Leman, of Suffolk,

le on a visit at her castle in Savoy. She died there in

ed that is ejaculati:

It was in

ut that bis

Tafter the



« PreviousContinue »