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hamper the wheels of your gilded chariot. Go on, Sir Thomas; and when you die, (for even physicians must die) may the faculty in Warwick Lane erect your statue in the very niche of Sir John Cutler's.
I was going to tell you how sorry I am for your illness, but I hope it is too late now: I can only say that I really was very sorry. May you live a hundred Christmasses, and eat as many collars of brawn stuck with rosemary.
Adieu ! &c.
Though I have said that Mr. Gray, on his return to Cambridge, laid aside poetry almost entirely, yet I find amongst his papers a small fragment in verse which bears internal evidence that it was written about this very time. The foregoing Letter, in which he employs so much of his usual vein of ridicule on the university, seems to be no improper introduction to it: I shall therefore insert it here without making any apology, as I have given one, on a similar occasion, in the first section.
It seems to have been intended as a hymn or address to ignorance; and I presume had he proceeded with it, would have contained much good satire upon false science and scholastic pedantry. What he writ of it is purely introductory; yet many of the lines are so strong, and the general cast of the versification so musical, that I believe it will give the generality of readers a higher opinion of his poetical talents, than many of his lyri
cal productions have done. I speak of the generality; because it is a certain fact, that their taste is founded upon the ten-syllable couplets of Dryden and Pope, and upon these only.
Hail, horrors, hail! ye ever gloomy bowers,
But chiefly thee, whose influence breath'd from high
Oh say—she hears me not, but careless grown,
Oh sacred age! Oh times for ever lost!
High on her car, behold the Grandam ride
Peterhouse, April 26, 1744. You write so feelingly to Mr. Brown, and represent your abandoned condition in terms so touching, that what gratitude could not effect in several months, compassion has brought about in a few days; and broke that strong attachment, or rather allegiance, which I and all here owe to our sovereign lady and mistress, the president of presidents and head of heads, (if I may be permitted to pronounce her name, that ineffable Octogrammaton) the power of Laziness. You must know she had been pleased to appoint me (in preference to so many old servants of her's who had spent their whole lives in qualifying themselves for the office) grand picker of straws and push-pin player to her Supinity (for that is her title.) The first is much in the nature of lord president of the council; and the other like the groom-porter, only without the profit; but as they are both things of very great honour in this country, I considered with myself the load of envy attending such great charges; and besides (between you and me) I found myself unable to support the fatigue of keeping up the appearance that persons of such dignity must do, so I thought proper to decline it and excused myself as well as I could. However, as you see such an affair must take up a good deal of time, and it has always been the policy of this court to proceed slowly, like the Imperial and that of Spain, in the dispatch of business, you will on this account the easier forgive me, if I have not answered your letter before.
You desire to know, it seems, what character the poem of your young friend bears here*. I wonder that you ask the opinion of a nation, where those, who pretend to judge, do not judge at all; and the rest (the wiser part) wait to catch the judgment of the world immediately above them; that is, Dick's and the Rainbow coffee-houses. Your readier way would be to ask the ladies that keep the bars in those two theatres of criticism. However, to shew you that I am a judge, as well as my countrymen, I will tell you, though I have rather turned it over than read it, (but no matter; no more have they) that it seems to me above the middling; and now and then, for a little while, rises even to the best, particularly in description. It is often obscure, and even unintelligible; and too much infected with the Hutchinson jargon. In short, its great fault is, that it was published at least nine years too early. And so methinks in a few words, “ à la mode du Temple,” I have very pertly dispatched what perhaps may for several years have employed a very ingenious man worth fifty of myself. .
. . Pleasures of the Imagination: from the posthumous publication of Dr. Akinside's Poems, it should seem that the author had very much the same opinion afterwards of his own work, which Mr. Gray here expresses : since he undertook a reform of it, which must have given him, had he concluded it, as much trouble as if he had written it entirely new.
You are much in the right to have a taste for Socrates; he was a divine man. I must tell you, by way of news of the place, that the other day a certain new professor made an apology for him an hour long in the schools; and all the world brought in Socrates guilty, except the people of his own college.
The muse is gone. and left me in far worse company; if she returns, you will hear of her. As to her child* (since you are so good as to enquire after it) it is but a puling chit yet, not a bit grown to speak of; I believe, poor thing, it has got the worms that will carry it off at last. Mr. Trollope and I are in a course of tar-water; he for his present, and I for my future distempers. If you think it will kill me, send away a man and horse directly; for I drink like a fish.
Cambridge, Dec. 11, 1746. I WOULD make you an excuse, (as indeed I ought) if they were a sort of thing I ever gave any credit to myself in these cases; but I know they are never true. Nothing so silly as indolence when it hopes to disguise itself : every one knows it by its saunter, as they do his Majesty (God bless him) at a masquerade, by the firmness of his tread, and the elevation of his chin. How
* He here means his Poem, " De Principiis Cogitandi.” See the last Section.