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I am at this instant in the very agonies of leaving college, and would not wish the worst of my enemies a worse situation. If you knew the dust, the old boxes, the bedsteads, and tutors, that are about my ears, you would look upon this letter as a great effort of my resolution and unconcernedness in the midst of evils. I fill up my paper with a loose sort of version of that scene in Pastor Fido that begins, Care selve beati.*
MR. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
I THANK you again and again for your two last most agreeable letters. They could not have come more a-propos; I was without any books to divert me, and they supplied the want of every thing: I made them my classics in the country;
* This Latin version is extremely elegiac, but, as it is only a version, I do not insert it. Mr. Gray did not begin to learn Italian till about a year and a half before be translated this scene; and I find amongst his papers an English translation of part of the fourth Canto of Tasso's Gierusalemma Liberata, done previously to this, which has great merit. In a letter to Mr. West, dated March, 1737, he says, “ I learn Italian like any dragon, and in two months am got through the sixteenth book of Tasso, whom I hold in great admiration : I want you to learn too, that I may know your opinion of him; nothing can be easier than that language to any one who knows Latin and French already, and there are few so copious and expressive." In the same letter he tells him, “ that his college has set bim a versifying on a public occasion, (viz. those verses which are called Tripos) on the theme of Luna est habitabilis.” The poem, I believe, is to be found in the Musæ Etonenses. I would further observe, on this occasion, that though Mr. Gray had lately read and translated Statius, yet when he attempted composition, his judgment immediately directed him to the best model of versification ; accordingly his hexameters are, as far as modern ones can be, after the manner of Virgil : they move in the succession of his pauses and close with his elisions.
they were my Horace and Tibullus— Non ita loquor assentandi causå, ut probè nosti si me noris, verum quia sic mea est sententia. I am but just come to town, and, to shew you my esteem of your favours, I venture to send you by the penny post, to your father's, what you will find on the next page; I hope it will reach you soon after your arrival, your boxes out of the waggon, yourself out of the coach, and tutors out of your memory.
Adieu! we shall see one another, I hope, tomorrow.
Quod mihi tam gratæ misisti dona Camænæ,
Qualia Mænalius Pan Deus ipse velit,
Oh desiderium jam nimis usque meum :
Duxerunt Dryades per sua prata Deæ;
Magna, decus nemoris, quercus opacat humum :
Et, noto ut jacui gramine, nota cano.
Ah, si desit amor, nil mihi rura placent.
Regnat et in Cælis, regnat et Oceano ;
Seminis; ille feros, ultus Adonin, apros :
Concentu tremulo plurima gaudet avis.
Dura etiam et fertur saxa animasse Venus.
Sincero siquis pectore amare vetat :
Non illi arcanum cor aperire velim ;
Nescit amicitias, teneros qui nescit amores:
Ah! si nulla Venus, nil mihi rura placent.
Externâ positum ducere fata dies ;
Plorarem magnos voce querente Deos.
Nil cuperem præter posse placere meæ;
Illa intrà optarem brachia cara mori.
Sept. 17, 1738.
Mr. Gray, on his return to town, continued at his father's house in Cornhill till the March following, in which interval Mr. Walpole being disinclined to enter so early into the business of Parliament, prevailed on Sir Robert Walpole to permit him to go abroad, and on Mr. Gray (as was said before) to be the companion of his travels. Mr. West spent the greatest part of the winter with his mother and sister at Epsom, during which time a letter or two more passed between the two friends. But these I think it unnecessary to insert, as I have already given sufficient specimens of the blossoms of their genius. The reader of taste and candour will, I trust, consider them only as such; yet will be led to think that, as the one produced afterwards “fruits worthy of paradise,” the other would also have produced them, had he lived to a more mature age.
As I allot this section entirely to that part of Mr. Gray's life, which he spent in travelling through France and Italy, my province will be chiefly that of an Editor; and my only care to select, from a large collection of letters written to his parents and to his friend Mr. West, those parts which, I imagine, will be most likely either to inform or amuse the reader. The multiplicity of accounts, published both before and after the time when these letters were written, of those very places which Mr. Gray describes, will necessarily take from them much of their novelty; yet the elegant ease of his epistolary style has a charm in it for all readers of true taste, that will make every apology of this sort needless. They will perceive, that as these letters were written without even the most distant view of publication, they are essentially different in their manner of description from any other that have either preceded or followed them; add to this, that they are interspersed occasionally with some exquisitely finished pieces of Latin poetry, which he composed on the spot for the entertainment of his friend. But, not to anticipate any part of the reader's pleasure, I shall only further say, to forewarn him of a disappointment, that this correspondence is defective towards the end, and includes no description either of Venice or its territory; the last places which Mr. Gray visited. This defect was occasioned by an unfortunate disagreement between him and Mr. Walpole, arising from the difference of their tempers. The former being, from his earliest years, curious, pensive, and philosophical; the latter gay, lively, and consequently inconsiderate : *this therefore occasioned their separation at Reggio. Mr. Gray went before him to Venice; and staying there only till he could find means of returning to England, he made the best of his way home, repassing the Alps, and following almost the same route through France by which he had before gone to Italy.
MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Amiens, April 1, N. S. 1739. As we made but a very short journey today, and came to our inn early, I sit down to give you some account of our expedition. On the 29th, (according to the style here) we left Dover at twelve at noon, and with a pretty brisk gale, which pleased every body mighty well, except myself, who was extremely sick the whole time: we reached Calais by five: The weather changed, and it began to snow hard the minute we came
• In justice to the memory of so respectable a friend, Mr. Walpole enjoins me to charge himself with the chief blame in their quarrel; confessing that more attention and complaisance, more deference to a warm friendship, superior judgment and prudence, might have prevented a rupture that gave much uneasiness to them both, and a lasting concern to the survivor ; though, in the year 1744, a reconciliation was effected between them, by a lady who wished well to both parties.