« PreviousContinue »
at least as good as so, for I spy no human thing in it but myself. It is a little chaos of mountains and precipices ; mountains, it is true, that do not ascend much above the clouds, nor are the declivities quite so amazing as Dover cliff; but just such hills as people, who love their necks as well as I do, may venture to climb, and craggs that give the eye as much pleasure as if they were more dangerous: both vale and hill are covered with most venerable beeches, and other very reverend vegetables, that, like most other ancient people, are always dreaming out their old stories to the winds,
And as they bow their hoary tops relate,
Cling to each leaf, and swarm on every bough. At the foot of one of these squats me I, (Il penseroso) and there grow to the trunk for a whole morning. The timorous hare and sportive squirrel gambol around me like Adam in Paradise, before he had an Eve; but I think he did not use to read Virgil, as I commonly do there. In this situation I often converse with my Horace, aloud too; that is, talk to you, but I do not remember that I ever heard you answer me. I beg pardon for taking all the conversation to myself, but it is entirely your own fault. We have old Mr. Southern at a gentleman's house a little way off, who often comes to see us; he is now seventy-seven years old,* and has almost wholly lost his memory; but is as agreeable as an old man can be, at least I persuade myself so when I look at him, and think of Isabella and Oroonoko. I shall be in town in about three weeks. Adieu.
* He lived nine years longer, and died at the great age of eighty-six. Mr. Gray always thought highly of his pathetic powers, at the same time that he blamed his ill taste for mixing them so injudiciously with farce, in order to produce that monstrous species of composition called Tragi-comedy.
MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.*
I SYMPATHIZE with you in the sufferings which
you foresee are coming upon you. We are both at present, I imagine, in no very agreeable situation; for my part I am under the misfortune of having nothing to do, but it is a misfortune which, thank my stars, I can pretty well bear. You are in a confusion of wine, and roaring, and hunting, and tobacco, and, Heaven be praised, you too can pretty well bear it; while our evils are no more I believe we shall not much repine. I imagine, however, you will rather choose to converse with the living dead, that adorn the walls of your apartments, than with the dead living, that deck the middles of them; and prefer a picture of still life to the realities of a noisy one, and, as I guess; will imitate what you prefer, and for an hour or two at noon will stick yourself up as formal as if you had been fixed in your frame for these hundred
years, with a pink or rose in one hand, and a great seal ring on the other. Your name, I assure you, has been propagated in these countries by a convert of yours, one
* At this time with his father at Houghton. Mr. Gray writes from the same place he did before, from his uncle's house in Buckinghamshire.
*, who has brought over his whole family to you; they were before pretty good Whigs, but now they are absolute Walpolians. We have hardly any body in the parish but knows exactly the dimensions of the hall and saloon at Houghton, and begin to believe that the lanthorn* is not so great a consumer of the fat of the land as disaffected persons have said: for your reputation, we keep to ourselves your not hunting nor drinking hogan, either of which here would be sufficient to lay your honour in the dust. Tomorrow se'nnight I hope to be in town, and not long after at Cambridge.
I am, &c.
MR. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
RECEIVING no answer to my last letter, which I writ above a month ago, I must own I am a little uneasy. The slight shadow of you which I had in town, has only served to endear you to me the more. The moments I passed with you made a strong impression upon me. I singled you out for a friend, and I would have you know me to be yours, if you deem me worthy.—Alas, Gray, you cannot imagine how miserably my time passes away. My health and nerves and spirits are, thank my stars, the very worst, I think, in Oxford. Four-and-twenty hours of pure unalloyed health together, are as unknown to me as the 400,000 characters in the Chinese vocabulary. One of my complaints has of late been so overcivil as to visit me regularly once a month-jam certus .conviva. This is a painful nervous headach, which perhaps you have sometimes heard me speak of before. Give me leave to say, I find no physic comparable to your letters. If, as it is said in Ecclesiasticus, Friendship be the physic of the mind,” prescribe to me, dear Gray, as often and as much as you think proper, I shall be a most obedient patient.
* A favourite object of Tory satire at the time.
ego Fidis irascar medicis, offendar amicis. I venture here to write you down a Greek epigram,* which I lately turned into Latin, and hope you will excuse it.
Perspicui puerum ludentem in margine rivi
Immersit vitreæ limpidus error aquæ :
Credula, et amplexu funus inane fovet:
puer in dilecto pectore, somno Languidus, æternùm lumina composuit. Adieu! I am going to my tutor's lectures on one Puffendorff, a very jurisprudent author as you shall read on a summer's day.
Believe me yours, &c. Christ Church, Dec. 2, 1738.
* Of Posidippus. Vide Anthologia, H. Stephan. p. 220. Mr. Gray in his MS. notes to this edition of the Anthologia (of which I shall give an account in a. subsequent section) inserts this translation, and adds, “ Descriptio pulcherrima et quæ tenuem illum Græcorum spiritum mirificè sapit ;” and in conclusion,
Posidippus inter principes Anthologiæ poetas emicat, Ptolemæi Philadelphi seculo vixit,"
MR. GRAY TO MR. WEST.
LITERAS mi Favonî !* abs te demum, nudiustertiùs credo, accepi planè mellitas, nisi fortè quà de ægritudine quâdam tuâ dictum: atque hoc sane mihi habitum est non paulò acerbius, quod te capitis morbo implicitum esse intellexi; oh morbum mihi quam odiosum! qui de industria id agit, ut ego in singulos menses, dii boni, quantis jucunditatibus orbarer! quàm ex animo mihi dolendum est, quod
Medio de fonte leporum
Surgit amari aliquid. Salutem mehercule, nolo, tam parvipendas, atq; amicis tam improbè consulas: quanquam tute fortassis æstuas angusto limite mundi, viamq; (ut dicitur) affectas Olympo, nos tamen non esse tam sublimes, utpote qui hisce in sordibus et fæce diutius paululum versari volumus, reminiscendum est: illæ tuæ Musæ, si te ament modo, derelinqui paulisper non nimis ægrè patientur : indulge, amabo te, plusquam soles, corporis exercitationibus: magis te campus habeat, aprico magis te dedas otio, ut ne id ingenium quod tam cultum curas, diligenter nimis dum foves, officiosarum matrum ritu, interimas. Vide quæso, quam iarpuküs tecum agimus,
* Mr. Gray in all his Latin compositions, addressed to this gentleman, calls him Favonius, in allusion to the name of West.