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graving: The drawing itself was so finished, that I , suppose it did not require all the art I had imagined to copy it tolerably. My aunts seeing me open your letter, took it to be a burying-ticket, and asked whether any body had left me a ring; and so they still conceive it to be, even with all their spectacles on. Heaven forbid they should suspect it to belong to any verses of mine, they would burn me for a poet. On my own part
I am satisfied, if this design of yours succeed so well as you intend it; and yet I know it will be accompanied with something not at all agreeable to me. ---While I write this, I receive your second letter.--Sure, you are not out of your wits! This I know, if you suffer my head to be printed, you will infallibly put me out of mine. I conjure you immediately to put a stop to any such design. Who is at the expense
of engraving it, I know not; but if it be Dodsley, I will make up the loss to him. The thing as it was, I know, will make me ridiculous enough; but to appear in proper person, at the head of my works, con
two aunts. The remainder of the letter relates entirely to the prejected publication of Mr. Bentley's designs, which were printed after by Dodsley this same year. The latter part of it, where he so vehemently declares against having his head piefixt to that work, will appear highly characteristical to those readers, who were personally acquainted with Mr. Gray. The print, which was taken from an original picture, painted by Echart, in Mr. Walpole's possession, was actually more than half engraved; but afterwards on this account suppressed.
sisting of half a dozen ballads in thirty pages, would be worse than the pillory. I do assure you, if I had received such a book, with such a frontispiece, without any warning, I believe it would have given me a palsy: Therefore I rejoice to have received this notice, and shall not be easy till you tell me all thoughts of it are laid aside. I am extremely in earnest, and cannot bear even the idea.
I had written to Dodsley if I had not received yours, to tell him how little I liked the title which he meant to prefix; but your letter has put all that out of my head. If you think it necessary to print these explanations * for the use of people that have no eyes, I should be glad they were a little altered.
I am, to my shame, in your debt for a long letter; but I cannot think of any thing else till you have set me at ease on this matter.
While Mr. Bentley was employed in making the Designs mentioned in the preceding letter, Mr. Gray, who greatly admired not only the elegance of his fancy, but also the neatness as well as facility of his execution,
* See the above-mentioned Designs, where the explanations here alluded to are inserted.
began a complimentary poem to him, which I shall now insert. Many readers will perhaps think the panegyric carried too far; as I own I did when he first shewed it me. Yet it is but justice to declare, that the original drawings, now in Mr. Walpole's possession, which I have since seen, are so infinitely superior to the published engravings of them, that a person, who has only seen the latter, can by no means judge of the excellencies of the former: Besides, there is so much of grotesque fancy in the Designs themselves, that it .can be no great matter of wonder (even if the engravers had done justice to them) that they failed to please universally. What I have said in defence of the Long Story might easily be applied to these productions of the sister art: But not to detain the reader from the perusal of a fragment, many stanzas of which are equal in poetical merit to the best in his most finished poems, I shall here only add, that it was for the sake of the Design which Mr. Bentley made for the Long Story, that Mr. Gray permitted it to be printed; yet not without clearly foreseeing that he risked somewhat by the publication of it, as he intimates in the preceding letter: and indeed the event shewed his judgment to be true in this particular, as it proved the least popular of all his productions.
STANZAS TO MR. BENTLEY.
IN silent gaze the tuneful choir among,
Half pleas’d, half blushing let the muse admire, While Bentley leads her sister-art along,
And bids the pencil answer to the lyre.
Fix'd by his touch a lasting essence take;
To local symmetry and life awake! The tardy, rhymes that us’d to linger on,
To censure cold, and negligent of fame, In swifter measures animated run,
And catch a lustre from his genuine flame. Ah! could they catch his strength, his easy grace,
His quick creation, his unerring line; The energy of Pope they might efface,
And Dryden's harmony submit to mine. But not to one in this benighted age
Is that diviner inspiration giv'n, That burns in Shakespeare's or in Milton's page,
The pomp and prodigality of heav'n.
As when conspiring in the diamond's blaze,
The meaner gems, that singly charm the sight, Together dart their intermingled rays,
And dazzle with a luxury of light.
My lines a secret sympathy impart;
A sigh of soft reflection heave the heart.
In the March following Mr. Gray lost that Mother for whom, on all occasions, we have seen he shewed so tender a regard. She was buried in the same vault where her sister's remains had been deposited more than three years before. As the inscription on the tomb-stone (at least the latter part of it) is undoubtedly of Mr. Gray's writing, it here would claim a place, even if it had not a peculiar pathos to recommend it, and, at the same time, a true inscriptive simplicity:
* A corner of the only manuscript copy, which Mr. Gray left of this fragment, is unfortunately torn; and though I have endeavoured to supply the chasm, I am not quite satisfied with the words which I have inserted in the third line. I print my additions in italics, and shall be much pleased if any reader finds a better supplement to this imperfect stanza.