Page images
PDF
EPUB

have sneered at this kind of annotations. Whether Gray borrowed from the others, or the others from him, matters little; very likely, in most instances, neither party was consciously the borrower. . Gray, in his own notes, has acknowledged certain debts to other poets, and probably these were all that he was aware of. Some of these he contracted unwittingly (see what he says of one of them in a letter to Walpole, quoted in the note on the Oide on the Spring, 31), and the same may have been true of some apparently similar cases pointed out by modern editors. To me, however, the chief interest of these coincidences and resemblances of thought or expression is as studies in the “comparative anatomy” of poetry. The teacher will find them useful as pegs to hang questions upon, or texts for oral instruction. The pupil, or the young reader, who finds out who all these poets were, when they lived, what they wrote, etc., will have learned no small amount of English literary history. If he studies the quotations merely as illustrations of style and expression, or as examples of the poetic diction of various periods, he will have learned some lessons in the history and the use of his mother-tongue.

The wood-cuts on pp. 9, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 34, 36, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 50, and 61 are from Birket Foster's designs ; those on pp. 29, 31, 33, 35, 37, and 38 are from the graceful drawings of “ E. V.B.” (the Hon. Mrs. Boyle); the rest are from various sources.

NOTE TO REVISED EDITION.

When I edited this book, ten years ago, I had to depend on others for the collation of the MSS. of the Elegy, except the Pembroke MS., of which I had Mathias's engraved fac-simile. The Egerton MS. was not so much as mentioned by any of the editors or critics up to that date ; and now that I am able to consult the photograph and the owner's reprint of the Fraser MS. (see page 78, foot-note), I find that all former collations of that (not excepting Mr. Gosse's) are incomplete and inaccurate. I may safely claim that in the present volume the readings of both the Fraser and the Egerton MSS. are for the first time given fully and correctly.

The notes on the other poems have also been carefully revised ; and here I have been indebted to Mr. Gosse for a few additional variæ lectiones.

For the correction of errors in Howitt's transcript of the inscriptions on Gray's monument (pages 18 and 19), I have to thank Mr. J. Willis Westlake, of the State Normal School, Millersville, Pa.

Cambridge, Jan. 21, 1886.

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

THOMAS GRAY, the author of the celebrated Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, was born in Cornhill, London, December 26, 1716. His father, Philip Gray, an exchange broker and scrivener, was a wealthy and nominally respectable citizen, but he treated his family with brutal severity and neglect, and the poet was altogether indebted for the advantages of a learned education to the affectionate care and industry of his mother, whose maiden name was Antrobus, and who, in conjunction with a maiden sister, kept a millinery shop. A brother of Mrs. Gray was assistant to the Master of Eton, and was also a fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. Under his protection the poet was educated at Eton, and from thence went to Peterhouse, attending college from 1734 to September, 1738. At Eton he had as contemporaries Richard West, son of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and Horace Walpole, son of the triumphant Whig minister, Sir Robert Walpole. West died early in his 26th year, but his genius and virtues and his sorrows will forever live in the correspondence of his friend.

In the spring of 1739, Gray was invited by Horace Walpole to accompany him as travelling companion in a tour through France and Italy. They made the usual route, and Gray wrote remarks on all he saw in Florence, Rome, Naples, etc. His observations on arts and antiquities, and his sketches of foreign manners, evince his admirable taste, learning, and discrimination. Since Milton, no such accomplished English traveller had visited those classic shores. In their journey through Dauphiny, Gray's attention was strongly arrested by the wild and picturesque site of the Grande Chartreuse, surrounded by its dense forest of beech and fir, its enormous precipices, cliffs, and cascades. He visited it a second time on his return, and in the album of the mountain convent he wrote his famous Alcaic Ode. At Reggio the travellers quarrelled and parted. Walpole took the whole blame on himself. He was fond of pleasure and amusements, “ intoxicated by vanity, indulgence, and the insolence of his situation as a prime minister's son”—his own confession—while Gray was studious, of a serious disposition, and independent spirit. The immediate cause of the rupture is said to have been Walpole's clandestinely opening, reading, and resealing a letter addressed to Gray, in which he expected to find a confirmation of his suspicions that Gray had been writing unfavourably of him to some friends in England. A partial reconciliation was effected about three years afterwards by the intervention of a lady, and Walpole redeemed his youthful error by a life-long sincere admiration and respect for his friend. From Reggio Gray proceeded to Venice, and thence travelled homewards, attended by a laquais de voyage. He arrived in England in September, 1741, having

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »