« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
'HOMAS GRAY, the son of Mr. Philip Gray, a
the edition de
ber 26, 1716. His grammatical education he received at Eton under the care of Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, then assistant to Dr. George; and when he left school, in 1734, entered a pensioner at Peterhouse in Cambridge.?
The transition from the school to the college is, to most young scholars, the time from which they date their years of manhood, liberty, and happiness; but Gray seems to have been very little delighted with academical gratifications; he liked at Cambridge neither the mode of life nor the fashion of study, and lived sullenly on to the time when his attendance on lectures was no longer required. As he intended to profess the Common Law, he took no degree.
When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr. Horace Walpole, whose friendship he had gained at Eton, invited him to travel with him as his companion. They wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's Letters contain a very pleasing account of many parts of their journey. But unequal friendships are easily dissolved : at Florence they quarrelled, and parted ; and Mr. Walpole
1 Gray matriculated pensioner of Peterhouse, 7th Dec., 1734.
2 Of the reconciliation with Walpole Gray wrote to Mr. Chute, Oct. 12th, 1750: “I find Mr. Walpole then made some mention of me to you; yes, we are together again. It is about a year, I believe, since he wrote
Ι to me to offer it, and there has been, particularly of late, in appearance,
is now content to have it told that it was by his fault. If we look however without prejudice on the world, we shall find that men, whose consciousness of their own merit sets them above the compliances of servility, are apt enough in their association with superiors to watch their own dignity with troublesome and punctilious jealousy, and in the fervour of independance to exact that attention which they refuse to pay. Part they did, whatever was the quarrel, and the rest of their travels was doubtless more unpleasant to them both. Gray continued his journey in a manner suitable to his own little fortune, with only an occasional servant.
He returned to England in September 1741, and in about two months afterwards buried his father ; who had, by an injudicious waste of money upon a new house, so much lessened his fortune, that Gray thought himself too poor to study the law. He therefore retired to Cambridge, where he soon after became Bachelor of Civil Law;' and where, without liking the place or its inhabitants, or professing to like them, he passed, except a short residence at London, the rest of his life.
About this time he was deprived of Mr. West, the son of a chancellor of Ireland, a friend on whom he appears to have set a high value, and who deserved his esteem by the powers which he shews in his Letters, and in the Ode to “May," which Mr. Mason has preserved, as well as by the sincerity with which, when Gray sent him part of “ Agrip
a tragedy that he had just begun, he gave an
the same kindness and confidence almost as of old. What were his motives I cannot yet guess.”—Works, vol. ii. p. 207.
1 He took his degree, LL.B., in 1744.
• Gray's first original production in English verse, of which he wrote only one complete scene and a few odd lines. This portion was sent to West in March, 1742, and in consequence of his unfavourable criticism was carried no further. — Works, vol. i. p. 101.
opinion which probably intercepted the progress of the work, and which the judgement of every reader will confirm. It was certainly no loss to the English stage that “ Agrippina” was never finished.
In this year (1742) Gray seems first to have applied himself seriously to poetry; for in this year were produced the “Ode to Spring, 1 his “Prospect of Eton,” ? and his “Ode to Adversity." 3 He began likewise a Latin poem,
. “ de Principiis cogitandi."
It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. Mason, that his first ambition was to have excelled in Latin poetry: perhaps it were reasonable to wish that he had prosecuted his design; for though there is at present some embarrassment in his phrase, and some harshness in his Lyrick numbers, his copiousness of language is such as very few possess; and his lines, even when imperfect, discover a writer whom practice would quickly have made skilful.
He now lived on at Peterhouse, very little solicitous what others did or thought, and cultivated his mind and enlarged his views without any other purpose than of improving and amusing himself; when Mr. Mason, being
The Ode on the Spring exists in Gray's handwriting among the Stonehewer MSS. at Pembroke College, and is there entitled, “ Noontide, an Ode.” At the end of the poem Gray has written : “ The beginning of June, 1742, sent to Fav.; not knowing he was then dead.” Favonius was the name given by Gray to Richard West, who died on the 1st June, 1742, at Hatfield.
This poem was first published in Dodsley's Collection of Poems by several Hands, 1748, vol. ii. p. 271. - Works, vol. i. p. 4.
2 This was the first of Gray's English productions which appeared in print; it was published anonymously as An Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. London. Printed for R. Dodsley, 1747. The motto from Menander and the notes were added by Gray in 1768. — Works, vol. i. p. 16.
3 This poem was first printed in Dodsley's Collection, vol. v. p. 7, as Hymn to Adversity.
4 Works, vol. i. p. 185.
elected fellow of Pembroke-hall,' brought him a companion who was afterwards to be his editor, and whose fondness and fidelity has kindled in him a zeal of admiration, which cannot be reasonably expected from the neutrality of' a stranger and the coldness of a critick.?
In this retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on the “Death of Mr. Walpole's Cat;" and the year afterwards attempted
; a poem of more importance, on Government and Education, of which the fragments which remain have many excellent lines.
His next production (1750) was his far-famed “Elegy in the Church-yard,” - which, finding its way into a Magazine, first, I believe, made him known to the publick.
An invitation from lady Cobham about this time gave occasion to an odd composition called "a Long Story, which adds little to Gray's character.
Several of his pieces were published (1753), with designs, by Mr. Bentley; and, that they might in some form or other make a book, only one side of each leaf was printed. I believe the poems and the plates recommended each other so well, that the whole impression was soon bought. This year he lost his mother.
Some time afterwards (1756) sume young men of the 1 Pern broke College, Cambridge.
2 For an account of Mason's extraordinary editorship, see Mr. E. Gosse's Preface to Gray's Works, p. xi.
3 Written in 1748. First published in Mason's Life and Letters of Gray, 1775.-Works, vol. i. p. 113.
4 This poem was circulated in MS., and on the 10th February, 1751, Gray received a letter from the editor of the Magazine of Magazines, asking leave to publish it. The poet refused, and wrote next day to Horace Walpole, directing him to bring it out in pamphlet form. It was published anonymously by Dodsley, with a preface by Horace Walpole, and went through four editions in two months.-Works, vol. i. p. 72.
5 Written in 1750, printed but once (1753) in Gray's lifetime.-Works, vol. i. p. 83.
college, whose chambers were near his, diverted themselves with disturbing him by frequent and troublesome noises, and, as he said, by pranks yet more offensive and contemptuous. This insolence, having endured it a while, he represented to the governors of the society, among whom perhaps he had no friends; and, finding his complaint little regarded, removed himself to Pembroke-hall.
In 1757 he published “The Progress of Poetry” and “The Bard,” ? two compositions at which the readers of “ poetry were at first content to gaze in mute amazement. Some that tried them confessed their inability to understand them, though Warburton said that they were understood as well as the works of Milton and Shakspeare, which it is the fashion to admire. Garrick wrote a few lines in their praise. Some hardy champions undertook to rescue them from neglect, and in a short time many were content to be shewn beauties which they could not see.
Gray's reputation was now so high, that, after the death of Cibber, he had the honour of refusing the laurel, which was then bestowed on Mr. Whitehead.
His curiosity, not long after, drew him away from Cambridge to a lodging near the Museum, where he resided
1 Pembroke College, Cambridge.
2 Both these poems were written in 1754 (the notes were added by Gray in 1768), and published together in a thin quarto in 1757.–Works, vol. i. p. 29, 41.
3 Gray writes to Mason, April 10th, 1759, “. . And here is the Museum, which is indeed a treasure. The trustees lay out £1,400 ayear, and have but £900 to spend. If you would see it you must send a fortnight beforehand, it is so crowded.” His lodgings were in Southampton Row.-Works, vol. ii. p. 396, 397.
The British Museum first came into existence in 1753 by the act of 26 Geo. II. chap. xxii., whereby trustees were appointed to take charge of the Cottonian MSS., the collections of Sir Hans Sloane, and the Harleian MSS., and to provide a general repository for them. Montagu House, Bloomsbury, was purchased in 1754, and the collections were at once moved into it. The Museum was opened to the public in January,