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near three years, reading and transcribing ; and, so far as can be discovered, very little affected by two odes on "Oblivion” and “Obscurity,” in which his Lyrick per· formances were ridiculed with much contempt and much ingenuity.
When the Professor of Modern History at Cambridge died, he was, as he says, cockered and spirited up, till he asked it of lord Bute, who sent him a civil refusal ; and the place was given to Mr. Brocket, the tutor of Sir James Lowther.
His constitution was weak, and believing that his health was promoted by exercise and change of place, he undertook (1765) a journey into Scotland, of which his account,
1759, three months before the date of Gray's letter. By the statutes which received sanction in December, 1758, the hours of admission were from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. every week-day except Saturday, during the months of September to April. From May to August the same hours were observed, except on Mondays and Fridays, when the Museum was only open from 4 to 8 P.M. Visitors were admitted by printed tickets only, obtained on written application. Not more than ten tickets were issued for each hour of admission, viz., for 9, 10, 11, and 12 o'clock on ordinary days, and for 4 and 5 on the late days. Each party was con. ducted by one of the officers through the rooms in a specified order; and one hour was allowed for each department—a visit thus lasting three hours. It will therefore be seen that only forty persons at the most could be admitted on an ordinary day. In 1804 a relaxation of the rules was sanctioned, and it was laid down that “Five companies of not more than fifteen persons each may be admitted in the course of the day.” At the present time the annual number of visitors to the Museum and its offshoot the Natural History Museum at South Kensington amounts to nearly 900,000. The figures of expenditure which Gray quotes are evidently not meant to be taken as accurate. They must refer to the expenses of establishment; for on purchases the trustees laid out in the first fourteen years only £69. Establishment charges during the same period amounted to £23,215. The total amount expended on purchases from the first foundation of the Museum to the present day is nearly one million and a half.-E. MAUNDE THOMPSON.
so far as it extends, is very curious and elegant; for as his comprehension was ample, his curiosity extended to all the works of art, all the appearances of nature, and all the monuments of past events. He naturally contracted a friendship with Dr. Beattie, whom he found a poet, a philosopher, and a good man. The Mareschal College at Aberdeen offered him the degree of Doctor of Laws, which, having omitted to take it at Cambridge, he thought it decent to refuse.
What he had formerly solicited in vain, was at last given him without solicitation. The Professorship of History became again vacant, and he received (1768) an offer of it from the duke of Grafton. He accepted, and retained it to his death ; always designing lectures, but never reading them; uneasy at his neglect of duty, and appeasing his uneasiness with designs of reformation, and with a resolution which he believed himself to have made of resigning the office, if he found himself unable to discharge it.
Ill health made another journey necessary, and he visited (1769) Westmoreland and Cumberland. He that reads his epistolary narration wishes, that to travel, and to tell his travels, had been more of his employment; but it is by studying at home that we must obtain the ability of travelling with intelligence and improvement.
His travels and his studies were now near their end. The gout, of which he had sustained many weak attacks, fell upon his stomach, and, yielding to no medicines, produced strong convulsions, which (July 30, 1771) terminated in death.
His character I am willing to adopt, as Mr. Mason has done, from a Letter written to my friend Mr. Boswell,' by the Rev. Mr. Temple,' rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall ;
? James Boswell, author of the inimitable Life of Johnson.
2 The Rev. William Johnson Temple, the “old and most intimate friend” of James Boswell.-Boswell's Johnson, vol. i. p. 347.
and am as willing as his warmest well-wisher to believe it true.
" Perhaps he was the most learned man in Europe. He was equally acquainted with the elegant and profound parts of science, and that not superficially but thoroughly. He knew every branch of history, both natural and civil; had read all the original historians of England, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics, made a principal part of his study; voyages and travels of all sorts were his favourite amusements; and he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening. With such a fund of knowledge, his conversation must have been equally instructing and entertaining ; but he was also a good man, a man of virtue and humanity. There is no character without some speck, some imperfection; and I think the greatest defect in his was an affectation in delicacy, or rather effeminacy, and a visible fastidiousness, or contempt and disdain of his inferiors in science. He also had, in some degree, that weakness which disgusted Voltaire so much in Mr. Congreve: though he seemed to value others chiefly according to the progress they had made in knowledge, yet he could not bear to be considered himself merely as a man of letters; and though without birth, or fortune, or station, his desire was to be looked upon as a private independent gentleman, who read for his amusement. Perhaps it may be said, What signifies so much knowledge, when it produced so
Is it worth taking so much pains to leave no memorial but a few poems ? But let it be considered that Mr. Gray was, to others, at least innocently employed ; to himself, certainly beneficially. His time passed agreeably; he was every day making some new acquisition in science; his mind was enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue strengthened ; the world and mankind were shewn to him without a mask; and he was taught to consider
every thing as trifling, and unworthy of the attention of a wise man, except the pursuit of knowledge and practice of virtue, in that state wherein God hath placed us.
To this character Mr. Mason has added a more particular account of Gray's skill in zoology. He has remarked, that Gray's effeminacy was affected most before those whom he did not wish to please ; and that he is un. justly charged with making knowledge his sole reason of preference, as he paid his esteem to none whom he did not likewise believe to be good.
What has occurred to me, from the slight inspection of his Letters in which my undertaking has engaged me, is, that his mind had a large grasp ; that his curiosity was unlimited, and his judgement cultivated ; that he was a man likely to love much where he loved at all, but that he was fastidious and hard to please. His contempt however is often employed, where I hope it will be approved, upon scepticism and infidelity. His short account of Shaftesbury I will insert.
“ You say you cannot conceive how lord Shaftesbury came to be a philosopher in vogue; I will tell you : first, he was a lord; secondly, he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, men are very prone to believe what they do not understand ; fourthly, they will believe any thing at all, provided they are under no obligation to believe it ; fifthly, they love to take a new road, even when that road leads no where; sixthly, he was reckoned a fine writer, and seems always to mean more than he said. Would you have any more reasons ? An interval of above forty years has pretty well destroyed the charm. A dead lord ranks with commoners: vanity is no longer interested in the matter; for a new road is become an old one."
Mr. Mason has added, from his own knowledge, that 1 This letter was published in the London Magazine, March 1772. 2 Works, vol. ii. p. 375.
though Gray was poor, he was not eager of money ; and that, out of the little he had, he was very willing to help the necessitous.
As a writer he had this peculiarity, that he did not write his pieces first rudely, and then correct them, but laboured every line as it arose in the train of composition; and he had a notion not very peculiar, that he could not write but at certain times, or at happy moments;
a fantastick foppery, to which my kindness for a man of learning and of virtue wishes him to have been superior.
Gray's Poetry is now to be considered ; and I hope not
was doubtless by its author considered as a trifle, but it is not a happy trifle. In the first stanza the azure flowers that blow, shew * resolutely a rhyme is sometimes made when it cannot easily be found. Selima, the Cat, is called a nymph, with some violence both to language and sense; but there is good use made of it when it is done ; for of the two lines,
“ What female heart can gold despise ?
What cat's averse to fish ?” i Vid. supr. Life of Milton, vol. i. p. 145.
3 Ibid. p. 11. The subject was the death of a favourite cat of Horace Walpole, drowned by falling into a china bowl containing gold fish.
4 How ought surely here to be supplied.
2 Works, vol. i. p. 5.