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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 defigning lectures, but never reading them; uneafy at his neglect of duty, and appeafing his uneafinefs with defigns of reformation, and with a refolution which he believed himfelf to have made of refigning the office, if he found himself unable to discharge it.
Ill health made another journey neceffary, and he vifited (1769) Weftmoreland and Cumberland. He that reads his epiftolary narration wifhes, that to travel, and to tell his travels, had been more of his employment; but it is by ftudying at home that we muft obtain the ability of travelling with intelligence and improvement.
His travels and his ftudies were now near their end. The gout, of which he had fuftained many weak attacks, fell upon his ftomach, and, yielding to no medicines, produced ftrong convulfions, 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. Bofwell, by the Rev. Mr. Temple, rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall; and am as willing as his warmest well wifher to believe it true.
Perhaps he was the most learned man in EuHe was equally acquainted with the ele(6 gant and profound parts of fcience, and that not fuperficially, but thoroughly. He knew every branch "of hiftory, both natural and civil; had read all the original hiftorians of England, France, and Italy; "and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphyficks, morals, politicks, made a principal part of his ftudy; VOL. XI. Bb 66 voyages
66 voyages and travels of all forts were his favourite "amufements; and he had a fine tafte in painting, "prints, architecture, and gardening. With fuch a "fund of knowledge, his converfation muft have ❝ been equally instructing and entertaining; but he "was also a good man, a man of virtue and huma"nity. There is no character without fome fpeck, "fome imperfection; and I think the greatest defect "in his was an affectation in delicacy, or rather effe"minacy, and a vifible faftidiousness, or contempt "and difdain of his inferiours in fcience. He also had, "in fome degree, that weakness which disgufted Vol"taire fo much in Mr. Congreve: though he feemed "to value others chiefly according to the progrefs "they had made in knowledge, yet he could not bear "to be confidered merely as a man of letters; and, though "without birth, or fortune, or ftation, his defire was to "be looked upon as a private independent gentleman, "who read for his amufement. Perhaps it may be faid, "What fignifies fo much knowledge, when it pro"duced fo little? Is it worth taking fo much pains "to leave no memorial but a few poems? But let it "be confidered that Mr. Gray was to others at leaft "innocently employed; to himself certainly benefi"cially. His time paffed agreeably: he was every "day making fome new acquifition in fcience; his "mind was enlarged, his heart foftened, his virtue 66 ftrengthened; the world and mankind were shewn "to him without a mafk; and he was taught to con"fider every thing as trifling, and unworthy of the "attention of a wife man, except the pursuit of "knowledge and practice of virtue, in that ftate "wherein God hath placed us."
To this character Mr. Mafon has added a more particular account of Gray's fkill in zoology. He has remarked, that Gray's effeminacy was affected moft" before thofe whom he did not with to "please;" and that he is unjustly charged with making knowledge his fole reafon of preference, as he paid his esteem to none whom he did not likewife believe to be good.
What has occurred to me from the flight inspection of his Letters in which my undertaking has engaged me, is, that his mind had a large grafp; that his curiofity was unlimited, and his judgement cultivated; that he was a man likely to love much where he loved at all; but that he was faftidious and hard to please. His contempt, however, is often employed, where I hope it will be approved, upon fcepticism and infidelity. His fhort account of Shaftesbury I will infert.
"You fay you cannot conceive how Lord Shaftef"bury came to be a philofopher in vogue; I will "tell you: first, he was a lord; fecondly, 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, pro. "vided they are under no obligation to believe it; "fifthly, they love to take a new road, even when "that road leads no where; fixthly, he was reckoned "a fine writer, and feems always to mean more than "he faid. Would you have any more reafons? An "interval of above forty years has pretty well deftroyed "the charm. A dead lord ranks with coinmoners; "vanity is no longer interested in the matter; for a "new road is become an old one."
Mr. Mafon has added, from his own knowledge, that, though Gray was poor, he was not eager of money; and that, out of the little that he had, he was very willing to help the neceffitous.
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 arofe in the train of compofition; 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 virtue wishes him to have been fuperior.
GRAY's Poetry is now to be confidered; and I hope not to be looked on as an enemy to his name, if I confefs that I contemplate it with lefs pleasure than his life.
His ode "On Spring" has fomething poetical, both in the language and the thought; but the language is too luxuriant, and the thoughts have nothing new. There has of late arifen a practice of giving to adjectives derived from fubftantives the termination of participles; fuch as the cultured plain, the daified bank; but I was forry to fee, in the lines of a fcholar like Gray, the bonied Spring. The morality is natural, but too ftale; the conclufion is pretty.
The poem "On the Cat" was doubtlefs by its author confidered as a trifle, but it is not a happy trifle. In the first stanza, "the azure flowers that "blow" fhew refolutely a rhyme is fometimes made when it cannot eafily be found. Selima, the Cat, is called a nymph, with fome violence both to language
and fenfe; but there is good ufe made of it when it is done; for of the two lines,
What female heart can gold defpife?
What cat's averfe to fith?
the first relates merely to the nymph, and the fecond only to the cat. The fixth ftanza contains a melancholy truth, that "a favourite has no friend;" but the laft ends in a pointed fentence of no relation to the purpofe; if what glistered had been gold, the cat would not have gone into the water; and, if the had, would not lefs have been drowned.
The "Profpect of Eton College" fuggefts nothing to Gray which every beholder does not equally think and feel. His fupplication to father Thames, to tell him who drives the hoop or tofies the ball, is ufelefs and puerile. Father Thames has no better means of knowing than himself. His epithet "buxom health” is not elegant; he feems not to underftand the word. Gray thought his language more poetical as it was more remote from common ufe: finding in Dryden "honey redolent of Spring," an expreffion that reaches the utmoft limits of our language, Gray drove it a little more beyond common apprehenfion, by making "gales" to be "redolent of joy and youth."
Of the "Ode on Adverfity," the hint was at first taken from "O Diva, gratum quæ regis Antium;" but Gray has excelled his original by the variety of his fentiments, and by their moral application. Of this piece, at once poetical and rational, I will not by flight objections violate the dignity.
My process has now brought me to the wonderful "Wonder of Wonders," the two Sifter Odes; by