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THOMAS GRAY.*

[1716—1771.]

THOMAS GRAY, who has been called the · British Pindar,' was born in Cornhill, London, December 26, 1716. His grandfather was a considerable merchant; but his father Philip, though he also engaged in business as a money-scrivener (which was the profession, likewise, of Milton's father) is stated to have been of an indolent and reserved temperet so that he rather diminished than increased his paternal fortune. He was the fifth child'; but all except himself died in their infancy, from suffocation produced by a fullness of blood. He was himself, indeed, only snatched from the same fate by the courage of his mother, who removed the paroxysm by opening a vein with her own hand. Such an instance of judicious and critical affection he justly remembered with filial reverence, and seldom mentioned the operator without a sigh.

He received his grammatical education at Eton

* AUTHORITIES. Mason's Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Gray ; JOHNSON's Lives of the Poets, and Encyclopædia Britannica.

+ Or rather brutal, since his wife in 1735 applied to an eminent civilian for his advice, as to a separation,

under Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, who was at that time one of the assistant masters of Dr. George, and also Fellow of Peter House, Cambridge; and, while there, contracted a particular intimacy with Horace Walpole, afterward Earl of Orford, and Richard West, son of the Chancellor of Ireland. Upon leaving Eton, he entered as pensioner at his Uncle's college in 1734. At the University, where his effeminacy and fair complexion procured him the name of Miss Gray,' * he seems to have renounced the severity of mathematical studies in favour of classical literature, modern languages, and other branches of polite literature. During the four or five years which he spent at Cambridge, his poetical productions were some Latin Hexameters in the academical Epithalamium on the Marriage of the Prince of Wales (which Mason however, regarding as only to be excused by the writer's extreme youth, though the best in the collection, excludes from his edition, to be buried in the adulatory & trash with which they are surrounded) a Tripos, as it is called, on the theme of Luna est habitabilis * inserted in the • Musæ Etonenses," a Latin version of the Care salve beate' from the Pastor Fido,' fragments of English translations from Statius and Tasso, and the following delicate sapphic ode, which his editor denominates the first original production of his Muse. It was addressed to his beloved West, who had some months before left Christ Church for the Inner Temple, and was with Gray destined to pursue there the study of the law.

* Milton, from a similar cause perhaps, was called (as it has been stated in his Life) the "Lady of Christ's College.'

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Barbaras ædes aditure mecum, Quas Eris semper fovet inquieta, Lis ubi latè sonat, et togatum

Astuat agmen Dulciùs quanto patulis sub ulmi Hospitä ramis temerè jacentem Sic libris horas tenuique inertes

Fallere Musâ ?
Sæpè enim curis vagor expedita
Mente; dum, blandam meditans Camcenam,
Vix malo rori meminive serce

Cedere nocti ;
Et, pedes quò me rapiunt, in omni
Colle Parnassum videor videre
Fertilem sylvá, gelidamque in omni

Fonte Aganippen.
Risit et Ver me facilesque Nympha
Nare captantem, nec ineleganti,
Manè quicquid de violis eundo

Surripit aura
Me reclinatum teneràm per herbam ;
Qud leves cursus aqua cunque ducit,
Et moras dulci strepitu lapillo

Nectit in omni.
novo nostrum ferè pectus anno
Simplices curæ tenuêre, coelum
Quamdiù sudum explicuit Favoni

Purior hora :

Otia et campos nec adhuc relinquo,
Nec magis Phoebo Clytie fidelis ;
(Ingruant venti licèt, et senescat

Mollior estas.
Namque, seu lætos hominum labores
Prataque et montes recreante curru
Purpurâ tractus oriens Ecos

Vestit et auro,

Sedulus servo veneratus orbem
Prodigum splendoris : ameniori
Sive dilectam meditatur igne

Pingere Calpen;

Usquedum, fulgore magis màgis jam
Languido circum, variata nubes
Labitur furtim, viridisque in umbras

Scena recessit.
O ego felix, vice si (nec unquam
Surgerem rursus) simili cadentem
Parca me lenis sineret quieto

Fallere letho!
Multà flagranti radiisque cincto
Integris ah! quam nihil inviderem,
Cùm Dei ardentes medius quadrigas

Sentit Olympus.' From the vivid and picturesque painting in this composition, marking strongly the ascendency of the poet over the lawyer, it cannot be doubted that he gladly embraced the excuse, for deferring his meditated studies, supplied by an invitation to accompany Mr. Walpole (with whom, as a member of King's College, Cambridge, he had kept up his early intimacy) on a tour through Europe. About the end of March, 1739, they set out for France; visited in traversing that country Paris, Chantilly, Rheims, Dijon, Lyons, the Chartreuse (in the Album of which Gray on his return inscribed the subjoined Alcaic Ode,* marked with the finest touches of his melan

* « Oh tu, severi Religio loci,
Quocunque gaudes nomine (non leve
Nativa nam certè fluenta

Numen habet, veteresque sylvas ;
Præsentiorem et conspicimus Deum
Per invias rupes, fera per juga
Clivosque præruptos, sonantes

Inter aquas nemorumque noctem,
Quàm si repôstus sub trabe citrea
Fulgeret auro et Phidiacâ manu)
Salve vocanti ritè, fesso et

Da placidam juveni quietem.

choly Muse) and other places; in November, reached Turin; and proceeded thence to Genoa, Bologna, Flo

Quòd si invidendis sedibus, et frui
Fortuna sacrâ lege silentii
Vetat volentem, me resorbens

In medios violenta fluctus ;
Saltem remoto des, Pater, angulo
Horas senectæ ducere liberas;
Tutumque vulgari tumultu

Surripias, hominumque curis.' In a letter to West, written after visiting this place for the first time, he says ;—“In our little journey up to the Grande Chartreuse I do not remember to have gone ten paces without an exclamation, that there was no restraining: not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry. There are certain scenes, that would awe an atheist into belief, without the help of other argument. One need not have a very fantastic imagination to see spirits there at noonday: you have death perpetually before your eyes, only so far removed, as to compose the mind without frighting it. I am well persuaded, Bruno was a man of no common genius, to choose such a situation for his retirement; and perhaps should have been a disciple of his, had I been born in his time. You may believe Abelard and Heloïse were not forgotten upon this occasion : if I do not mistake, I saw you too now and then at a distance among the trees; il me semble, que j'ai vu ce chien de visage quelque part. You seemed to call to me from the other side of the precipice, but the noise of the river below was so great, that I really could not distinguish what you said : it seemed to have a cadence like

In your next, you will be so good to let me know what

The week we have since passed among the Alps has not equalled the single day upon that mountain ; because the winter was rather too far advanced, and the weather a little foggy. However, it did not want it's beauties; the savage rudeness of the view is inconceivable, without seeing it. I reckoned in one day thirteen cascades, the least of which was, I dare say, one hundred feet in height. I had Livy in the chaise with me, and beheld his nives cælo propè immista, tecta informia imposita rupibus, pecora jumentaque torrida frigore, homines intonsi et inculti,

verse.

it was.

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