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From engagements of this kind Mr. Gray's attention was neither often nor long diverted. Excepting the time he gave up to experiments on flowers, for the purpose of investigating the process of vegetation, (which can scarcely be called a relaxation from his stated employment) his only amusement was music; nor was his acquaintance with this art less than with others of much more importance. His skill was acquired from the productions of the best composers, out of whose works, when in Italy, he had made a selection Vocal music he chiefly preferred. The harpsichord was his favourite instrument; but though far from remarkable for a finished execution, yet he accommodated his voice so judiciously to his playing as to give an auditor considerable pleasure. His judgment in statuary and painting was exquisite, and formed from an almost instinctive perception of those graces beyond the reach of art in which the divine works of the great masters abound.
As it was through the unsolicited favour of the Duke of Grafton that Mr. Gray was enabled to follow the bent of his own inclination in the choice of his studies, we shall not be surprised to find, that on his Grace's being elected Chancellor of the University, Mr. Gray, unasked, took upon him to write those verses which are usually set to music on this eca
sion; and whatever the sarcastic Junius (notwith. standing his handsome compliment to the poet) might pretend, this was the offering of no venal Muse. The ode in its structure is dramatic, and it contains nothing of the complimentary kind which is not entirely suited to the characters employed.
Not long after the bustle of the installation was over, Mr. Gray made an excursion to the sequestered lakes of Westmoreland and Cumberland. The impressions he there received from the wonderful scenery that everywhere surrounded him he transmitted to his friend Dr. Warton, in epistolary journals, with all the wildness of Salvator and the softness of Claude. Writing, in May 1771, to the same friend, he complains of a violent cough which had troubled him for three months, and which he called incurable, adding, that till this year he never knew what (mechanical) low spirits were, One circuma' stance that without doubt contributed to the latter complaint, was the anxiety he felt from holding as a sinecure an office the duties of which he thought him. self bound to perform. The object of his professor, ship being two-fold, and the patent allowing him to effect one of its designs by deputy, it is understood that he liberally rewarded for that purpose the teachers in the University of Italian and French. The
other part he himself prepared to execute ; but though the professorship was instituted in 1724, none of his predecessors had furnished a plan. Embarrassed by this and other difficulties, and retarded by ill health, the undertaking at length became so irksome, that he seriously proposed to relinquish the chair.
Towards the close of May he removed from Cambridge to town, after having suffered from flying attacks of an hereditary gout, to which he had long been subject, and from which a life of singular temperance could not protect him. In London his indisposition having increased, the physician advised him to change his lodgings in Jermyn-street for others at Kensington. This change was of so much benefit, that he was soon enabled to return to Cambridge, whence he meditated a journey to his friend Dr. Warton, which he hoped might re-establish his health ; but his intentions and hopes were delusive. On the 24th of July, 1771, a violent sickness came on him while at dinner in the College-hall; the gout had fixed on his stomach, and resisted all the power of medicine. On the 29th he was seized by a strong convulsion, which the next day returned with additional force, and the evening after he expired. At the first seizure he was aware of his danger; and
though sensible at intervals almost to the last, he betrayed no dread of the terrors of death.
To the foregoing sketch of the Life of Mr. Gray I shall annex a delineation of his Character, which appeared originally in “ The London Magazine" for March 1772, and is said by Dr. Johnson to have been written by the Rev. Mr. Temple, rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall*.
“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; and read all the original historians of England, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics; morals, and politics, made a principal part of his plan of study ; voyages and travels of all sorts were his favourite amusement: and he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardeningt. With
* In the London Magazine for May 1775, and the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1775, he is styled rector of Mamhead in Devonshire.
+ He disclaimed any skill in this art, and usually held it in less estimation than I think it deserves, declaring himself to be only charmed with the bolder features of unadorned nature.--Mason.
such a fund of knowledge, his conversation must have been equally instructive and entertaining; but he was also a good man, a well-bred man, a man of virtue and humanity. There is no character without 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. Congrevet: though he seemed
* This is rightly put; it was rather an affectation in delicacy and effeminacy than the things themselves; and he chose to put on this appearance chiefly before persons whom he did not wish to please.. Mason.
+ I have often thought that Mr. Congreve might very well be vindicated on this head. It seldom happens that the vanity of authorship continues to the end of a man's days; it usually soon leaves him where it found him; and if he has not something better to build his self-approbation upon than that of being a popular writer, he generally finds himself ill at ease, if respected only on that account. Mr. Congreve was much advanced in years when the young French poet paid him this visit; and, though a man of the world, he might now feel that indifference to literary fanie which Mr. Gray, who always leci