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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 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 lyric performances 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, so far as it extends, is very · curious and elegant: for, as his comprehension was ainple, 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; and am as willing as his warmest well-wisher to believe it true.
“ Perhaps he was the most learned man in Eu“ rope. He was equally acquainted with the ele“ gant and profound parts of science, and that not su“perficially, but thoroughly. He knew every branch VOL. XI.
" of history both natural and civil; had read all the “ original historians of England, France, and Italy; “ and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaplıy“sics, 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 entertain“ ing; 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 deli“ cacy, or rather effeminacy, and a visible fastidi“ ousness, 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 that they had “ made in knowledge, yet he could not bear to be “ considered 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 gen« tleman, who read for his amusement. Perhaps “ it may be said, What signifies so much knowledge, “ when it produced so little? Is it worth taking so “ much pains to leave no memorials 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 vir“ tue strengthened; the world and mankind were
is 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 6 before those whom he did not wish to “ please ;” and that he is unjustly 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 judgment 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 Shaftes“ bury 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 under“ stand; 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 has become an old one.”
Mr. Mason 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 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 fantastic foppery, to which my kindness for a man of learning and virtue wishes him to have been superior.