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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 temper,t 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 emipent 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.'
• Barbaras ædes aditure mecum,
. Fallere Musa ?
Cedere nocti ;
. Surripit auraMe reclinatum teneram per herbam ; Qud leves cursus aqua cunque ducit, Et moras dulci strepitu lapillo
Nectit in omni.
Purior hora :
Vestit et auro,
Usquedum, fulgore magìs màgis jam
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
choly Muse) and other places; in November, reached Turin; and proceeded thence to Genoa, Bologna, Flo
Quòd si invidendis sedibus, et frui
In medios violenta fluctus ;
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 là 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 verse. In your next, you will be so good to let me know what it was. 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 oneday 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 immistæ, tecta informia imposita rupibus, pecora jumentaque torrida frigore, homines intonsi et inculti,