صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

which his frame had long offered but a faint resistance, settled itself upon him with an inveteracy of attack, which soon laid hold of his stomach, and killed him in convulsions on the 30th of July,. 1771.

Since his death, two editions of his poems and letters have been published, with an account of his life and character; the first by his friend Mason, the second and better by Mathias. The claims which his memory had on public regard were finely refreshed by these performances. His epistles are a model of interest and elegance, which no one can read without wishing that to travel and to relate his' travels, had always been more the fortune of his circumstances, and the inclination of his mind. Gray was, perhaps, the most finished scholar of his day; he was not only profoundly read in ancient and modern literature, but deeply versed in history and metaphysics; and what was of still greater merit, an able critic in every branch of learning. He also composed in Latin with great purity and nerve. His life, otherwise highly commendable and exemplary, was an unbroken course of moderate independence. It has been objected that he was fastidious and effeminate ; but if he lived chiefly for himself, it was always in the pursuit of knowledge and the practise of virtue. Though a poor man, he was not covetous; out of the little he possessed he was always willing and glad to relieve the needy; and of the money he had saved, he made judicious bequests.

As an author he had some peculiarities. He not only wrote very slowly, but never began one line before he had polished the preceding one perfectly to his judgment. There was no rough copy, or unfinished couplets to be seen on his papers; all with him was slow labour, and sure success. Milton is reported to have had a conviction that he composed with greatest fluency at particular periods-such as the rise of the moon, day-break, and the fall of eve; but Gray carried the notion to a greater excess; and imagined he could only write when a fit or happy impulse seized him. This fancy has been ridiculed as false and foppish, but is, notwithstanding, likely enough to occur. A man of inactive habits and unrestrained study, such as Gray was, occupies his mind for amusement, and is in a manner led by its vagaries. If

his feelings are sensitive, his spirit is easily depressed ; and if a moralizer upon the vanities of life, his ambition may be quickly damped. While thus overcome, he may think of exertions he has planned, but the idea will be accompanied with a sense of weight which he may easily suppose too great to be shaken off, because circumstances have never forced him to try the experiment. As habit becomes nature, so this disposition may grow confirmed, until at last the mind will not resign the mastery it has obtained over the man, and be diverted.

MONTAGUE, EARL OF HALIFAX, K.B.

In the north aisle of Henry the VIIth’s. chapel, in Westminster Abbey, is a monument to the memory of George Montague, Earl of Halifax, who derives title to particular notice from the place he is allowed to hold amongst the British poets. The monument consists only of a tall pyramid, supported by bronze griffins, on a pedestal: to the former is attached a coat of arms, which is also in bronze.*

* Close by is a bust and pedestal to the memory of Sir George Saville, Marquis of Halifax, who died on the 5th of April, 1695. He was successively created Baron Eland, Viscount, Earl, and Marquis of Halifax, and held the office of Lord Privy Seal, at intervals, during the reigns of Charles the Ist. and IInd. James the IInd. and William the Il Ird.

There is also another nobleman, bearing the title of Halifax, George Montagae Dunk, commemorated in Westminster Abbey. He was nephew to the subject of this sketch, and has been already mentioned in the course of the work as the patron of Cumberland. His monument stands in the north cross aisle of the Abbey, and presents a bust, which has been praised for the fidelity of the likeness, supported by two emblematical urchins, of whom the one, upholding a mirror, and treading on a mask, indicates Truth ; the other, offering the insignia of the Garter, represents Honour. The ledge of the pedestal is enriched with devices, and the following is a copy of the inscription :

Sacred be the Monument which here is raised by gratitude and respect,

To perpetuate the memory of
George MONTAGUE DUNK, EARL OF HALIFAX,
Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter,

Whose Allegiance, Integrity, and Abilities
Alike distinguished and exalted Him in the reign of George the IInd. and of

George the IIIrd.

Charles, the son of the Hon. William Montague, and grandson of the Earl of Manchester, was born on the 16th of April, 1661, at Horton, his father's seat, in Northamptonshire. He received the first rudiments of instruction in the country, and, in 1677, was removed to Westminster school, where he obtained a King's Scholarship, and attracted the favourable notice of Doctor Busby by his aptitude in the composition of extemporaneous epigrams. Repairing to Oxford, in 1682, he had the good fortune to be placed as a fellow.commoner under his relation, Dr. Montague, who extended a particular care over his general conduct, as well as studies, and contributed greatly to make him a worthy companion for the great Sir Isaac Newton, with whom

In the year 1745, (an early period of his Life)

He raised and commanded a Regiment
To defend his King and Country against the alarming Insurrection in

Scotland.
He was soon after appointed First Lord of Trade and Plantations,

In which Department
He contributed so largely to the Commerce and Splendour of America,

As to be styled “Father of the Colonies.”
At one and the same time He filled the united great Offices of

The First Lord of the Admiralty,

Principal Secretary of State,

and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

He was afterwards appointed Lord Privy Seal;
On the resignation whereof he was recalled to the important Duties of

Principal Secretary of State,
And deceased (in possesion of the Seals) June 8th, 1771.

His worth in private Life was eminent and extensive,
And was best testified by the Honour and Esteem

Which were borne him living,
And the Lamentations bestowed on his Ashes.

Among many Instances of his liberal Spirit, one deserves to be distinctly

recorded.

During his Residence in Ireland,
He obtained the grant of an additional 40001. per Annum for all subsequent

Viceroys,
At the same Time Nobly declining that Emolument himself.

he now became acquainted, and continued intimate until death severed them asunder. He prosecuted his classical pursuits at the University until he had reached the age of two and twenty, and when at last he began to think of a profession, was for some time inclined to take orders. This purpose, however, was not long cherished, for he left Oxford in 1685; married the Countess Dowager of Manchester about the same time, and entered upon the list of political aspirants, by purchasing one of the clerkships of the council for 15001.

Henceforward he was the associate of wits and the companion of poets, with whom he competed uponı several public occasions. His introduction to them, and his arrival in town, were both occasioned by the kindness of the Earl of Dorset, who thought so highly of his maiden production-a poem on the death of Charles the II. that he immediately tendered him the advantages of his friendship. This was in 1685; in 1687 he joined Prior in writing the fable of “The Town and Country Mouse,' a most inept but popular burlesque upon Dryden's 'Hind and Panther.' To distinguish between the merit of Montague and Prior in this common labour is impossible, because no one has known what part of the whole was separately produced. As it was said to be the work of both, both shared alike the credit it obtained, although, perhaps, the critic will be disposed to award the larger portion of the composition, and consequently of praise, to Prior. That it was polished by him, the melody of the numbers seems to attest ; indeed, it is difficult to conceive how two persons could have joined in one effusion, otherwise than by one of them having sketched the idea and rough copy, and the other having then worked out the beauties of it, and completed the design.

The battle of the Boyne offered Montague, in common with the rest of the court poets, a subject for his muse; and it was to the merit of his verses upon that subject, he owed the honour of a first introduction to King William, although he was of the number of those who sat in the convention which resolved to invite him to the country, and also one of those who signed the address upon the strength of which he then acted. He was presented by his first friend, the Earl of Dorset, who is said to have observed to the Monarch, in allusion to the joint fable, upon

« السابقةمتابعة »