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is, from mountains like the Alps. And the pedant furely intrudes, but when was blank verfe without pedantry? when he tells how Planets abfolve the ftated round of Time.
It is generally known to the readers of poetry that he intended to revife and augment this work, but died before he had completed his defign. The reformed work as he left it, and the additions which he had made, are very properly retained in the late collection. He feems to have fomewhat contracted his diffufion; but I know not whether he has gained in clofeness what he has loft in fpendor. In the additional book, the Tale of Solon is too long.
One great defect of his poem is very properly cenfured by Mr. Walker, unless it may be faid in his defence, that what he has omitted was not properly in his plan. "His picture of man is grand and beauti"ful, but unfinished. The immortality of the foul, "which is the natural confequence of the appetites and powers the is invefted with, is fcarcely once hinted "throughout the poem. This deficiency is amply "fupplied by the masterly pencil of Dr. Young; who, "like a good philofopher, has invincibly proved the "immortality of man, from the grandeur of his con"ceptions, and the meannefs and mifery of his state; "for this reason, a few paffages are selected from the Night Thoughts, which, with thofe from Akenfide, "feem to form a complete view of the powers, fitua❝tion, and end of man." Exercises for Improvement in Elocution, p. 66.
His other poems are now to be confidered; but a fhort confideration will dispatch them. It is not eafy to guess why he addicted himself so diligently to lyrick
poetry, having neither the ease and airinefs of the lighter, nor the vehemence and elevation of the grander ode. When he lays his ill-fated hand upon his harp, This former powers feem to defert him; he has no longer his luxuriance of expreffion, nor variety of images. His thoughts are cold, and his words inelegant. Yet fuch was his love of lyricks, that, having written with great vigour and poignancy his Epiftle to Curio, he transformed it afterwards into an ode difgraceful only to its author.
Of his odes nothing favourable can be faid; the fentiments commonly want force, nature, or novelty; the diction is fometimes harsh and uncouth, the stanzas ill-conftructed and unpleafant, and the rhymes diffonant, or unskilfully difpofed, too diftant from each other, or arranged with too little regard to established ufe, and therefore perplexing to the ear, which in a short compofition has not time to grow familiar with an innovation.
To examine fuch compofitions fingly, cannot be required; they have doubtless brighter and darker parts but when they are once found to be generally dull, all further labour may be fpared; for to what ufe can the work be criticifed that will not be read?
HOMA'S GRAY, the fon of Mr. Philip Gray, a fcrivener of London, was born in Cornhill, November 26, 1716. His grammatical education he received at Eton under the care of Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, then affiftant to Dr. George; and when he left fchool, in 1734, entered a penfioner at Peterhouse in Cambridge.
The tranfition from the fchool to the college is, to moft young scholars, the time from which they date their years of manhood, liberty, and happiness; but Gray feems to have been very little delighted with academical gratifications; he liked at Cambridge neither the mode of life nor the fashion of ftudy, and lived fullenly on to the time when his attendance on lectures was no longer required. As he intended to profefs the Common Law, he took no degree.
When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr. Horace Walpole, whofe friendship he had gained at Fton, invited him to travel with him as his companion. They wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's Letters con ain a very pleafing account of
many parts of their journey. But unequal friendships are eafily diffolved: at Florence they quarrelled, and parted; and Mr. Walpole is now content to have it told that it was by his fault. If we look however without prejudice on the world, we fhall find that men, whofe confcioufnefs of their own merit fets. them above the compliances of fervility, are apt enough in their affociation with fuperiors to watch their own dignity with troublefome and punctilious jealoufy, and in the fervour of independance to exact that attention which they refufe to pay. Part they did, whatever was the quarrel; and the reft of their travels was doubtless more unpleafant to them both. Gray continued his journey in a manner fuitable to his own little fortune, with only an occafional fervant.
He returned to England in September 1741, and in about two months afterwards buried his father; who had, by an injudicious waste of money upon a new houfe, fo much leffened his fortune, that Gray thought himself too poor to ftudy the law. He therefore retired to Cambridge, where he foon after became Bachelor of Civil Law; and where, without liking the place or its inhabitants, or profeffing to like them, he paffed, except a fhort refidence at London, the reft of his life.
About this time he was deprived of Mr. Weft, the fon of a chancellor of Ireland, a friend on whom he appears to have fet a high value, and who deferved his esteem by the powers which he fhews in his Letters, and in the Ode to May, which Mr. Mafon has preferved, as well as by the fincerity with which, when Gray fent him part of Agrippina, a tragedy that he had juft begun, he gave an opinion, which probably U 4
intercepted the progrefs of the work, and which the judgement of every reader will confirm. It was certainly no lofs to the English stage that Agrippina was never finished.
In this year (1742) Gray seems first to have applied himself seriously to poetry; for in this year were produced the Ode to Spring, his Profpect of Eton, and his Ode to Adverfity. He began likewise a Latin poem, de Principiis cogitandi.
It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. Mafon, that his first ambition was to have excelled in Latin poetry: perhaps it were reasonable to wish that he had profecuted his defign; for though there is at present some embarraffment in his phrafe, and fome harshness in his Lyrick numbers, his copiousness of language is fuch as very few poffefs; and his lines, even when imperfect, discover a writer whom practice would quickly have made skilful.
He now lived on at Peterhouse, very little folicitous what others did or thought, and cultivated his mind and enlarged his views without any other purpose than of improving and amusing himself; when Mr. Mason, being elected fellow of Pembroke-hall, brought him a companion who was afterwards to be his editor, and whofe fondness and fidelity has kindled in him a zeal of admiration, which cannot be reafonably expected from the neutrality of a ftranger and the coldnefs of a
In this retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on the Death of Mr. Walpole's Cat; and the year afterwards attempted a poem of more importance, on Government and Education, of which the fragments which remain have many excellent lines.