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GRAY, AT STOKE-POGIS.
The life of Thomas Gray, the author of the Elegy in & Country Churchyard, was passed in London, in Cambridge, and at StokePogis, in Buckinghamshire, except what he spent in travelling, which was considerable. Gray was born in Cornhill, November 26, 1716. His parents were reputable citizens of London. His grandfather was a considerable merchant, but his father, Mr. Philip Gray, Mason says: though he also followed business, was of an indolent and reserved temper; and therefore rather diminished than increased his paternal fortune. He had many children, of whom Thomas was the fifth; all except him died in their infancy. The business of Gray's father was, like that of Milton's, a money-scrivener. But, unlike Milton's father, Philip Gray was, according to Mason, not only reserved and indolent, but of a morose, unsocial, and obstinate temper. His indolence led him to neglect the business of his profession; his obstinacy, to build a country house at Wanstead, without acquainting his wife or son of the design, to which he knew they would be very averse, till it Fris executed. This turned out a loss of two thousand pounds to the family; and the character of the father, which is supposed to have been stamped by bodily ailments, was the occasion of Gray, though an only child, being left with a very narrow patrimony. His mother, to provide for her family, entered into business independent of her husband, with her sister, Miss Antrobus. The two ladies kept a kind of India warehouse in Cornhill. As clever ladies in business generally do, they succeeded so well, that, on Mr. Gray's death, which happened about the time of the young poet's return from his first trip to the Continent, they retired, and went to join housekeeping with their third sister, Mrs. Rogers, the widow of a gentleman of that name, who had formerly been in the law, and had retired to Burnham, in Buckinghamshire ; where we find Gray, on one occasion, describing, in a letter to Walpole, the uncle and the place thus. « The descrip tion of a road that your coachwheels have so often honoured, it is needless to give to you ; suffice it that I arrived safe at my uncle's, who is a great hunter in imagination. His dogs take up every chair in the house, so I am forced to stand up at this present writing; and though the gout forbids him galloping after them in the field, yet he continues still to reg able noise and stink. He walking when I should rid comfort amid all this is, ti through a green lane, a fores! own, at least as good as so, for self. It is a little chaos of mour is true, that do not ascend muc
vues still to regale his ears and nose with their comfort
and stink, He holds me mighty cheap, I perceive, for nen I should ride, and reading when I should hunt. My ad all this is, that I have at the distance of half-a-mile,
lane, a forest-the vulgar call it a common-all my 1 good as so, for I spy no human thing in it but my
e chaos of mountains and precipices ; mountains, it ot ascend much above the clouds, nor are the declimazing as Dover cliff; but just such hills as people ecks as well as I do may venture to climb, and crags as much pleasure as if they were more dangerous. are covered with most venerable beeches, and other
who love their necks as well as
lo murmurin vbile visions, as
Cling to ed At the foot of one of these sq to the trunk for a whole mori
Eke, but I think he did no there. In this situation! that is, talk to you, but I answer me, I beg pardon lo but it is entirely your ow a gentleman's house a little way. now seventy-seven years old, and
Bo when I look at him, and thi
By this agreeable extract, ho presy of Gray's life. He was edu Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brothe and, when he left in Cambridge. It was intended,
48 out their old stories to the winds :-
visions, as poetic eyes avow,
de of these squats me I, il penseroso, and there grow Squirrel gambol a whole morning. The timorous hare and sportive
around me like Adam in Paradise, before he had
he did not use to read Virgil, as I commonly do ituation I often converse with my Horace, aloud too, You, but I do not remember that I ever heard you eg pardon for taking all the conversation to myself,
your own fault. We have old Mr. Southern at
use a little way off, who comes often to see us. He is ut is as agreeah years old, and has almost wholly lost his memory;
e as an old man can be, at least I persuade myself
him, and think of Isabella and Oronoko." le extract, however, we have outstepped the proife. He was educated at Eton, under the care of 3 mother's brother, then assistant to Dr. George ;
school, in 1734, entered a pensioner at Peterhouse of the law, for was intended that he should follow the profession
Qich his uncle's practice and connexions seemed to ay. He therefore lived on at college so long as his
a lectures was required, but took no degree. His doned the idea
an end to his prospects of that kind, and he aban
the legal profession. When he had been at Camyears, he agreed to make a tour on the Continent pole; and they proceeded together through France Qey quarrelled and parted, taking different ways.
e again went to Cambridge, took the degree of Law, and continued there, without liking the place 3 as we are informed by both Johnson and Mason,
ce them. His pleasure lay in wading through huge
lich, on a vast number of subjects, he extracted a Ormation. Such were Gray's assiduous study and ollowing character of him by a contemporary, the
open a brilliant w Stendance on the uncle's death put
bridge about five years, he age with Horace Walpole ; and to Italy, where they quar On bis return, be again, Bachelor of Civil Law, and co, or its inhabitants, as we are or professing to like them. Hi hbraries, out of w hich, on a vast amount of information. research, that the following
Rev. Mr. Temple, rector of St. Gluvias, in Cornwall, written a few months after his death, can scarcely be termed overdrawn :-“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; had read all the original histories of Eus. land, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics, made a principal part of his plan of study. "Voyages and travels of all sorts were his favourite amuse ment; and he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening."
He was, in fact, one of the first to open up the Scandinavian mythology, antiquities, and legendary literature, still so little under. stood in this country, and on which our best literary historians dis play so marvellous an ignorance; Hallam, amongst others, describing the “ Niebelungen Lied” as an original German poem, not aware that the magnificent original of that poem exists in the Icelandic. Gray was also one of the very first, if not the very first person, who be 73.1 to trace out and distinguish the different orders of Anglo-Gothic architecture, by attention to the date of its creation. These were the studies, enough to occupy a life, which kept him close at Cambridge in his rooms for years, and once induced him to take lodgings for about three years near the British Museum, where he diligently copied from the Harleian and other manuscripts. The death of his most intimate friend, Mr. West, the son of the Chancellor of Ireland, soon after his return from the Continent, tended only the more to fis this habit of retirement and study. He lived on at Peterhouse till 1756, when a curious incident drove him forth. Two or three young men of fortune, who lived in the same staircase, had for some time intentionally disturbed him with their riots, and carried their illbehaviour so far as frequently to awaken him at midnight. After having borne their insults longer than might reasonably have beca expected, even from a man of less warmth of temper, Mr. Gray complained to the governing part of the society; and not thinking his remonstrance sufficiently attended to, quitted the college. He took up his residence at Pembroke-hall, where he continued to reside till the day of his death, which occurred here in the fifty-fifth year of his age, July 30, 1771, being seized with gout in the stomach whilo at dinner in the college-hall.
He had for the last three years been appointed Professor of History in this college ; but such was his indolence, fastidiousness, or aversion to so public a duty, that, to use the words of Johnson, “ he was always designing lectures, but never reading them ; uneasy at his neglect of duty, and appeasing his uneasiness with desigus 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.” He continued thus to vacillate, and held on till his death. A circumstance which attached him more to Pembroke college was that Mason was elected a Fellow of it in 1747 ; they grew warm friends, and Mason afterwards became his biographer."
Such was the general outline the most interesting features letters, his travels, and his Inade a tour into the north land ; at another time throug jarts of the neighbouring co rambles, as they are given w
the general outline of Gray's life. Iu reading it we find eresting features those which he describes so well in his travels, and his occasional retreats at Stoke-Pogis. He
to the north of England, to the lakes, and into Scotther time through Worcester, Hereford, Monmouth, and neighbouring counties; and all his details of such ey are given with an evident zest, are full of life and Prose, Gray gets out of the stiff and stilted formality Poetry. He forgets his learning and his classical
once easy, amiable, witty, and jocose. There was
Inacy about him, which you see in his portraits, o not the less detect in his poetry; but his prose pre attractive idea of him, such as he must have been
dle of his friends. On turning to Gray's account Dleh I have visited in various parts of the kingdom, na him seizing on their real features, and impressed
Dotions, and is at once easy, ama
the familiar circle of his friends. On turning
It is at Stoke-Pogis that we Gray, Here he used to s} at Eton, but during the who and his aunts lived. Here it of Eton College, h is celebra gard, and his Long Story, with the circumstances a His mother and aunts retired spot at Stoke, called " much screened by trees. As and it is said that Gray, when this garden, and that many of tb planting. On one side of the h
Fogis that we seek the most attractive vestiges of
Dg the whole of his future life, while his mother
s celebrated Elegy written in a Country Church8 Story, were not only written, but were mingled adces and all the tenderest feelings of his own life.
aunts lived at an old-fashioned house in a very ke, called West End. This house stood in a hollow,
trees. A small stream ran through the garden, Gray, when here, used to employ himself much in
Chat many of the trees still remaining are of his T'as planted rous side of the house extended an upland field, which summit of the Rig so as to give a charming, retired walk; and at the
C was raised an artificial mound, upon which was Windsor and Eto
de or summer-house, which gave full prospect of 2. Here Gray delighted to sit. Here he was accus
write much; and it is just the place to inspire ollege, which lay in the midst of its fine landscape, W . The old house inhabited by Gray and his Qe of my visit, had just been pulled down, and Zabethan mansion by the present proprietor, Mr. sk, just by. The garden, of course, had shared in low stood gay with its fountain and its modern *cepting for some fine trees, no longer reminded Woodland walk still remained round the adjoining
ner-house on its summit, though much cracked keld together by iron cramps. The trees were so S to obstruct the view, and shut out both Eton
It a sort of arcade or summer
towed to read and write much; and its
T he old house in
suu of Gray. The woodland w
It was at this house, now
Puse, now destroyed, that the two ladies from the
emorable visit, which gave occasion to the Long W ere these. Gray had finished his Elegy, and had
sent it in manuscript to Horace Walpole, by whom it was shown about with great applause. Amongst the rest of the fashionable world to whom it was thus communicated, Lady Cobham, who lived at the Mansion-house at Stoke-Pogis, had read and admired it. Wishing to make the acquaintance of the author, and hearing that he was so near her, her relatives, Miss Speed and Lady Schaub, then at her house, undertook to bring this about by making him the first visit. He happened to be from home when the ladies arrived at bis aunts' solitary mansion; and when he returned, was surprised to find, written on one of his papers in the parlour where he usually read, the following note :-“Lady Schaub's compliments to Mr. Gray. She is sorry not to have found him at home, to tell him that Lady Brown is very well.” This necessarily obliged him to return the visit, and soon after induced him to compose a ludicrous account of this little adventure for the amusement of the ladies in question This was a mere jeu d'esprit, and, extravagant as some parts of it are, is certainly clever. Gray regarded it but as a thing for the occasion, and never included it in his published poems. But Mason tells us that when it appeared, though only in manuscript, it was handed about, and the most various opinions pronounced on it. By some it was thought a masterpiece of original humour, by others a wild and fantastic farrago. It in truth much more resembles his prose, and proves that, if he had not always had the fear of the critics before his eyes, he would have written with far more freedom and life than he often did. We may take a few stanzas, as connected with our further subject.
" In Britain's isle, no matter where,
An ancient pile of building stands :
Employed the power of fairy hands
Each panel in achievements clothing,
And passages that lead to nothing.
When he had fifty winters o'er him,
The seal and maces danced before himn.
His high-crowned hat, and satin doublet,
Though Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it.
their sy bunt"8 issu
A house there is, and that's enough,
From whence one fatal morning issues
But rustling in their silks and tissues.
Her conquering destiny fulfilling,
And vainly ape her art of killing.
Had armed with spirit, wit, and satire ;
And tipped her arrows with good-nature.
Coarse panegyrics would but tease her:
Alas! who would not wish to please her!