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High on her car, behold the Grandam ride Like old Sesostris with barbaric pride;
a team of harness'd monarchs bend
* * *
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Peterhouse, April 26, 174.
You write so feelingly to Mr. Brown, and represent your abandoned condition in terms so touching, that what gratitude could not effect in several months, compassion has brought about in a few days; and broke that strong attachment, or rather allegiance, which I and all here owe to our sovereign Lady and Mistress, the President of Presidents and Head of Heads, (if I may-be permitted to pronounce her name, that ineffable Octogrammaton) the power of Laziness. You must know she had been pleased to appoint me (in preference to so many old servants of hers who had spent their whole lives in qualifying themselves for the office) Grand Picker of Straws and Push-pin Player to her Supinity (for that is her title). The first is much in the nature of Lord President of the Council; and
the other like the Groom-Porter, only without the profit; but as they are both things of very great honour in this country, I considered with myself the load of Envy attending such great charges; and besides (between you and me) I found myself unable to support the fatigue of keeping up the appearance that persons of such dignity must do, so I thought proper to decline it, and excused myself as well as I could. However, as you see such an affair must take up a good deal of time, and it has always been the Policy of this court to proceed slowly, like the Imperial and that of Spain, in the dispatch of Business, you will on this account the easier forgive me, if I have not answered your Letter before.
You desire to know, it seems, what character the Poem of your young friend bears here *. I wonder that you ask the opinion of a Nation, where those, who pretend to judge, do not judge at all; and the rest (the wiser part) wait to catch the judgment of the world immediately above them; that is, Dick's and the Rain
* Pleasures of the Imagination: from the posthumous publication of Dr. Akenside's Poems, it should seem that the Author had very much the same Opinion afterwards of his own Work, which Mr. Gray here expresses: since he undertook a reform of it, which must have given him, had he concluded it, as much trouble as if he had written it entirely new.
bow Coffee-houses. Your readier way would be to ask the Ladies that keep the Bars in those two theatres of Criticism. However, to shew you that I am a judge, as well as my Countrymen, I will tell you, though I have rather turned it over than read it, (but no matter; no more have they) that it seems to me above the middling; and now and then, for a little while, rises even to the best, particularly in description. It is often obscure, and even unintelligible; and too much infected with the Hutchinson jargon. In short, its great fault is, that it was published at least nine years too early. And so methinks in a few words, “à la mode “ du Temple,” I have very pertly dispatched what perhaps may for several years have employed a very ingenious man worth fifty of myself.
You are much in the right to have a taste for Socrates; he was a divine man. I must tell you, by way of news of the place, that the other day a certain new Professor made an Apology for him an hour long in the schools; and all the world brought in Socrates guilty, except the people of his own College.
The Muse is gone, and left me in far worse company; if she returns, you will hear of her. As to her child *
* Ile here means his Poem “De Principiis Cogitandi.” last Section,
(since you are so good as to inquire after it) it is but a puling chit yet, not a bit grown to speak of; I believe, poor thing, it has got the worms that will carry it off at last. Mr. Trollope and I are in a course of Tar-water; he for his present, and I for my future distempers. If you think it will kill me, send away a man and horse directly; for I drink like a Fish. Yours, &c.
NR. GRAY TO DR. HARTON.
Cambridge, Dec. 11, 1746.
I would make you an excuse, (as indeed I ought) if they were a sort of thing I ever gave any credit to myself in these cases; but I know they are never true. Nothing so silly as Indolence when it hopes to disguise itself: every one knows it by its saunter, as they do his Majesty (God bless him) at a Masquerade, by the firmness of his tread and the elevation of his chin. However, somewhat I had to say that has a little shadow of reason in it.
I have been in Town (I suppose you know) flaunting about at all kind of public places with two friends lately returned from abroad. The world itself has some attractions in it to a solitary of six years
standing; and agreeable well-meaning people of sense (thank Heaven there are so few of them) are my peculiar Magnet. It is no wonder then if I felt some reluctance at parting with them so soon; or if my spirits, when I returned back to my cell, should sink for a time, not indeed to storm and tempest, but a good deal below changeable. Besides, Seneca says (and my pitch of philosophy does not pretend to be much above Seneca) “Nunquam mores, quos extuli, refero. Aliquid “ ex eo quod composui, turbatur: aliquid ex his, quæ
fugavi, redit.” And it will happen to such as us, mere imps of Science. Well it may, when Wisdom herself is forced often
in sweet retired Solitude
It is a foolish thing that without Money one cannot either live as one pleases, or where and with whom one pleases. Swift somewhere says, that Money is Liberty; and I fear Money is Friendship too and Society, and almost every external blessing. It is a great, though an ill-natured, Comfort, to see most of those who have it in plenty, without Pleasure, without Liberty, and without Friends.