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While at school he had contracted an intimacy with Mr. Horace Walpole*, and Mr. Richard Westt.
The latter of these gentlemen removed from Eton to Christ Church, Oxford, about the same time that Mr. Gray left that place for Cambridge; and from this time an epistolary correspondence was carried on between them.
Mr. Gray's first attempt in English verse, as Mr. Mason tells us, was a Translation from Statius, in May 1736, which is much in the spirited manner of Dryden.
In April 1738, Mr. West left Christ Church for the Inner Temple, to study the law; and Mr. Gray removed from Peterhouse to Town in the September following, intending also to adopt that profession in the same society; for which purpose his father had already either hired or bought him a set of chambers. But on an invitation which Mr. Walpole gave him to be his companion in his travels, this intention was laid aside for the present, and never after put in execution.
* The late Earl of Orford.
+ Son of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. His maternal grandfather was the famous Dr. Burnet.
See p. 110.
With Mr. Walpole he set out in March 1739. They wandered through France into Italy; and his letters, which were published by Mr. Mason, contain a pleasing account of many parts of their journey, enlivened with such glowing descriptions and observations as might be naturally expected from such a genius on classic ground, and some highly-finished pieces of Latin poetry composed on the spot.
During his residence in Italy, Pope Clement XII. died, and the amiable Benedict XIV. was elected, of whom, in one of Mr. Gray's letters, we find the following little speech to the Cardinals in the Conclave, while they were undetermined about an election: “ Most eminent Lords, here “are three Bolognese, of different characters, but “all equally proper for the Popedom. If it be “your pleasure to pitch upon a saint, there is “ Cardinal Gotti; if upon a politician, there is “ Aldrovandi; if upon a booby (coglioni), here am “ I.” But to return:
“Unequal friendships,” says Dr. Johnson, “ are easily dissolved.” At Rheggio a disagreement arose between Gray and Mr. Walpole, originating, we are told, in the difference of their tempers (the former curious, pensive, and philosophical; the latter gay, lively, and, of course, inconsiderate); hut the chief blame of this quarrel Mr. Walpole, who survived Mr. Gray, generously took to himself; and it gives us satisfaction to say, that a lasting reconciliation took place about three years after the dispute. The contention, however, was at the time so sharp between them, that, like Paul and Barnabas, they departed asunder one from the other; and Mr. Gray continued his journey, in a manner suitable to his small for. tune, with only an occasional laquais de voyage, through Padua, Verona, Milan, Turin, and Lyons, going out of his way to make a second visit to the Grande Chartreuse in Dauphiny, where he enriched the Album of the Fathers with an Alcaic Ode* worthy of the Augustan age, and marked with all the finest touches of his melancholy muse. He reached London, September 1, 1741.
On his arrival he found his father's constitution almost worn out by the very severe attacks of the gout, to which he had been for many years subject: and, indeed, the next return of that disorder was fatal to him. He died the 6th of November following, at the age of 65.
It has been before observed, that Mr. Philip Gray was of a reserved and indolent temper; he was also morose, unsocial, and obstinate; defects which, if not inherent in his disposition, might probably arise from his bodily complaints. His indolence had led him to neglect the business of his profession; and his obstinacy, to build a
* See p. 119.
country-house at Wanstead, without acquainting either his wife or son with the design (to which he knew they would be very averse) till it was executed. This building, which he undertook late in life, was attended with very considerable expence, which might almost be called so much money thrown away; for, after his death, it was found necessary to sell the house for two thousand pounds less than its original cost*. Mr. Gray, therefore, at this time found his patrimony so small, that it would by no means enable him to prosecute the study of the law, without becoming burdensome to his Mother and Aunt. These two sisters had for many years carried on a trade separate from that of Mrs. Gray's husbandt; by which having acquired what would support them decently for the rest of their lives, they left off business soon after his death, and retired to Stoke, near Windsor, to the house of their other Sister, Mrs. Rogers, lately become a
* It was purchased by Mr. Alderman Bull.
+ They kept a kind of India warehouse on Cornhill, under the joint names of Gray and Antrobus.