« AnteriorContinuar »
singular temperance could not protect him. In London his indisposition having increased, the physician advised him to change his lodgings in Jermyn-street for others at Kensington. This change was of so much benefit, that he was soon enabled to return to Cambridge, whence he meditated a journey to his friend Dr. Warton, which he hoped might re-establish his health; but his intentions and hopes were delusive. On the 24th of July, 1771, a violent sickness came on him while at dinner in the College-hall; the gout had fixed on his stoinach, and resisted all the power of medicine. On the 29th he was seized by a strong convulsion, which the next day returned with additional force, and the evening after he expired. At the first seizure he was aware of his danger ; and though sensible at intervals almost to the last, he betrayed no dread of the terrors of death.
To the foregoing sketch of the Life of Mr. Gray I shall annex a delineation of his Character, which appeared originally in “The Lon
“ don Magazine” for March 1772, and is said by Dr. Johnson to have been written by the Rev. Mr. Temple, rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall*.
“ 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; and read all the original historians of England, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics, morals, and politics, made a principal part of nis plan of study; voyages and travels of all sorts were his favourite amusement: and he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening t. With such a fund of knowledge, his conversation must have been equally instructing and entertaining; but he was also a good man, a well-bred man, a man of virtue and
* In the London Magazine for May 1775, and the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1775, he is styled rector of Mamhead in Devonshire.
+ He disclaimed any skill in this art, and usually held it in less estimation than I think it deserves, declaring himself to be only charined with the bolder features of unadorned nature.-Mason.
humanity. There is no character without some imperfection; and I think the greatest defect in his was an affectation in delicacy, or rather effeminacy,*, and a visible fastidiousness, or contempt and disdain of his inferiors in science. He also had in some degree that weakness which disgusted Voltaire so much in Mr. Congrevet: though he seemed to value others, chiefly according to the progress they had made in knowledge, yet he
* This is rightly put; it was rather an affectation in delicacy and effeminacy than the things themselves; and he chose to put on this appearance chiefly before persons whom he did not wish to please.Mason.
of I have often thought that Mr. Congreve might very well be vindicated on this head. It seldom happens that the vanity of authorship continues to the end of a man's days; it usually soon leaves him where it found him; and if he has not something better to build his self-approbation upon than that of being a popular writer, he generally finds himself ill at ease, if respected only on that account. Mr. Congreve was much advanced in years when the young French poet paid him this visit; and, though a man of the world, he might now feel that indifference to literary fame which Mr. Gray, who always led a more retired and philosophic life, certainly felt much earlier. Both of them therefore might reasonably, at times, express some disgust, if their quiet was intruded upon by persons who thought they flattered them by such intrusion.-Mason.
It was not on account of their knowledge that he valued mankind. He contemned indeed all pretenders to literature, but he did not select his friends from the literary class merely because they were literate. To be his friend it was always either necessary that a man should have something better than an improved understanding, or at least that Mr. Gray should believe he had. Mason.
could not bear to be considered himself merely as a man of letters: and though without birth, or fortune, or station, his desire was to be looked upon as a private independent gentleman, who read for his amusement. Perhaps, it may be said, What signifies so much knowledge, when it produced so little? Is it worth taking so much pains to leave no memorial but a few poems? But let it be considered, that Mr. Gray was to others, at least, innocently employed; to himself, certainly beneficially. His time passed agreeably; he was every day making some new acquisition in science; his mind was enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue strengthened; the world and mankind were shewn to him without a mask; and he was taught to consider every thing as trifling, and unworthy the attention of a wise man, except the pursuit of knowledge, and the practice of virtue, in that state wherein God hath placed us.”
Dr. Johnson's general opinion of Mr. Gray is expressed in the following terms: “ What has occurred to me is, that his mind had a large grasp; that his curiosity was unlimited, and his judgment cultivated ; that he was a man likely to love much where he loved at all, but that he was fastidious and hard to please. His contempt, however, is often employed, where I hope it will be approved, upon scepticism and infidelity. His short account of Shaftesbury I will insert.
• You say you cannot conceive how Lord • Shaftesbury came to be a philosopher in vogue; • I will tell you: first, he was a lord ; secondly, • he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, ' men are very prone to believe what they do • not understand; fourthly, they will believe any • thing at all, provided they are under no obliga• tion to believe it; fifthly, they love to take a • new road, even when that road leads nowhere; • sixthly, he was reckoned a fine writer, and
seems always to mean more than he said. • Would you have any more reasons? An inter- val of above forty years has pretty well destroy