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Adelphi, in 1760. This was the first collection of the kind made in London, and was the nucleus out of which the institution of the Royal Academy sprang. The genius of this first exhibition was Paul Sandby, a man whom Mason thought he had discovered, and whom he was constantly recommending to Gray. Sandby, afterwards eminent as the first great English water-colour painter, had at this time hardly discovered his vocation, though he was in his thirty-fifth year. He was still designing architecture and making profitless gibes and lampoons against Hogarth. Gray and Mason appear to have drawn his attention to landscape of a romantic order, and in October, 1760, Gray tells Wharton of a great picture in oils, illus. trating The Bard, with Edward I. in the foreground and Snowdon behind, which Sandby and Mason have concocted together, and which is to be the former's exhibition picture for 1761. Sandby either repeated this subject, or took another from the same poem, for there exists a picture of his, without any Edward I., in which the Bard is represented as plunging into the roaring tide, with his lyre in his hand, and Snowdon behind him.
During the winter of 1760 and the spring of 1761 Gray seems to have given his main attention to early English poetry. He worked at the British Museum with indefatigable zeal, copying with his own hand the whole of the very rare 1579 edition of Gawin Douglas' Palace of Honour, which he greatly admired, and composing those interesting and learned studies on Metre and on the Poetry of John Lydgate which Mathias first printed in 1814.
Warburton had placed in his hands a rough sketch which Pope had drawn out of a classification of the British Poets. Pope's knowledge did not go very far, and Gray seems to have first formed the notion of himself writing a
History of English Poetry while correcting his predecessor's errors. The scheme of his history is one which will probably be followed by the historian of our poetry, when such a man arises; Gray proposed to open by a full examination of the Provençal school, in which he saw the germ of all the modern poetry of Western Europe; from Provence to France and Italy, and thence to England the transition was to be easy; and it was only after bringing up the reader to the mature style of Gower and Chaucer, that a return was to be made to the native, that is the Anglo-Saxon elements of our literature. Gray made a variety of purchases for use in this projected compilation, and according to his MS. account-book he had some "finds" which are enough to make the modern bibliomaniac mad with envy. He gave sixpence each for the 1587 edition of Golding's Ovid and the 1607 edition of Phaer's Eneid, while the 1550 edition of John Heywood's Fables seems to have been thrown in for nothing, to make up the parcel. Needless to say that after consuming months and years in preparing materials for his great work, Gray never completed or even began it, and in April, 1770, learning from Hurd that Thomas Warton was about to essay the same labour, he placed all his notes and memoranda in Warton's hands. The result, which Gray never lived to see, was creditable and valuable, and even now is not entirely antiquated; it was very different, however, from what the world would have had every right to expect from Gray's learning, taste and method.
Two short poems composed in the course of 1761 next demand our attention. The first is a sketch of Gray's own character, which was found in one of his notebooks:
Too poor for a bribe, and too proud to importune,
Could love, and could hate, so was thought somewhat odd;
No very great wit, he believed in a God;
A post or a pension he did not desire,
But left church and state to Charles Townshend and Squire.
It has been commonly supposed that these lines suggested to Goldsmith his character of Burke in Retaliation. Charles Townshend is the famous statesman, surnamed the Weathercock; the Rev. Samuel Squire was much more obscure, an intriguing fellow of a Cambridge college who had just contrived to wriggle into the bishopric of St. David's. Warburton said that Squire "made religion his trade." At the storming of Belleisle, June, 13, 1761, Sir William Williams, a young soldier with whom Gray was slightly aquainted, was killed, and the Montagus, who proposed to erect a monument to him, applied to Gray for an epitaph. After considerable difficulty, in August of that year, Gray contrived to squeeze out three of his stately . quatrains. Walpole describes Williams as "a gallant and ambitious young man, who had devoted himself to war and politics," and to whom Frederic Montagu was warmly attached. Gray, however, expresses no strong personal feeling, and did not indeed know much of the subject of his elegy. It is curious that in a letter to Dr. Brown, dated Oct. 23, 1760, Gray mentions that Sir W. Williams is starting on the expedition that proved fatal to him, and predicts that he may lay his fine Vandyck head in the dust."
For two years Gray had kept his rooms at Cambridge locked up, except during the Long Vacation, but in the early spring of 1761, he began to think of returning to what was really home for him. He ran down for a few
days in January, but found Cambridge too cold, and told Dr. Brown not to expect him till the codlin hedge at Pembroke was out in blossom. Business, however, delayed him, against his will, until June, when he settled in college. In September he came up again to London to be present at the Coronation of George III., on which occasion he was accommodated with a place in the Lord Chamberlain's box. "The Bishop of Rochester would have dropped the crown if it had not been pinned to the cushion, and the king was often obliged to call out, and set matters right; but the sword of state had been entirely forgot, so Lord Huntingdon was forced to carry the lord mayor's great two-handed sword instead of it. This made it later than ordinary before they got under their canopies and set forward. I should have told you that the old Bishop of Lincoln, with his stick, went doddling by the side of the Queen, and the Bishop of Chester had the pleasure of bearing the gold paten. When they were gone, we went down to dinner, for there were three rooms below, where the Duke of Devonshire was so good as to feed us with. great cold sirloins of beef, legs of mutton, fillets of veal, and other substantial viands and liquors, which we devoured all higgledy-piggledy, like porters; after which every one scrambled up again, and seated themselves."
In the winter of 1761 Gray was curiously excited by the arrival at Cambridge of Mr. Delaval, a former fellow of the college, bringing with him a set of musical glasses. To Mason, Gray writes on the 8th of December:
Of all loves come to Cambridge out of hand, for here is Mr. Delaval and a charming set of glasses that sing like nightingales; and we have concerts every other night, and shall stay here this month or two; and a vast deal of good company, and a whale in pickle just come from Ipswich; and the man will
not die, and Mr. Wood is gone to Chatsworth; and there is nobody but you and Tom and the curled dog, and do not talk of the charge, for we will make a subscription; besides, we know you always come when you have a mind.
As early as 1760, probably during one of his flying visits to Cambridge, Gray had a young fellow introduced to him. of whom he seems at that time to have taken no notice, but who was to become the most intimate and valued of his friends. No person has left so clear and circumstantial an account of the appearance, conduct, and sayings of Gray as the Rev. Norton Nicholls of Blundeston, in 1760 an undergraduate at Trinity Hall, and between eighteen and nineteen years of age. Nicholls afterwards told Mathias that the lightning brightness of Gray's eye was what struck him most in his first impression, and he used the phrase "folgorante sguardo" to express what he meant. A little later than this, at a social gathering in the rooms of a Mr. Lobbs, at Peterhouse, Nicholls formed one of a party who collected round Gray's chair and listened to his bright conversation. The young man was too modest to join in the talk, until, in reply to something that had been said on the use of bold metaphors in poetry, Gray quoted Milton's "The sun to me is dark, and silent as the moon;" upon this Nicholls ventured to ask whether this might not possibly be imitated from Dante, "Mi ripingeva la dove il sol tace." Gray turned quickly round and said, "Sir, do you read Dante?" and immediately entered into conversation with him. He found Nicholls an intelligent and sympathetic student of literature; he chiefly addressed him through the remainder of the evening; and when they came to part, he pressed him to visit him in his own rooms at Pembroke.