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Gray had never forgotten the Italian which he had learned in his youth, and he was deeply read in Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, while disdaining those popular poets of the eighteenth century who at that time enjoyed more consideration in their native land than the great classics of the country. One of his proofs of favour to his young friend Nicholls was to lend him his marked and annotated copy of Petrarch ; and he was pleased when Nicholls was the first to trace in the Purgatorio the lines which suggested a phrase in the Elegy in a Country Churchyard. It was doubtless with a sideglance at his own starved condition of genius that he told Nicholls that he thought it "an advantage to Dante to have been produced in a rude age of strong and uncontrolled passions, when the Muse was not checked by refinement and the fear of criticism." For the next three years we must consider Gray as constantly cheered by the sympathy and enthusiasm of young Nicholls, though it is not until 1764 that we come upon the first of the invaluable letters which the latter received from his great friend.

Nothing could be more humdrum than Gray's existence about this time. There is no sign of literary life in him, and the whole year 1762 seems only broken by a journey northwards in the summer. Towards the end of June, he went to stay at York for a fortnight with Mason, whose "insatiable avarice," as Gray calls it in writing to him, had been lulled for a little while by the office of residentiary of York Cathedral. Mason was now grown lazy and gross, sitting "like a Japanese divinity, with his hands. folded on his fat belly," and so prosperous that Gray recommends him to "shut his insatiable repining mouth." There was a fund of good-humour about Mason, and under all the satire of his friend he does not seem to have shown

the least irritation. From York, Gray went on to Durham, to stay with Wharton at Old Park, where he was extremely happy; "we take in no newspaper or magazine, but the cream and butter are beyond compare." He made a long stay, and rather late in the autumn set out for a tour in Yorkshire by himself. Through driving rain he saw what he could of Richmond and of Ripon, but was fortunate enough to secure some gleams of sunshine for an examination of Fountains Abbey. At Sheffield, then pastoral and pretty still, he admired the charming situation of the town, and so came at last to Chatsworth and Hardwicke, at which latter place "one would think Mary Queen of Scots was but just walked down into the park with her guard for half an hour." After passing through Chesterfield and Mansfield, Gray descended the Trent, spent two or three days at Nottingham, and came up to London by the coach.

He arrived to find letters awaiting him, and a great pother. Dr. Shallet Turner of Peterhouse, Professor of Modern History and Modern Languages at Cambridge, had been dead a fortnight, and Gray's friends were very anxious to secure the vacant post for him. The chair had been founded by George I. in 1724, and the stipend was 4007. It was not expected that any lectures should be given; as a matter of fact not one lecture was delivered until after Gray's death. Shallet Turner had succeeded Samuel Harris, the first professor, in 1735, and had held the sinecure for twenty-seven years. Gray's friends encouraged him to think that Lord Bute would look favourably on his claims, partly because of his fame as a poet, and partly because Bute's creature, Sir Henry Erskine, was a great friend of Gray's; but Sir Francis Blake Delaval had in the meantime secured the interest of the Duke of Newcastle for his own kinsman. Early in November it was

generally reported that Delaval had been appointed, but a month later the post was actually given to Lawrence Brockett of Trinity, who held it until 1768, when he was succeeded by Gray. This is the only occasion upon which the poet, in an age when the most greedy and open demands for promotion were considered in no way dishonourable, persuaded his haughty and independent spirit to ask for anything; in this one case he gave way to the importunities of a crowd of friends, who declared that he had but to put out his hand and take the fruit that was ready to drop into it.

In the spring of 1763 Gray was recalled to the pursuit of literature by the chance that a friend of his, a Mr. Howe, of Pembroke, while travelling in Italy, met the celebrated critic and commentator Count Francesco Algarotti, to whom he presented Gray's poems. The Count read them with rapturous admiration, and passed them on to the young poet Agostino Paradisi, with a recommendation that he should translate them into Italian. The reputation of Algarotti was then a European one, and Gray was very much flattered at the graceful and ardent compliments of so famous a connoisseur. "I was not born so far from the sun," he says, in a letter dated February 17th, 1763, "as to be ignorant of Count Algarotti's name and reputation; nor am I so far advanced in years, or in philosophy, as not to feel the warmth of his approbation. The odes, in question, as their motto shows, were meant to be vocal to the intelligent alone. How few they were in my own country, Mr. Howe can testify; and yet my ambition was terminated by that small circle. I have good reason to be proud, if my voice has reached the ear and apprehension of a stranger, distinguished as one of the best judges in Europe." Algarotti replied that England, which had already enjoyed a Homer, an Archimedes, a Demosthenes,

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now possessed a Pindar also, and enclosed "observations, that is panegyrics" on the Odes. For some months the correspondence of Count Algarotti enlivened "the nothingness" of Gray's history at Cambridge, "a place," he says, "where no events grow, though we preserve those of former days by way of hortus siccus in our libraries." In November 1763 the Count announced his intention of visiting England, where he proposed to publish a magnificent edition of his own works; Gray seems to have anticipated pleasure from his company, but Algarotti never came, and soon died rather unexpectedly, in Italy, on the 24th of May, 1764, at the age of fifty-two.

We possess some of the notes which Gray took of the habits of flowers and birds, thus anticipating the charming observations of Gilbert White. At Cambridge, in 1763, crocus and hepatica were blossoming through the snow in the college garden on the 12th of February; nine days later brought the first white butterfly; on the 5th of March Gray heard the thrush sing, and on the 8th the skylark. The same warm day which brought the lark opened the blossom-buds of the apricots, and the almond-trees for once found themselves out-run in the race of spring. These notes show the quickness of Gray's eye, and his quiet ways. It is only the silent, clear-sighted man that knows on what day the first fall of lady-birds is seen, or observes the redstart sitting on her eggs. Gray's notes for the spring of 1763 read like fragments of a beautiful poem, and are scarcely less articulate than that little trill of improvised song which Norton Nicholls has preserved :-

There pipes the wood-lark, and the song-thrush there
Scatters his loose notes in the waste of air,

a couplet which Gray made one spring morning, as Nicholls

and he were walking in the fields in the neighbourhood of Cambridge.

To this period should be attributed the one section of Gray's poems which it is impossible to date with exactness, namely the romantic lyrics paraphrased, in short measures, from Icelandic and Gaelic sources.' When these pieces were published, in 1768, Gray prefixed to them an "advertisement," which was not reprinted. In this he connected them with his projected History of English Poetry; "in the introduction" to that work, "he meant to have produced some specimens of the style that reigned in ancient times among the neighbouring nations, or those who had subdued the greater part of this island, and were only progenitors: the following three imitations made a part of them." The three imitations are The Fatal Sisters, The Descent of Odin, and The Triumphs of Owen. To these must be added the smaller fragments, The Death of Hoel, Caradoc, and Conon, discovered among Gray's papers, and first printed by Mason. These, then, form a division of Gray's poetical work not inconsiderable in extent, remarkably homogeneous in style and substance, and entirely distinct from anything else which he wrote. In these paraphrases of archaic chants he appears as a purely romantic poet, and heralds the approach of Sir Walter Scott, and the whole revival of northern romance. The Norse pieces are perhaps more interesting than the Celtic; they are longer, and to modern scholarship seem more authentic, at all events more in the general current of literature. Moreover they were translated direct from the Icelandic, whereas there is no absolute proof that Gray was a Welsh scholar. It may well inspire us with admiration of the poet's intellectual

1 I notice that the The Fatal Sisters and The Descent of Odin bear the date 1761 in the Pembroke MSS.

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