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saved Gray. He got through the 25th pretty well, and slept tolerably that night, but after taking some asses’milk on the morning of the 26th, the spasms in the stomach returned again. Dr. Brown scarcely left him after the first attack, and wrote to all his principal friends from the side of his bed. On this day, Thursday, the Master could still hope “ that we shall see him well again in a short time.” On Sunday, the 29th, Gray was taken with a strong convulsive fit, and these recurred until he died. He retained his senses almost to the last. Stonehewer and Dr. Gisborne arrived from London on the 30th and took leave of their dying friend. His language became less and less coherent, and he was not clearly able to explain to Brown, without a great effort, where his will would be found. He seemed perfectly sensible of his condition, but expressed no concern at the thought of leaving the world. Towards the end he did not suffer at all, but lay in a sort of torpor, out of which he woke to call for his niece, Miss Mary Antrobus. She took his hand, and he said to her, in a clear voice, “Molly, I shall die !" He lay quietly after this, without attempting to speak, and ceased to breathe about eleven o'clock, an hour before midnight on the 30th of July, 1771, aged fifty-four years, seven months, and four days.
James Brown found, in the spot which Gray had indicated, his will. It was dated July 2, 1770, and must therefore have been drawn up just before he started on his tour through the Western Counties. Mason and Brown were named his executors. He left his property divided among a great number of relations and friends, reserving the largest portions for his niece Miss Mary Antrobus, and her sister, Mrs. Dorothy Comyns, both of whom were residents at Cambridge, and who had probably looked to his
comfort of late years as he had considered their prospects in earlier life. The faithful Stephen Hempstead was not forgotten, while Mason and Brown were left residuary legatees. On Brown fell the whole burden of attending to the funeral, for Mason could not be found; he had taken a holiday, and knew nothing of the whole matter until his letters reached him, in a cluster, at Bridlington Quay, about the 7th of August.
By this time Gray was buried; Brown took the body, in a coffin of seasoned oak, to London and thence to Stoke, where, on the 6th of August, it was deposited in the vault which contained that of Gray's mother. The mourners were Miss Antrobus, her sister's husband, Mr. Comyns, a shopkeeper at Cambridge, "a young gentleman of Christ's College, with whom Mr. Gray was very intimate," and Brown himself; these persons followed the hearse in a mourning coach. The sum of ten pounds was, at the poet's express wish, distributed among certain “honest and industrious poor persons in the parish ” of Stoke Pogis. As soon as Mason heard the news, he crossed the Humber, and reached Cambridge the next day ; Brown was a very cautious and punctilious man, and no sooner had he returned to Cambridge than he insisted that Mason should go up to town with him and prove the will. Mason, who throughout showed a characteristic callousness, grumbled but agreed, and on the 12th of August the will was proved in London.
The executors returned immediately to Cambridge, delivered up the plate, jewellery, linen, and furniture to the Antrobuses, and then Mason packed up the books and papers to be removed to his rooms at York. Once settled there, on the 18th, he began to enjoy the luxury of a literary bereavement. “Come,”
he says to Dr. Wharton, “come, I beseech you, and condole with me on our mutual, our irreparable loss. The great charge which his dear friendship has laid upon me, I feel myself unable to execute, without the advice and assistance of his best friends; you are among the first of these.” It will hardly be believed that the "great
' charge” so pompously referred to here is contained in these exceedingly simple words of Gray :—"I give to the Reverend William Mason, precentor of York, all my books, manuscripts, coins, music printed or written, and papers of all kinds, to preserve or destroy at his own discretion." There is no shadow of doubt that the ambitious and worldly Mason saw here an opportunity of achieving a great literary success, and that he lost no time in posing as Gray's representative and confidant. A few people resisted his pretensions, such as Robinson and Nicholls, but they were not writers, and Mason revenged himself by ignoring them. Nor did he take the slightest notice of Bonstetten.
James Brown, le petit bon homme with the warm heart, was kinder and less ambitious. He wrote thoughtful letters to every one, and particularly to the three friends in exile, to Horace Walpole, Nicholls, and Bonstetten. Walpole was struck cold in the midst of his frivolities, as if he had suffered in his own person a touch of paralysis; in his letters he seems to whimper and shiver, as much with apprehension as with sorrow. Norton Nicholls gave a cry of grief, and very characteristically wrote instantly to his mother lest she, knowing his love for Gray, should fear that the shock would make him ill. From this exquisite letter we must cite some lines :
I only write now lest you should be apprehensive on my account since the death of my dear friend. Yesterday's post brought me the fatal news, in a letter from Mr. Brown, that Mr. Gray (all that was most dear to me in this world except yourself) died in the night about eleven o'clock, between the 30th and 31st of July. ... You need not be alarmed for me, I am well, and not subject to emotions violent enough to endanger my health, and besides with good kind people who pity me and can feel themselves. Afflicted you may be sure I am! You who know I considered Mr. Gray as a second parent, that I thought only of him, built all my happiness on him, talked of him for ever, wished him with me whenever partook of any pleasure, and flew to him for refuge whenever I felt any uneasiness; to whom now shall I talk of all I have seen here? Who will teach me to read, to think, to feel? I protest to you, that whatever I did or thought had a reference to him,-“ Mr. Gray will be pleased with this when I tell him. I must ask Mr. Gray what he thinks of such a person or thing. He would like such a person or dislike such another.” If I met with any chagrins, I comforted myself that I had a treasure at home; if all the world had despised and hated me, I should have thought myself perfectly recompensed in his friendship. Now remains only one loss more; if I lose
I am left alone in the world. At present I feel I have lost half of myself. Let me hear that
you are well.
Thirty-four years afterwards the hand which penned these unaffected lines wrote down those reminiscences, alas! too brief, which constitute the most valuable impressions of Gray that we possess. It is impossible not to regret that this sincere and tender friend did not undertake that labour of biography which fell into more skilled, but coarser hands than his. Yet it is no little matter to possess this first outflow of grief and affection. It
us that, with all his melancholy and selftorture, the great spirit of Gray was not without its lively consolations, and that he gained of Heaven
the boon for which he had prayed, a friend of friends. Nicholls, Bonstetten, Robinson, Wharton, Stonehewer, and Brown were undistinguished names of unheroic men who are interesting to posterity only because, with that unselfish care which only a great character and sweetness of soul have power to rouse, they loved, honoured, cherished this silent and melancholy anchorite. Dearer friends, better and more devoted companions through a slow and unexhilarating career, no man famous in literature has possessed, and we feel that not to recognize this magnetic power of attracting good souls around him would be to lose sight of Gray's peculiar and signal charm. It is true that, like the moon, he was “dark to them, and silent;" that he received, and lacked the power to give; they do not seem to have required from him the impossible, they accepted his sympathy, and rejoiced in his inexpressive affection; and when he was taken from them, they regarded his memory as fanaties regard the sayings and doings of the founder of their faith. Gray “never spoke out,” Brown said; he lived, more even than the rest of us, in an involuntary isolation, a pathetic type of the solitude of the soul.
Yes! in the sea of life enisled,