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June 1775 and was received with great warmth by the critics, the public, and all but the intimate friends of Gray. Mason often reprinted this book, which continued to be a sort of classic until Mitford commenced his investigations.

It has generally been acknowledged that Johnson's Life of Gray is the worst section in his delightful series. It formed the last chapter but one in the fourth volume of the Lives of the Poets, and was written when its author was tired of his task, and longing to be at rest again. It is barren and meagre of fact to the last degree ; Cole, the antiquary, gave into Johnson's charge a collection of anecdotes and sayings of Gray which he had formed in connexion with the poet's Cambridge friends, especially Tyson and Sparrow, but the lexicographer was disinclined to make any use of them, and they were dispersed and lost. We have already seen that these two great men, the leading men of letters of their age in England, were radically wanting in sympathy. Gray disliked Johnson personally, apparently preserving the memory of some chance meeting in which the Sage had been painfully self-asserting and oppressive; he was himself a lover of limpid and easy prose, and a master of the lighter parts of writing, and therefore condemned the style of Dr. Johnson hastily, as being wholly turgid and vicious. Yet he respected his character, and has recorded the fact that Johnson often went out in the streets of London with his pockets full of silver, and had given it all away before he returned home.

Johnson's portrait of Gray is somewhat more judicial than this, but just as unsympathetic. Yet he made one remark, after reading a few of Gray's letters, which seems to me to surpass in acumen all the generalities of Mason, namely that though Gray was fastidious and hard to please, he was a man likely to love much where he loved at all. But for Gray's poems Johnson had little but bewilderment. If they had not received the warm sanction of critics like Warburton and Hurd, and the admiration of such friends of his own as Boswell and Garrick, it seems likely that Johnson would not have acknowledged in them any merit whatever. Where he approves of them, no praise could be fainter; where he objects, he is even more trenchant and contemptuous than usual. The Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and the Ode on Adversity are the only pieces in the whole repertory of Gray to which he allows the tempered eulogy that he is not willing to withhold from Mallet or Shenstone. We shall probably acquit the sturdy critic of any unfairness, even involuntary, when we perceive that for the poetry of Collins, who was his friend and the object of his benefactions, he has even less toleration than for the poetry of Gray.

When we examine Johnson's strictures more exactly still, we find that the inconsistency which usually accompanied the expression of his literary opinions does not forsake him here. Even when Johnson is on safe ground, as when he is weighing in a very careful balance the Epitaphs of Pope, he is never a sure critic; he brings his excellent common sense to bear on the subject in hand, but is always in too great haste to be closing not to omit some essential observation. But when discussing poetry so romantic in its nature as that of Gray, he deals blows even more at random than usual. The Ode on Adversity meets with his warmest approbation, and he suggests no objection to its allegorical machinery, to much of which no little exception might now be taken. But the Eton Ode, with strange want of caution, he declaims against in detail, blaming at one time what posterity

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is now content to admire, and at the other what his own
practice in verse might have amply justified.
Prospect of Eton College suggests nothing to Gray, which
every beholder does not equally think and feel,” that is to
say, which every susceptible and cultivated beholder does
not feel in a certain vein of reflection; but this, so far
from being a fault, is the touch of nature which makes the
poem universally interesting. “His supplication to Father
Thames, to tell him who drives the hoop or tosses the
ball, is useless and puerile. Father Thames has no better
means of knowing than himself.” In this case, Johnson
was instantly reminded that Father Nile had been called
upon for information exactly analogous in the pages of
Rasselas, “ His epithet buxom health is not elegant,” but
to us it seems appropriate, which is better. Finally John-
son finds that “redolent of joy and youth” is an expres-
sion removed beyond apprehension, and is an imitation
of a phrase of Dryden's misunderstood; but here Gray
proves himself the better scholar. It may be conjectured
that he found this word redolent, of which he was parti-
cularly fond, among the old Scots poets of the sixteenth
century, whom he was the first to unearth. Dunbar and
Scot love to talk of the “redolent rose.”

The phrases above quoted constitute Johnson's entire criticism of the Eton Ode, and it is of a kind, which however vigorously expressed, would not now-a-days be considered competent before the least accredited of tribunals. The examination of the two Pindaric odes is conducted on more conscientious but not more sympathetic principles. To the experiments in metre, to the verbaland quantitative felicities, Johnson is absolutely deaf. He does not entirely deny merit to the poems, but he contrives, most ingeniously, to hesitate contempt. "My process," he says, “has now brought me to the wonderful Wonder of Wonders, the two Sister

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Odes; by which, though either vulgar ignorance or common sense at first universally rejected them, many have been since persuaded to think themselves delighted. I am one of those that are willing to be pleased, and therefore would gladly find the meaning of the first stanza of the Progress of Poetry." Johnson, it is obvious enough, is on the side of “ common sense." The difficulty which he was pleased to find in the opening stanza of the ode is one which he would have been the first to denounce as whimsical and paltry if brought forward by some other critic. Gray describes the formation of poetry under the symbol of a widening river, calm and broad in its pastoral moments, loud, riotous and resonant when swollen by passion or anger. Johnson, to whom the language of Greek poetry and the temper of Greek thought were uncongenial, refused to grasp this direct imagery, and said that if the poet was speaking of music, the expression “ rolling down the steep amain

was nonsense, and if of water, nothing to the point. So good a scholar should have known, and any biographer should have noticed that Gray had pointed out, that, as usual in Pindar, whom he is here closely paraphrasing, the subject and simile are united. Johnson was careless enough to blame Gray for inventing the compound adjective velvet-green, although Pope and Young, poets after Johnson's own heart, had previously used it. The rest of his criticism is equally faulty, and from the same causes, -haste, and want of sympathy.

Johnson's attack did nothing at first to injure Gray's position as a poet. Yet there can be no doubt that in the process of time, the great popularity of the Lives of the Poets, and the oblivion into which Mason's life has fallen, have done something sensibly to injure Gray with the unthinking. Even in point of history the life of Gray is culpably full of errors, and might as well have

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been written if Mason's laborious work had never been published. There is, however, one point on which Johnson did early justice to Gray, and that is in commending the picturesque grace of his descriptions of the country. Against the condemnation of Johnson, there were placed, almost instantly, the enthusiastic praises of Adam Smith, Gibbon, Hume, Mackintosh, and others of no less authority, who were unanimous in ranking his poetry only just below that of Shakespeare and Milton. This view continued until the splendours of the neo-romantic school, especially the reputations of Wordsworth and Byron, reduced the luminary and deprived it of its excess of light. The Lake School, particularly Coleridge, professed that Gray had been unfairly over-rated, and it was rather Byron and Shelley who sustained his fame, as in some directions they continued his tradition.

It would be to leave this little memoir imperfect if we did not follow the destinies of that group of intimate friends who survived the poet, and whose names are indissolubly connected with his. The one who died first was Lord Strathmore, who passed away, prematurely, in 1776. James Brown continued to hold the mastership of Pembroke, and to enjoy the reputation of a gentle and good-natured old man until 1784, when he followed his friend to the grave. Young men of letters, such as Sir Egerton Brydges, considered it a privilege to be asked to the Master's Lodge, and to take tea with the man in whose arms Gray breathed his last, although Brown had no great power of reminiscence, and had not much to tell such eager questioners. Of himself it was told that his ways were so extremely punctilious as to amuse Gray, himself a very regular man, and that once, when the friends were going to start together at a certain hour, and the time had just arrived, Brown rose and began to walk to and fro,

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