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considerable degree; and which was displayed, both in his conversation and correspondence. Lord Orford used to assert,“ that Gray never wrote any thing easily, but things of humour;" and added, “ that humour was his natural and original turn.” Mr. Hey mentions Gray as excelling in delicate and well-bred ridicule.* A late writer (Dr. Campbell) has remarked "the transcendant excellence of Shakspeare in the province of humour, as well as in the pathetic ;” † and I have elsewhere had occasion to observe, how strongly the bent of Gray's mind inclined towards this latter quality of composition; and with what distinguishing features it appears in his poetry. The examples of these two eminent writers whom I have mentioned, appears sufficiently to strengthen the excellent observation made by Mr. D. Stewart, in a note to his Philosophical Essays. (p. 584): “ that a talent for the pathetic, and a talent for humour, are generally united in the same person: wit,” he observes, “is more nearly allied to a taste for the sublime.”
To return, however, to the observations of Mr. Temple:-"Perhaps (he writes) Mr. Gray 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.
* See Hey's Lectures, vol. i. p. 455 ; see Mason on Gray's Humour, vol. iii. p. 127, of his Memoirs.
+ See · Philosophy of Rhetoric,' vol. i, p. 57.
He knew every branch of history both natural and civil; had read all the original historians of England, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics,* made a principal part of his study. Voyages and Travels of all sorts were his favourite amusements; and he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening.† With such a fund of knowledge, his conversation must have been
* How comprehensive the account is, which Mr. Temple gives of the studies of Gray, which embraced criticism, metaphysics, morals, and politics, may be seen by comparing it with the following passage of Hume, as quoted by Mr. D. Stewart in his Life of Reid, p. lviii. “ In these four sciences, of logic, (which is here meant, says Mr. Stewart, as that science which explains the principles and operations of our reasoning faculty, and the nature of our ideas,) morals, criticism, and politics, is comprehended almost every thing which it can any way import us to be acquainted with; or which can tend to the improvement or ornament of the human mind.”
† Mr. Mason says that Gray disclaimed any skill in gardening, and held it in little estimation ; declaring himself to be only charmed with the bolder features of unadorned nature. See also in Mason's English Garden, book iii. 25, the speech which he puts into the mouth of Gray, as agreeable to his sentiments :
equally instructing and entertaining. But he was also a good man, a man of virtue and humanity. There is no character without some speck, 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 Congreve. Though he seemed to value others chiefly according to the progress they had made in knowledge, yet he could not bear to be considered 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 memorials but a few poems? But let it be considered, that Mr.
* Shenstone, in his Essays, (p. 248,) remarks “ the delicacy of Gray's manners : " and the editor of the Censura Literaria
says, “ I have learned from several who knew him intimately, that the sensibility of Gray was even morbid ; and often very fastidious, and troublesome to his friends. He seemed frequently overwhelmed by the ordinary intercourse, and ordinary affairs of life. Coarse manners, and vulgar, or unrefined sentiments overset him.” Vol. v. p. 406. — But Mr. Mason says, “ 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.” See Memoirs, vol. iv. p. 237; see Censura Literaria, vol. vii. p. 396.
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 shown 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 practice of virtue, in that state wherein God has placed us.”
To this account Mr. Mason has added more particularly, from the information of Mr. Tyson,* of Bene't College, that Gray's skill in zoology was extremely accurate. He had not only concentrated in his Linnæus, all that other writers had said, but had altered the style of the Swedish naturalist, to classical and elegant Latin. From modern writers he had also illustrated many difficult passages in the zoological treatises of Aristotle. His account of English Insects was more perfect than any that had then appeared ; and it has lately been mentioned, † “ as a circumstance
* This appears by a note in Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. vii. For an account of Tyson, see Brydges' Restituta, vol. iv. p. 236–9. I presume that he was the author of “Illuminated MSS. in the Library of Christ. Coll. Camb. 1770, 4to.”
† See Shaw's Zoological Lectures, vol. i. p. 3. In the library of the late Rev. George Ashby, of Barrow, was a copy of Linnæus, 12th edit. 1766, interleaved, in 3 vols. 4to. with MS. notes and additions by Gray ; with drawings of shells,
not generally known, that he translated the Linnæan Genera, or Characters of Insects, into elegant Latin hexameters; some specimens of which have been preserved by his friends, though they were never intended for publication.” Sir J. Mackintosh very justly observes, in a letter which he addressed to the Bishop of Landaff:—“In the beautiful scenery of Bolton Abbey, where I have been since I began this note, I was struck by the recollection of a sort of merit of Gray, which is not generally observed—that he was the first discoverer of the beauties of nature in England, and has marked out the course of every picturesque journey that can be made in it.” *
Botany, which he studied in early life, under the direction of his uncle, Mr. Antrobus, formed also the amusement and pursuit of his later years. He made frequent experiments on flowers, to mark the mode and progress of their vegetation. “For
many of the latter years of his life (says Mr. Cole), Gray dedicated his hours to the study of Botany; in which he was eminently conspi
&c. Another copy of Linnæus, in the same library, included a few Ornithological papers in the handwriting of Gray, which I now possess; and which serve as an additional proof of the accuracy and minuteness with which he prosecuted that branch of his studies in natural history. - Since this note was originally written, extracts from these works have been published in the edition of Mr. Mathias. See vol. ü. 548 to 580.
* See Life of Sir J. Mackintosh, vol. ii. p. 427.