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LIFE of Gray
Ode on the Spring
on the Death of a favourite Cat ..... on a distant Prospect of Eton College
HOMAS GRAY was born in Cornhill, in the city of London, on the 26th of December, 1716. His father, Philip Gray, was a money-scrivener. Our author received his classical education at Eton school, under Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, who directed his nephew to those pursuits which laid the foundation of his future literary fame.
He left Eton school in 1734, and went to Cambridge, and entered a pensioner at Peterhouse, at the recommendation of his uncle Antrobus. It is said that, from his effeminacy and fair complexion, he acquired among his fellow students, the appellation of Miss Gray, to which the delicacy of his manners seem not a little to have contributed. Mr. Walpole was at that time a fellow-commoner of King's College, in the same University; a fortunate circumstance, which afforded Gray frequent opportunities of intercourse with his honourable friend.
Gray, having imbibed a taste for poetry, did not relish those abstruse studies which generally occupy the minds of students at college; and therefore, as he found very little gratification from academical pursuits, he left Cambridge in 1738, and returned to London, intending to apply himself to the study of the law; but this intention was soon laid aside, upon an invitation given him by Mr. Walpole, to accompany him in his travels abroad.
They set out together for France, and visited most of the places worthy of notice in that country: from thence they proceeded to Italy, where an unfortunate dispute taking place between them, a separation en
sued upon their arrival at Florence. Mr. Walpole, afterwards, with great candour and liberality, took upon himself the blame of the quarrel; we may be induced to conclude that Gray, from a conscious superiority of ability, might have claimed a deference to his opinion and judgment, which his honourable Friend was not at that time disposed to admit: the rupture, however, was very unpleasant to both parties.
Gray pursued his journey to Venice on a plan suitable to the circumscribed state of his finances; and having continued there some weeks, returned to England in September, 1741. He appears, from his letters published by Mr. Mason, to have paid attention to every object worthy of notice. His descriptions are lively and picturesque, and bear particular marks of his genius and disposition. We admire the sublimity of his ideas when he ascends the stupendous heights of the Alps, and are charmed with his display of nature, decked in all the beauties of vegetation. Indeed, abundant information, as well as entertainment, may be derived from his letters.
In about two months after his arrival in England, he lost his father, who, by an indiscreet profusion, had so impaired his fortune, as not to admit of his son's prosecuting the study of the law with that degree of respectability which the nature of the profession requires, without becoming burdensome to his mother and aunt. To obviate, therefore, ther importunities on the subject, he went to Cambridge, and took his bachelor's degree in civil law.
But the inconveniencies and distress attached to a scanty fortune, were not the only ills our Poet had to encounter at this time; he had not only lost the friendship of Mr. Walpole abroad, but poor West, the partner of his heart, fell a victim to complicated maladies, brought on by family misfortunes.
The degree in which hisinind was agitated for the loss of his friend, will appear from the following beautiful sonnet: