1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

William Tooke, Note to The Journey; Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 2:266n.



Let them, though modest, Gray more modest woo;
Let them with Mason bleat, and bray, and coo....

The prominent feature, in the character of Gray, was a fastidious apprehension of being considered merely as a man of letters; without birth, fortune, or station, he wished to be considered as a private gentleman who read for his amusement. He indulged in all the modish niceties of dress, and, on his return from his travels, wore a muff to the great amusement of the young men of the University, where he was commonly called by the name of Miss Gray. If he went to a coffee-house he would tell the waiter, in a tone the most affected, to give him "that silly paper book," meaning a Magazine or Review. Timorous, as effeminate, and fearful of accidents, he had a ladder to let down from his window in case of fire. Some young men of his college, idly and wantonly, set up a false alarm in order to draw him upon his ladder, and this, together with the intentional disturbances of some gay men of fortune on his stair-case, occasioned his removing himself from St. Peter's College to Pembroke-Hall; he had complained to the governing part of the society, and not thinking that his remonstrance was sufficiently attended to "he left his lodgings," as he himself expresses it, "because his rooms were noisy, and the people of the house uncivil."

What cause of offence Mason had given to our author we are unacquainted with, but some there must have existed to have occasioned such frequent acrimonious mention of a poet, who, if he never rose to the sublimity of his friend Gray, never sunk to the simplicity of Whitehead, and whose dramas, and elegy on the death of the Countess of Coventry, will endure the test of the "decies repetitae" of Horace.