1775 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

John Langhorne, in Review of Gray, Poems (1775); The Monthly Review 52 (May 1775) 377.



This very ingenious and celebrated person, whose death is with so much reason regretted in the republic of letters, has left us farther to lament the scarcity of his poetical remains. Here is little of that kind, beside what we have formerly taken notice of, to announce to the public. The whole collection is, for a Writer of Mr. Gray's poetical powers and propensities, singularly small. His muse, though certainly the most enthusiastic admirer of nature, has gathered a mere nosegay from her breast; an assemblage indeed of uncommon and highly flavoured flowers, but it is in a wilderness of this kind that we wish to range at large.

Some amends, however, is made us by the attention of his friend and editor Mr. Mason, to give us whatever was most valuable of his prose writings, consisting chiefly of his correspondence with his friends.

This correspondence begins at an early period, and is so laid down in the MEMOIRS, as to exhibit a regular view of his genius and temper, his life and manners. These will not be supposed by any one in the least acquainted with the character and writings of Gray, to be of a common cast. They are quite otherwise. And though the pencil of friendship has thrown much into shade, at the same time that we see the great genius, we see a man of singularities almost too violent for the commerce of society.