1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

Anna Brownell Jameson, "Poetical Old Bachelors" Loves of the Poets (1829; 1857) 479.



Our own Gray was in every sense, real and poetical, a cold fastidious old bachelor, who buried himself in the recesses of his college; at once shy and proud, sensitive and selfish. I cannot, on looking through his memoirs, letters, and poems, discover the slightest trace of passion, or one proof or even indication that he was ever under the influence of woman. He loved his mother, and was dutiful to two tiresome old aunts, who thought poetry one of the seven deadly sins — et voila tout. He spent his life in amassing an inconceivable quantity of knowledge, which lay as buried and useless as a miser's treasure; but with this difference, that when the miser dies, his wealth flows forth into its natural channels, and enriches others; Gray's learning was entombed with him: his genius survives in his elegy and his odes; — what became of his heart I know not. He is generally supposed to have possessed one, though none can guess what he did with it: — he might well moralize on his bachelorship, and call himself "a solitary fly,"—

The joys no glittering female meets,
No hive hast thou of hoarded sweets,
No painted plumage to display!