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the proper allowances for any little mistakes in verses, which he will consider never had the author's last hand.
I might here lay down my pen, yet if any reader should still want his character, I will give him one which was published very soon after Mr. Gray's decease*. It appears to be well written; and, as it comes from an anonymous pen, I choose the rather to insert it, as it will, on that account, be less suspected of partiality.
"Perhaps he was the most learned man in Europe. "He was equally acquainted with the elegant and pro"found parts of science, and that not superficially but "thoroughly. He knew every branch of history, both "natural and civil; had read all the original histo
* It appeared in the London Magazine a month or two after his decease, and was prefaced with an Eulogy on his poetical merit, which I did not think necessary to reprint in a work where that merit so very fully speaks for itself.
† I have given, in the beginning of this Section, an account of the great pains which Mr. Gray bestowed on Natural History. I have since been favoured with a Letter from a Gentleman, well skilled in that science, who, after carefully perusing his interleaved Systema Naturæ of Linnæus, gives me this character of it: "In "the class of animals (the Mammalia) he has concentrated (if I
may use the expression) what the old writers and the diffuse "Buffon have said upon the subject; he has universally adapted
"rians of England, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics, "made a principal part of his plan of study; voyages "and travels of all sorts were his favourite amusement: "and he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening *. With such a fund of knowledge, his conversation must have been equally in structing and entertaining; but he was also a good man, a well-bred man, a man of virtue and humanity. “There is no character without some speck, some im"perfection; and I think the greatest defect in his was an affectation in delicacy, or rather effeminacy †, and
"the concise language of Linnæus, and has given it an elegance "which the Swede had no idea of; but there is little of his own in "this class, and it served him only as a common-place; but it is "such a common-place that few men but Mr. Gray could form. In “the birds and fishes he has most accurately described all that he "had an opportunity of examining: but the volume of insects is "the most perfect; on the English insects there is certainly no
thing so perfect. In regard to the plants, there is little else than "the English names and their native soils extracted from the "Species Plantarum of Linnæus. I suppose no man was so com
'plete a master of his system; he has selected the distinguishing "marks of each animal, &c. with the greatest judgment, and, "what no man else probably could have done, he has made the "German Latin of Linnæus purely classical."
*He has disclaimed any skill in this art in the xxxvith Letter of the fourth Section, and usually held it in less estimation than I think it deserves, declaring himself to be only charmed with the bolder features of unadorned nature.
This is rightly put; it was rather an affectation in delicacy and effeminacy than the things themselves; and he chose to put
tc રી 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 "Mr. 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 "himself merely as a man of letters; and though with❝out 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
on this appearance chiefly before persons whom he did not wish to please.
* I have often thought that Mr. Congreve might very well be vindicated on this head. It seldom happens that the vanity of authorship continues to the end of man's days, it usually soon leaves him where it found him; and if he has not something better to build his self-approbation upon than that of being a popular writer, he generally finds himself ill at ease, if respected only on that account. Mr. Congreve was much advanced in years when the young French Poet paid him this visit; and, though a man of the world, he might now feel that indifference to literary fame which Mr. Gray, who always led a more retired and philosophic life, certainly felt much earlier. Both of them therefore might reasonably, at times, express some digust, if their quiet was intruded upon by persons who thought they flattered them by such intrusion.
It was not on account of their knowledge that he valued mankind. He contemned indeed all pretenders to literature, but he did not select his friends from the literary class, merely because they were literate. To be his friend it was always either necessary that a man should have something better than an improved understanding, or at least that Mr. Gray should believe he had
"produced so little? Is it worth taking so much pains ❝to leave no memorial, but a few poems? But let it "be considered, that Mr. Gray was to others, at least "innocently employed; to himself, certainly benefi"cially. His time passed agreeably; he was every day 66 making some new acquisition in science; his mind was "enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue strengthened;" "the world and mankind were shewn to him without a "mask; and he was taught to consider every thing as trifling, and unworthy of the attention of a wise man, except the pursuit of knowledge, and the prac"tice of virtue, in that state wherein God hath placed " us."
W. Wilson, Printer, St. John's Square.