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VI.* MR. GRAY TO MR. WALPOLE.
You can never weary me with the repetition of any thing that makes me sensible of your kindness; since that has been the only idea of any social happiness that I have almost ever received, and which (begging your pardon for thinking so differently from you in such cases) I would by no means have parted with for an exemption from all the uneasiness mixed with it: but it would be unjust to imagine my taste was any rule for yours; for which reason my letters are shorter and less frequent than they would be, had I any materials but myself to entertain you with. Love and brown sugar must be a poor regale for one of your goût,
Mr.Walpole, on my informing him that it was my intention to publish the principal part of Mr. Gray's correspondence with Mr. West, very obligingly communicated to me the letters which he had also received from Mr. Gray at the same period. From this collection I have selected such as I thought would be most likely to please the generality of readers; omitting, though with regret, many of the more sprightly and humorous sort, because either from their personality, or some other local circumstance, they did not seem so well adapted to hit the public taste. I shall say more upon this subject in a subsequent section, when I give my idea of Mr. Gray's peculiar vein of humour.-Mason.
and, alas! you know I am by trade a grocer. Scandal (if I had any) is a merchandize you do not profess dealing in; now and then, indeed, and to oblige a friend, you may perhaps slip a little out of your pocket, as a decayed gentlewoman would a piece of right mecklin, or a little quantity of run tea, but this only now and then, not to make a practice of it. Monsters appertaining to this climate you have seen already, both wet and dry. So you perceive within how narrow bounds my pen is circumscribed, and the whole contents of my share in our correspondence may be reduced under the two heads of 1st, you, 2ndly, I; the first is, indeed, a subject to expatiate upon, but you might laugh at me for talking about what I do not understand; the second is so tiny, so tiresome, that you shall hear no more of it, than that it is ever yours.
Peterhouse, December 23, 1736.
* i. e. A man who deals only in coarse and ordinary wares to these he compares the plain sincerity of his own friendship, undisguised by flattery; which, had he chosen to carry on the allusion, he might have termed the trade of a confectioner.-Mason.
VII. MR. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
I HAVE been very ill, and am still hardly recovered. Do you remember Elegy V, Book III, of Tibullus, Vos Tenet, &c.; and do you remember a letter of Mr. Pope's, in sickness, to Mr. Steele? This melancholy elegy and this melancholy letter I turned into a more melancholy epistle of my own, during my sickness, in the way of imitation; and this I send to you and my friends at Cambridge, not to divert them, for it cannot, but merely to show them how sincere I was when sick; I hope my sending it to them now may convince them I am no less sincere, though perhaps more simple, when well.
Yes, happy youths, on Camus' sedgy side,
* Almost all Tibullus's elegy is imitated in this little piece, from whence his transition to Mr. Pope's letter is very artfully contrived, and bespeaks a degree of judgment much beyond Mr. West's years.-Mason.
Where social oft, and oft alone, ye choose,
In mutual warmth, and mix their heart with mine.
Just heaven! what sin, ere life begins to bloom, Devotes my head untimely to the tomb;
Did e'er this hand against a brother's life
Did e'er this heart betray a friend or foe,
Or know a thought but all the world might know?
*And to the dead my willing shade shall go.
But why repine, does life deserve my sigh?
* Here he quits Tibullus; the ten following verses have but a remote reference to Mr. Pope's letter.-Mason.
"Youth, at the very best, is but the betrayer of human life in a gentler and smoother manner than age; 'tis like the stream that nourishes a plant upon a bank, and causes it to flourish and blossom to the sight, but at the same time is undermining it at the root in secret."-Pope's Works, vol. 7, page 254, first edition, Warburton.—Mr. West, by prolonging his paraphrase of this simile, gives it additional beauty from that very circumstance, but he ought to have introduced it by Mr. Pope's own thought, "Youth is a betrayer;" his couplet preceding the simile conveys too general a reflection.-Mason.