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THE DEATH OF MR. WEST.
IN vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
A different object do these eyes require:
To warm their little loves the birds complain : I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
And weep the more, because I weep in vain.
A LONG STORY.
In the year 1750 Mr. Gray finished his celebrated Elegy, and communicated it to his friend Mr. Walpole, whose good taste was too much charmed to suffer him to withhold the sight of it from his acquaintance; accordingly it was shown about for some time in manuscript, and received with all the applause it so justly merited. Amongst the rest of the fashionable world, Lady Cobham, who resided at StokePogis, and to whom the mansion-house and park belonged, had read and admired it. Wishing to be acquainted with the author, her relation Miss Speed, and Lady Schaub then at her house, undertook to bring this about, by making him the first visit. He had been accustomed to spend his summer vacations from Cambridge, at the house occupied by Mrs. Rogers his aunt, whither his mother and her sister, Miss Antrobus, had also retired, situated at the entrance upon Stoke Common, called West End, and about a mile from the manor house. He happened to be from home when the ladies arrived at the sequestered habitation, and when he returned, was not a little surprised to find, written on one of his papers in the parlour, the following note: " Lady Schaub's compliments to Mr. Gray; she is sorry not to have found him at home, to tell him that Lady Brown is very well." Such a compliment necessitated him to return the visit; and as the beginning of the acquaintance seemed to have a romantic character, he very soon composed the following ludicrous account of the adventure, for the amusement of the ladies in question, which he entitled, "A LONG STORY."
IN Britain's isle, no matter where,
* In the 16th century, the house belonged to the Earls of
To raise the ceiling's fretted height *,
Each pannel in achievements clothing,
When he had fifty winters o'er him,
His bushy beard, and shoe-strings green,
Shame of the versifying tribe!
Huntingdon, and to the family of Hatton. On the death of Lady Cobham, 1760, the estate was purchased from her executors by the late Hon. Thomas Penn, Lord Proprietary of Penn sylvania: his son, the present John Peun, Esq. finding the interior of the ancient mansion in a state of considerable decay, it was taken down in the year 1789, with the exception of a wing, which was preserved, partly for the sake of its effect as a ruin, harmonizing with the church-yard, the poet's house, and the surrounding scenery.
*The style of building called Queen Elizabeth's, is here admirably described, both with regard to its beauties and defects, the third and fourth stanzas delineate the fantastic manners of the time with equal truth and humour.
+ Sir Christopher Hatton, promoted by Queen Elizabeth for his graceful person and fine dancing.
Brawls were figure-dances then in fashion.
A house there is (and that's enough):
But rustling in their silks and tissues.
The first came cap-a-pee from France*,
The other amazon † kind heav'n
And tipp'd her arrows with good-nature.
To celebrate her eyes, her air
Coarse panegyrics would but tease her, Melissa is her "nom de guerre."
Alas, who would not wish to please her!
With bonnet blue and capuchine,
And aprons long, they hid their armour; And veil'd their weapons, bright and keen, In pity to the country farmer.
Fame, in the shape of Mr. Purt ‡,
(By this time all the parish know it) Had told that thereabouts there lurk'd
A wicked imp they call a poet;
*The Lady's husband, Sir Luke Schaub, had been ambassador at Paris some years before.
+ Miss Harriet Speed, Lady C.'s relation, afterwards married to the Count de Viry, Sardinian Envoy at the court of London.
The Rev. Mr. Purt, tator to the Duke of Bridgwater, then at Eton school.
Who prowl'd the country far and near,
The heroines undertook the task,
Through lanes unknown, o'er stiles they ventur'd †, Rapp'd at the door, nor stay'd to ask,
But bounce into the parlour enter'd.
The trembling family they daunt,
They flirt, they sing, they laugh, they tattle, Rummage his mother, pinch his aunt,
And up stairs in a whirlwind rattle:
Each hole and cupboard they explore,
And o'er the bed and tester clamber;
Henry the Fourth, in the fourth year of his reign, issued out the following commission against this species of vermin :—“ And it is enacted, that no master-rimour, minstrel, or other vagabond, be in any wise sustained in the land of Wales, to make commoiths, or gatherings upon the people there."
The walk from Stoke old mansion, to the house occupied by the poet's family, is peculiarly retired. The house is the property of Captain Salter, and it has belonged to his family for many generations. It is a charming spot for a summer residence, but has undergone great alterations and improvements since Gray gave it up in 1758.