The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 9. An Elegy in a Country Churchyard
During the whole of the next four years, Gray seems to have relapsed into his normal state of facile and amusing gossip and criticism. He is “a chiel taking notes,” but with no intention of printing them: yet we also discover that he is a real power in the society that he pretends to despise, using his influence to get fellowships for his friends, including Mason; interesting himself in the wild and reckless Christopher Smart, then a fellow of Pembroke, and deploring the loss of the veteran Middleton, with whose views he was in sympathy, and whose house was the only one in which he felt at his ease. At the same time, his studies were remarkably various, and his curiosity about foreign, and especially French, literature, intense, as is particularly illustrated by his welcome of Montesquieu’s Esprit des Lois, which forestalled some of the best thoughts in the fragmentary Alliance of Education and Government (1748). At length, 12 June, 1750, he sends from Stoke to Walpole “a thing with an end to it”—a merit that most of his writings have wanted—and one whose beginning Walpole has seen long ago.
In contrast with this incuria, so far as the public is concerned, was the pains which he took, as evidenced by the MS preserved at the lodge at Pembroke college, to set down what he did write beyond the possibility of mistake.