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[Mr. Gray's Elegy in the Country Church-Yard, before it appeared in print, was handed about in manuscript; and amongst other eminent personages who saw and admired it, was the Lady Cobham, who resided at the Mansion-House at Stoke-Pogeis. The performance induced her to wish for the author's acquaintance; and Lady Schaub and Miss Speed, then at her house, undertook to effect it. These two ladies waited upon the author at his aunt's solitary mansion, where he at that time resided; and not finding him at home, they left their Mr. Gray, surprised at such a compliment, returned the visit. And as the beginning of this acquaintance wore a little of the face of romance, he soon after gave a fanciful and pleasant account of it in the following copy of verses, which he entitled A Long Story.]


IN Britain's isle, no matter where,

An ancient pile of building stands [35]: The Huntingdons and Hattons there Employ'd the power of Fairy hands

[35] The mansion-house at Stoke-Pogeis, then in the possession of Viscountess Cobham. The house formerly belonged to the Earls of Huntingdon and the family of Hatton.

To raise the ceiling's fretted height,

Each pannel in achievements clothing, Rich windows that exclude the light, And passages, that lead to nothing.

Full oft within the spacious walls,

When he had fifty winters o'er him,
My grave Lord-Keeper led the brawls [36];
The seals and maces danc'd before him.

His bushy-beard, and shoe-strings green,

His high-crown'd hat, and satin doublet, Mov'd the stout heart of England's Queen, Tho' Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it.

What, in the very first beginning!
Shame of the versifying tribe!
Your hist'ry whither are you spinning!
Can you do nothing but describe ?

[36] Sir Christopher Hatton, promoted by Queen Elizabeth for his graceful person and fine dancing.-Brawls were a sort of, then in vogue.

A house there is (and that's enough)

From whence one fatal morning issues A brace of warriors, not in buff,

But rustling in their silks and tissues [37].

The first came cap-a-pee from France,

Her conquering destiny fulfilling, Whom meaner beauties eye askance, And vainly ape her art of killing.

The other Amazon kind heav'n

Had arm'd with spirit, wit, and satire: But Cobham had the polish giv'n,

And tipp'd her arrows with good-nature.

To celebrate her eyes, her air

Coarse panegyrics would but teaze her, Melissa is her Nom de Guerre.

Alas, who would not wish to please her!

[37] The reader is already apprized who these Ladies were; the two descriptions are prettily contrasted; and nothing can be more happily turned than the compliment to Lady Cobham in the eighth stanza.

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. P-t, [38]

(By this time all the parish know it) Had told that thereabouts there lurk'd A wicked Imp they call a Poet:

Who prowl'd the country far and near,
Bewitch'd the children of the peasants,
Dried up
the cows, and lam'd the deer,

And suck'd the eggs, and kill'd the pheasants.

[38] It has been said, that this Gentleman, a neighbour and acquaintance of Mr. Gray's in the country, was much displeased at the liberty here taken with his name; yet, surely, without any great reason. -Since the first Edition of this Volume was published, I have learned, that the allusion here is, to a Mr. Robert Purt, a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge; who died of the small-pox, April 1752, soon after the publication of the Poem.


My Lady heard their joint petition,
Swore by her coronet and ermine,
She'd issue out her high commission
To rid the manor of such vermin.

The Heroines undertook the task,

Thro' 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, Kummage his Mother, pinch his Aunt,

And up stairs in a whirlwind rattle.

Each hole and cupboard they explore,

Each creek and cranny of his chamber, Run hurry-skurry round the floor,

And o'er the bed and tester clamber;

Into the drawers and china pry,

Papers and books, a huge imbroglio! Under a tea-cup he might lie,

Or creased, like dogs-ears, in a folio.

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