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[Impromptus]

[Impromptus]


Extempore by Mr. Gr[ay]. on Dr. K[eene]. B[ishop]. of C[hester].

1 The Bishop of Chester
2 Though wiser than Nestor
3 And fairer than Esther,
4 If you scratch him will fester.

One day the Bishop having offered to give a Gentleman a Goose,
Mr. Gr[ay]. composed his Epitaph, thus.

5 Here lies Edmund Keene Lord Bishop of Chester,
6 He eat a fat goose and could not digest her—

And this upon his Lady—

7 Here lies Mrs Keene the Bishop of Chester,
8 She had a bad face which did sadly molest her.

Impromptu by Mr. Gray going out of Raby Castle

9 Here lives Harry Vane,
10 Very good claret and fine champagne.

A Couplet by Mr. Gray

11 When you rise from your dinner as light as before,
12 'Tis a sign you have eat just enough and no more.

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0 [Impromptus] 1 Explanatory

Title/Paratext] "Edmund Keene (1714-81), Bishop successively [...]" H.W. Starr/J.R. Hendrickson, 1966.

"Edmund Keene (1714-81), Bishop successively of Chester and Ely and a supporter of Lord Sandwich [...], was not a favourite of Gray and his friends. The date of the verses on him and his wife is uncertain, but obviously they were composed after his accession to the see of Chester in 1752 and his marriage in 1753 and before he became Bishop of Ely on 9 Jan. 1771. Since there are several references to him in Gray's letters during the years 1769 and 1770 and comparatively few during the earlier years of his bishopric, it seems likely that these verses were composed in the late 1760's.
    Mrs. Keene's attraction for her husband, if one may judge by Walpole's remarks [...], seems to have been based more securely on her considerable private fortune than on her physical charms.
    Raby Castle, in Co. Durham, was the seat of Henry Vane (c. 1705-58), Lord Barnard, created first Earl of Darlington. A similar view of his abilities is reflected in a poem sent by Walpole to Gray [...]:

ON LD DARL[INGTON]'S BEING MADE JOINT PAYMASTER [OF THE FORCES, 1755]

Wonders, Newcastle, mark thy ev'ry hour;
But this last Act's a plenitude of pow'r:
Nought but the force of an almighty reign
Could make a Paymaster of Harry V[ane]."

The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966, 240.

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Extempore by Mr. Gr[ay]. on Dr. K[eene]. B[ishop]. of C[hester].

1 The Bishop of Chester
2 Though wiser than Nestor
3 And fairer than Esther,
4 If you scratch him will fester.

One day the Bishop having offered to give a Gentleman a Goose,
Mr. Gr[ay]. composed his Epitaph, thus.

5 Here lies Edmund Keene Lord Bishop of Chester,
6 He eat a fat goose and could not digest her—

And this upon his Lady—

7 Here lies Mrs Keene the Bishop of Chester,
8 She had a bad face which did sadly molest her.

Impromptu by Mr. Gray going out of Raby Castle

9 Here lives Harry Vane,
10 Very good claret and fine champagne.

A Couplet by Mr. Gray

11 When you rise from your dinner as light as before,
12 'Tis a sign you have eat just enough and no more.

Works cited

  • The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966.

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Spelling has been modernized throughout, except in case of conscious archaisms. Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Obvious errors have been silently corrected, punctuation has been supplied. The editor would like to express his gratitude to the library staff of the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB Göttingen) for their invaluable assistance.