Skip main navigation

Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [20 February 1751]

Back to Letters page

My dear Sir,

You have indeed conducted with great decency my little misfortune: you have taken a paternal care of it, and expressed much more kindness than could have been expected from so near a relation. But we are all frail; and I hope to do as much for you another time. Nurse Dodsley has given it a pinch or two in the cradle, that (I doubt) it will bear the marks of as long as it lives. But no matter: we have ourselves suffered under her hands before now; and besides, it will only look the more careless, and by accident as it were. I thank you for your advertisement, which saves my honour, and in a manner bien flatteuse pour moi, who should be put to it even to make myself a compliment in good English.

You will take me for a mere poet, and a fetcher and carrier of singsong, if I tell you that I intend to send you the beginning of a drama, not mine, thank God, as you'll believe, when you hear it is finished, but wrote by a person whom I have a very good opinion of. It is (unfortunately) in the manner of the ancient drama, with choruses, which I am, to my shame, the occasion of; for, as great part of it was at first written in that form, I would not suffer him to change it to a play fit for the stage, as he intended, because the lyric parts are the best of it, and they must have been lost. The story is Saxon, and the language has a tang of Shakespeare, that suits an old-fashioned fable very well. In short, I don't do it merely to amuse you, but for the sake of the author, who wants a judge, and so I would lend him mine: yet not without your leave, lest you should have us up to dirty our stockings at the bar of your house for wasting the time and politics of the nation.

Adieu, sir!
I am ever yours,
T. GRAY.
Letter ID: letters.0179 (Source: TEI/XML)

Correspondents

Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771 [i]
Writer's age: 34
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797 [i]
Addressee's age: 33

Dates

Date of composition: [20 February 1751] [i]
Date (on letter): Ash-Wednesday, 1751
Calendar: Julian

Places

Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom [i]
Address (on letter): Cambridge

Content

Language: English
Incipit: You have indeed conducted with great decency my little misfortune: ...
Mentioned: Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764 [i]
Mason, William, 1724-1797 [i]

Holding Institution

Availability: The original letter is unlocated, a copy, transcription, or published version survives

Print Versions

  • The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, 5 vols. London: G. G. and J. Robinson and J. Edwards, 1798, vol. v, 387
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, appendix, letter IV, vol. i, 543-544 - view pages
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XXVI, vol. ii, 212-213 - view pages
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXXVII, vol. i, 162-163 - view pages
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XXXIII, vol. iii, 80-81 - view pages
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, including the correspondence of Gray and Mason, 3 vols. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. London: George Bell and Sons, 1900-12, letter no. XCIII, vol. i, 209-210 - view pages
  • Essays and Criticisms by Thomas Gray. Ed. with Introduction and Notes by Clark Sutherland Northup. Boston and London: D. C. Heath & Co., 1911, letter excerpt, 164 - view pages
  • The Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, West and Ashton (1734-1771), 2 vols. Chronologically arranged and edited with introduction, notes, and index by Paget Toynbee. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1915, letter no. 172, vol. ii, 105-106 - view pages
  • The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence. Ed. by W. S. Lewis. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP; London: Oxford UP, 1937-83, vols. 13/14: Horace Walpole's Correspondence with Thomas Gray, Richard West and Thomas Ashton i, 1734-42, Horace Walpole's Correspondence with Thomas Gray ii, 1745-71, ed. by W. S. Lewis, George L. Lam and Charles H. Bennett, 1948, vol. ii, 46 - view pages
  • Correspondence of Thomas Gray, 3 vols. Ed. by the late Paget Toynbee and Leonard Whibley, with corrections and additions by H. W. Starr. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971 [1st ed. 1935], letter no. 158, vol. i, 342-343 - view pages