Horace Walpole to Thomas Gray, 20 February 1753
I am very sorry that the haste I made to deliver you from your uneasiness the first moment after I received your Letter, shoud have made me express myself in a manner to have the quite contrary effect from what I intended. You well know how rapidly and carelessly I always write my Letters; the note you mention was written in a still greater hurry than ordinary, & merely to put you out of pain. I had not seen Dodsley, consequently coud only tell you that I did not doubt but he woud have no Objection to satisfy you, as you was willing to prevent his being a Loser by the plate. Now, from this declaration how is it possible for you to have for one moment put such a construction upon my words, as woud have been a downright stupid brutality, unprovoked? It is impossible for me to recollect my very expression, but I am confident that I have repeated the whole substance.
How the bookseller woud be less a Loser by being at more expense, I can easily explain to you: He feared the price of half a guinea woud seem too high to most purchasers; if by the expence of ten guineas more he coud make the book appear so much more rich & showy (as I beleive I said) as to induce people to think it cheap, the profits from selling many more copies woud amply recompense him for his additional disbursement.
The thought of having the head engraved was entirely Dodsley's own, & against my opinion, as I concluded it woud be against yours, which made me determine to acquaint you with it before it's appearance.
When you reflect on what I have said now, you will see very clearly, that I had & coud have no other possible meaning in what I wrote last. you might justly have accused me of neglect, if I had deferr'd giving you all the satisfaction in my power, as soon as ever I knew your uneasiness.
The Head I give up. The Title I think will be wrong, & not answer your purpose, for, as the Drawings are evidently calculated for the poems, why will the improper disposition of the Word Designs before Poems, make the Edition less yours? I am as little convinced that there is any affectation in leaving out the Mr before your Names; it is a barbarous addition; the other is simple & classic, a rank I cannot help thinking due to both the Poet and Painter. Without ranging myself among Classics, I assure you, were I to print any thing with my name, it shoud be plain Horace Walpole: Mr is one of the Gothicisms I abominate. The Explanation was certainly added for people who have not Eyes – such are almost all who have seen Mr Bentley's drawings, & think to compliment him by mistaking them for prints. Alas! the generality want as much to have the words a Man, a Cock, written under his drawings, as under the most execrable hieroglyphics of Egypt or of sign post painters!
I will say no more now, but that you must not wonder if I am partial to you & yours, when you can write as you do & yet feel so little Vanity. I have used freedoms enough with your writings to convince you I speak truth: I praise & scold Mr Bentley immoderately as I think he draws well or ill; I never think it worth my while to do either, especially to blame, where there are not generally vast Excellencies. goodnight – dont suspect me when I have no fault but impatience to make you easy.
HW MSS, Manuscript Collections, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University Library , New Haven, CT (Beinecke)/Farmington, CT (Lewis Walpole), USA <http://www.library.yale.edu/>
- The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, 5 vols. London: G. G. and J. Robinson and J. Edwards, 1798, vol. v, 353-355
- 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. 183, vol. ii, 129-131
- 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, 64-66
- 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. 174, vol. i, 373-374