Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 18 September 1754
Dr Thomas Wharton M:D:
in Pancras Lane near Cheapside
I rejoice to find you at last settled to your heart's content, & delight to hear you talk of giving your house some Gothic ornaments already. if you project any thing, I hope it will be entirely within doors; & don't let me (when I come gaping into Coleman-street) be directed to the Gentleman's at the ten Pinnacles, or with the Church-porch at his door. I am glad you enter into the Spirit of Strawberry-Castle. it has a purity & propriety of Gothicism in it (with very few exceptions,) that I have not seen elsewhere. the eating-room & library were not compleated, when I was there, & I want to know, what effect they have. my Ld Radnor's Vagaries (I see) did not keep you from doing justice to his situation, wch far surpasses every thing near it, & I do not know a more laughing Scene, than that about Twickenham & Richmond. Dr Akenside (I perceive) is no Conjurer in Architecture, especially when he talks of the Ruins of Persepolis, wch are no more Gothic, than they are Chinese. the Egyptian Style (see Dr Pococke, not his discourses, but his prints) was apparently the Mother of ye Greek; & there is such a similitude between the Egyptian, & those Persian Ruins, as gave room to Diodorus to affirm, that the old buildings of Persia were certainly perform'd by Egyptian Artists. as to the other part of his opinion, that the Gothic manner is the Saracen or Moorish, he has a great Authority to support him, that of Sr Christ:r Wren, & yet (I can not help thinking) is undoubtedly wrong. the Palaces in Spain I never saw but in description, wch gives us little or no Idea of things; but the Doge's Palace at Venice I have seen (wch is in the Arabesque manner) & the houses of Barbary you may see in Dr Shaw's book, not to mention abundance of other eastern Buildings in Turky, Persia, &c: that we have views of, & they seem plainly to be corruptions of the Greek Architecture, broke into little parts indeed, & cover'd with little ornaments, but in a taste very distinguishable from that we call Gothic. there is one thing, that runs thro' the Moorish Buildings, that an Imitator would certainly have been first struck with, & would have tried to copy, & that is the Cupola's, wch cover everything, Baths, Apar[t]ments, & even Kitchens. yet who ever saw a Gothic Cupola? it is a thing plainly of Greek original. I do not see any thing but the slender Spires, that serve for steeples, wch may perhaps be borrowed from the Saracen Minarets on their Mosques.
I was in Northamptonshire, when I received your Letter, but am now returned hither. I have been at Warwick, wch is a place worth seeing. the Town is on an eminence surrounded every way with a fine cultivated Valley, thro' wch the Avon winds, & at the distance of 5 or 6 miles, a circle of hills well wooded, & with various objects crowning them, that close the Prospect. out of the town on one side of it rises a rock, that might remind one of your rocks at Durham, but that it is not so savage, or so lofty, & that the river, wch washes its foot, is perfectly clear, & so gentle, that its current is hardly visible. upon it stands the Castle, the noble old residence of the Beauchamps & Neville's, & now of Earl Brooke. he has sash'd the great Appartment, that's to be sure, (I can't help these things) & being since told, that square sash-windows were not Gothic, he has put certain whim-wams withinside the glass, wch appearing through are to look like fretwork. then he has scooped out a little Burrough in the massy walls of the place for his little self & his children, wch is hung with Paper & printed Linnen, & carved chimney-pieces, in the exact manner of Berkley-square or Argyle-Buildings. what in short can a Lord do now a days, that is lost in a great old solitary Castle, but sculk about, & get into the first hole he finds, as a Rat would do in like case. a pretty long old stone-bridge leads you into the town with a Mill at the end of it, over wch the rock rises with the Castle upon it with all its battlements & queer ruin'd towers, & on your left hand the Avon strays thro' the Park, whose ancient Elms seem to remember Sr Philip Sidney, (who often walk'd under them) and talk of him to this day. the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick lie under stately Monuments in the Choir of the great Church, & in our Lady's Chappel adjoining to it. there also lie Ambrose Dudley, E: of Warwick; & his Brother, the famous Ld Leicester, with Lettice, his Countess. this Chappel is preserved entire, tho' the Body of the Church was burnt down 60 years ago, & rebuilt by Sr C: Wren. I had heard often of Guy-Cliff two miles from the town, so I walked to see it; & of all improvers commend me to Mr Greathead, its present Owner. he shew'd it me himself, & is literally a fat young Man with a head & face much bigger than they are usually worn. it was naturally a very agreeable rock, whose Cliffs cover'd with large trees hung beetleing over the Avon, wch twists twenty ways in sight of it. there was the Cell of Guy, Earl of Warwick, cut in the living stone, where he died a Hermit (as you may see in a penny History, that hangs upon the rails in Moorfields) there were his fountains bubbling out of the Cliff; there was a Chantry founded to his memory in Henry the 6th's time. but behold the Trees are cut down to make room for flowering shrubs, the rock is cut up, till it is as smooth & as sleek as sattin; the river has a gravel-walk by its side; the Cell is a Grotta with cockle-shells and looking-glass; the fountains have an iron-gate before them, and the Chantry is a Barn, or a little House. even the poorest bits of nature, that remain, are daily threatned, for he says (& I am sure, when the Greatheads are once set upon a thing, they will do it) he is determined, it shall be all new. These were his words, & they are Fate. I have also been at Stow, at Woburn (the Du[ke] of Bedford's), and at Wroxton (Ld Guilford's) but I defer these Chapt[ers] till we meet. I shall only tell you for your Comfort, that th[e] part of Northampt:re, where I have been, is in fruits, in flowers [& in] corn very near a fortnight night behind this part of Buckinghamshire, that they have no nightingales, & that the other birds are almost as silent, as at Durham. it is rich land, but upon a Clay, & in a very bleak, high, exposed situation. I hope, you have had some warm weather, since you last complained of the South. I have thoughts of seeing you about Michaelmas, tho' I shall not stay long in town. I should have been at Camb:ge before now, if the D: of Newc:le & his foundation-stone would have let me, but I want them to have done before I go. I am sorry Mr Brown should be the only one, that has stood upon Punctilio's with me, & would not write first. pray tell him so. Mason is (I believe) in town, or at Chiswick. [no news of Tuthill]: I wrote a long letter to him in answer to one he wrote me, but no reply.
Brown call'd here this morning, before I was up, & breakfasted with me.
Brown, James, 1709-1784
Doge's Palace, Venice
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Persepolis, Ruins of
Pococke, Dr. Richard
Shaw, Dr. Thomas
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 63-64, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/bldept/manuscr/>
- The Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York: printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley, London; and J. Todd, York, 1775, letter xix, section iv, 230-231
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XIX, vol. i, 340-341
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XLIV, vol. ii, 247-251
- The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXXXVII, vol. ii, 3-4
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter LI, vol. iii, 121-126
- 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. CXIV, vol. i, 250-255
- 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, 175-177
- 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. 192, vol. i, 406-411