Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 7 September 1757
I am greatly obliged to your care & kindness for considering with more attention, than it deserves, the article of my health. at present I am far better, & take long walks again, have better spirits, & am more capable of amusement. the offer you make me of your lodgings for a time I should gladly embrace both for the sake of seeing you, & for variety, & because it will answer another end by furnishing me with a reason for not going into the country to a place, where I am invited. (I think, you understand me) but the truth is, I can not afford to hurry about from place to place; so I shall continue, where I am, & trust to illness, or some other cause for an excuse, since to that place I am positive, I will not go. it hurts me beyond measure, that I am forced to make these excuses, but go I can not, & something must be said. these are cruel things!
The family you mention near me are full as civil as ever; Miss Sp: seems to understand; & to all such, as do not, she says Φωναντα συνετοισι in so many words. and this is both my Motto & Comment. I am afraid, you mistake Mr. Roper's complaisance for approbation. Dr. Brown (I hear) says, they are the best Odes in our language. Mr. Garrick, the best in ours, or any other. I should not write this immodest panegyrick, did not you guess at the motive of their applause. Ld Lyttelton & Mr Shenstone admire, but wish they were a little clearer. Ld Barrington's explanation, I think, I told you before, so will not repeat it. Mr. Fox thinks, if the Bard sung his song but once over, King Edward could not possibly understand him. indeed I am of his opinion & am certain, if he had sung it fifty times, it was impossible the King should know a jot the more about Edwd the 3d, & Q: Elizabeth, & Spencer, & Milton, &c: Mr Wood (Mr Pitt's Wood) is disappointed in his expectations. Dr. Akenside criticises opening a source with a key. the Critical Review you have seen, or may see. he is in raptures (they say, it is Professor Franklin) but mistakes the Æolian lyre for the Harp of Æolus, & on this mistake founds a compliment & a criticism. this is, I think, all I have heard, that signifies.
The Encyclopedie, I own, may cloy one, if one sets down to it. but you will own, that out of one great good dinner a number of little good dinners may be made, that would not cloy one at all. there is a long article sur le Beau that for my life I can not understand. several of the geographical articles are carelessly done, & some of the antiquities, or ancient history.
My best Compliments to Mrs Wharton. I hope the operation going forward on your children will succeed to your wishes.
This letter is to yourself only. our best Mason I suppose you know is in Town, & in waiting. do you know any thing of St:r? pray desire Mas:n to repeat an epigram to you.
Akenside, Dr. Mark
Lyttelton, George Lyttelton, 1st Lord
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Speed, Henrietta Jane, 1728-1783
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 94-95, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/bldept/manuscr/>
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LXIV, vol. ii, 289-291
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter LXXII, vol. iii, 168-170
- 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. CXLIX, vol. i, 351-354
- 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. 249, vol. ii, 525-526