Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 21 July 1759
I have at last found rest for the sole of my gouty foot in your own old Dining-room, & hope in spite of the damnation denounced by the Bishop's two Chaplains, that you may find at least an equal satisfaction & repose at Old-Park. if your Bog prove as comfortable as my Oven, I shall see no occasion to pity you; & only wish that you may brew no worse, than I bake. you totally mistake my talents, when you impute to me any magical skill in planting roses. I know, I am no Conjuror in these things; when they are done, I can find fault, & that is all. now this is the very reverse of Genius, & I feel my own littleness. reasonable People know themselves better, than is commonly imagined; & therefore (tho' I never saw any instance of it) I believe Mason, when he tells me he understands planting better, than anything whatever. the prophetic eye of Taste (as Mr. Pitt call'd it) sees all the beauties, that a Place is susceptible of, long before they are born; & when it plants a seedling, already sits under the shadow of it, & enjoys the effect it will have from every point of view, that lies in prospect. you must therefore invoke Caractacus, & he will send his Spirits from the top of Snowdon to Cross-Fell, or Warden-Law.
The Thermometer is in the Passage-Window (where the Sun never comes) near the head of the Back-Stairs. since you went, I have never observed it lower than 68, most part of the day at 74, & yesterday at 5 in ye afternoon it was at 79, the highest I have ever seen it. it now is prepared to correspond regularly with you at the hours you mention. the Weather for this fortnight has been broiling without interruption, one thunder-shower excepted, wch did not cool the air at all. Rye (I am told) is begun to be cut near London. in Cambridgeshire a fortnight ago the promise of harvest was the finest I ever saw, but the Farmers complain (I hear) that the ears do not fill for want of wet: the Wheat was then turning yellow. Duke-Cherries are over in London; 3 days ago they sold for half-a-crown a Pound. Caroons & Black-Hearts very large & fine drive about the streets in wheel-barrows a penny a pound. Raspberries a few are yet remaining, but in a manner over. Melons are ripe, & Apricots & Orleans-Plums are to be seen in the fruitshops. Roses are (I think) over a week ago. the Jessamine (at Mrs Dod's on a S:W: Wall) was in full bloom (if you remember) long before you went from hence, & so it continues. that below in the Garden on a N:E: Wall has been all this week cover'd with flowers. my nosegays from Covent-Garden consist of nothing but Scarlet-Martagons, Everlasting-Peas, Double-Stocks, Pinks, & flowering Marjoram: as I have kept no exact account hitherto this year, I can say no more of July, that now is. therefore I shall annex one for the year 1754, wch I observed day by day at Stoke. observe, it had been then a cold rainy Summer.
The heat was very moderate this month, & a great deal of rain fell. the sown Hay was all got in by the first day, but the meadow-hay was not before ye 23d. it was very good & in plenty, but sold at 40 shillings a load in the field on account of the scarcity the year preceding. Barley was in ear on the first day; grey and white Peas in bloom. the Bean flowers were going off. Duke-Cherries in plenty on the 5th; Hearts were also ripe. green Melons on the 6th, but watry, & not sweet. Currants begun to ripen on the 8th, & red Goose-berries had changed colour; Tares were then in flower, & Meadow-Hay cutting. Lime-trees in full bloom on the 9th. Mushrooms in perfection on the 17th. Wheat & Oats had changed colour, & Buck-Wheat was in bloom on the 19th. the Vine had then open'd its blossoms, & the end of ye month Grapes were near ye size of small Pease. Turneps appear'd above ground on the 22d; & Potatoes were in flower. Barley had changed its hue, & Rye was almost ripe on the 23d. The Pine-apple-Strawberry was then in perfection. Black Caroons were ripe, & some Duke-Cherries still remain'd on walls the 26th, but the Hearts were then all spoil'd by the rain. Gooseberries red & white were then ripe, & Currants in abundance.
|Haws turn'd red
Broom-flower went off
Honey-suckles in full bloom
|On ye first|
|Phlomis, or yellow Tree-Sage||2d|
|Virginia Flow'ring Raspberry blew
Syringa went off
|Balm of Gilead blowing||7th|
|Common Jasmine blew
Yellow, & Austrian, Rose goe off
|Yellow Jasmine blows
White, & Gum-Cistus
Tamarisk in flower
Tutsan, or Park-leaves
Scarlet, & Painted Geraniums
|Pyracantha, in berry
|Single-Velvet-Rose goes off.||15th|
|Lavender & Morjoram blow||22d|
|Damask, Red, Moss, & Double-Velvet, Roses go off||26th|
|Rosa-Mundi, & Rose without thorns, go off||28th|
|White-Rose goes off||31st|
|These were all the flow'ring Shrubs observed by me.|
|Convolvulus minor blows
Pansies continue blowing
|Lupines blew, & white blow
White, & blew Campanula
|Double — scarlet Lychnis blows
|Yellow Lupine blows
|Striped Lilly blows
|Whole Carnations blow||23d|
|Double white Stock in bloom||24th|
In the fields Scabious, St John's Wort, Trefoil, Yarrow, Bugloss, Purple Vetch, Wild-thyme, Pale Wood-Orchis, Betony, & white Clover, flowering on ye first. large blew Cranes-bill the 9th; Ragwort, Moth-mullein, & Brambles, the 20th. Knapweed all the month.... there was Rain (more or less) 13 days out of ye 31 this Month; & 17 days out of 30 in June preceding.
I was too late for the Post on Saturday, so I continue on Monday. it is now 6 in the afternoon, & the Therm: is mounted to 80, tho' the Wind is at N. East by N: .. the gay Lady Essex is dead of a Fever during her lieing-in; & Mrs. Charles York last week, with one of her Children, of the Sore-throat. Heberden, & (I think) Taylor, attended her: the latter had pronounced her out of danger; but Heb:n doubted about her. the little Boy was at Acton, & escaped the infection.
Every body continues as quiet about the Invasion, as if a Frenchman, as soon as he set his foot on our coast, would die, like a Toad in Ireland: yet the King's Tents & Equipage are order'd to be ready at an hour's warning. no body knows positively, what is the damage, that Rodney has done, whether much or little: he can only guess himself; & the French have kept their own secret, as yet. of the 12 Millions, raised for the year, eight are gone already, & the old Party assure us, there is no more to be had for next year. you may easily guess at the source of my intelligence, & therefore will not talk of it. News is hourly expected of a Battle in Westphalia, for Pr: Ferdinand was certainly preparing to fight the French, who have taken Minden by storm.
I hear the D: of N: is much broke eversince his Sister Castle-comer died, not that he cared for her, or saw her above once a year; but she was the last of the brood, that was left; & he now goes regularly to Church, wch he never did before.
I hope Mrs Wharton's native Air will be more civil to her, when they are better acquainted: my best Compliments to her. I am glad the Children are well.
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 122-123, 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 xxxvi, section iv, 276-277
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LXXXII, vol. ii, 328-333
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XC, vol. iii, 213-219
- 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. CLXXXVII, vol. ii, 84-90
- 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. 296, vol. ii, 624-629