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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [c. April 1760]

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I am so charmed with the two specimens of Erse poetry, that I cannot help giving you the trouble to enquire a little farther about them, and should wish to see a few lines of the original, that I may form some slight idea of the language, the measures, and the rhythm.

Is there anything known of the author or authors, and of what antiquity are they supposed to be?

Is there any more to be had of equal beauty, or at all approaching to it?

I have been often told that the poem called Hardicanute (which I always admired, and still admire) was the work of somebody that lived a few years ago. This I do not at all believe, though it has evidently been retouched in places by some modern hand: but, however, I am authorised by this report to ask, whether the two poems in question are certainly antique and genuine. I make this enquiry in quality of an antiquary, and am not otherwise concerned about it: for, if I were sure that any one now living in Scotland had written them to divert himself and laugh at the credulity of the world, I would undertake a journey into the Highlands only for the pleasure of seeing him.

Letter ID: letters.0357 (Source: TEI/XML)

Correspondents

Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 43
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 42

Dates

Date of composition: [c. April 1760]
Calendar: Gregorian

Places

Place of composition: [London, United Kingdom]

Content

Language: English
Incipit: I am so charmed with the two specimens of Erse poetry, that I cannot help...
Mentioned: Hardicanute
Macpherson, James
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796

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, 398
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, appendix, letter XI, vol. i, 553-554
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LX, vol. ii, 284-285
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter XCV, vol. ii, 16-17
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter LXVIII, vol. iii, 162-163
  • 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. CXCVIII, vol. ii, 127-128
  • 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, 229
  • 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. 212, vol. ii, 182-184
  • 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, 105-106
  • 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. 310, vol. ii, 664-665