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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 22 April 1760

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Dear Doctor

I am not sorry to hear, you are exceeding busy, except as it has deprived me of the pleasure I should have in hearing often from you, & as it has been occasion'd by a little vexation & disappointment. to find oneself business (I am persuaded) is the great art of life; & I am never so angry, as when I hear my acquaintance wishing they had been bred to some poking profession, or employ'd in some office of drudgery, as if it were pleasanter to be at the command of other People, than at one's own; & as if they could not go, unless they were wound up. yet I know and feel, what they mean by this complaint: it proves, that some spirit, something of Genius (more than common) is required to teach a Man how to employ himself. I say a Man, for Women commonly speaking never feel this distemper: they have always something to do; time hangs not on their hands (unless they be fine Ladies) a variety of small inventions & occupations fill up the void, & their eyes are never open in vain.

I thank you heartily for the Sow. if you have no occasion for her, I have; & if his Ldp will be so kind as to drive her up to Town, will gladly give him 40 shillings and the Chitterlings into the bargain. I could repay you with the Story of my Lady F:r, but (I doubt) you know my Sow already, especially as you dwell near Raby. however I'll venture: it may happen, you have not heard it. About 2 months ago Mr. Creswick (the D: of Cleveland's managing Man) received an anonymous letter as from a Lady, offering him (if he would bring about a match between her & his Lord) 3000£ to be paid after marriage out of the Estate. if he came into the proposal, a place was named, where he might speak with the Party. he carried the letter directly to the old Lady Darlington & they agreed, he should go to the place. he did so, & found there a Man, Agent for the Lady: but refusing to treat with any but Principals, after a little difficulty was conducted to her in person, & found it was my Lady F: (Sr Ev: F:s fine young Widow). what pass'd between them, I know not: but that very night she was at Lady Darl:n's Assembly (as she had used to be) & no notice taken. the next morning she received a card to say, Lady D: had not expected to see her, after what had pass'd: otherwise she would have order'd her Porter not to let her in. the whole affair was immediately told to every body. yet she has continued going about to all publick places tête levée, & solemnly denying the whole to her acquaintance. since that I hear she owns it, & says, her Children were unprovided for, & desires to know, wch of her Friends would not have done the same? but as neither of these expedients succeed very well, she has hired a small house, & is going into the Country for the summer.

Here has just been a Duel between the Duke of Bolton & Mr. Stuart (a Candidate for the County of Hampshire at the late Election) what the quarrel was, I do not know: but they met near Marybone, & the D: in making a pass over-reached himself, fell down, & hurt his knee. the other bid him get up, but he could not. then he bid him ask his life, but he would not. so he let him alone, and that's all. Mr. Steuart was slightly wounded.

The old Pundles, that sat on Ld G: Sackvile (for they were all such, but two, Gen: Cholmondeley, & Ld Albemarle) have at last hammer'd out their sentence. he is declared disobedient, & unfit for all military command. it is said, that 9 (out of the 15) were for death, but as two-thirds must be unanimous, some of them came over to the merciful side. I do not affirm the truth of this. what he will do with himself, no body guesses. the poor old Duke went into the country some time ago, & (they say) can hardly bear the sight of any body. the unembarass'd countenance, the looks of soveraign contempt & superiority, that his Lp bestow'd on his Accusers during the tryal, were the admiration of all: but his usual Talents & Art did not appear, in short his Cause would not support him. be that as it will, every body blames somebody, who has been out of all temper, & intractable during the whole time. Smith (the Aid-de-Camp, and principal Witness for Ld G:) had no sooner finish'd his evidence, but he was forbid to mount guard, & order'd to sell out. the Court & the Criminal went halves in the expence of the short-hand Writer, so Ld G: has already publish'd the Tryal, before the authentic Copy appears; & in it are all the foolish questions, that were asked, & the absurdities of his Judges. you may think perhaps he intends to go abroad, & hide his head. au contraire, all the World visits him on his condemnation. he says himself, his situation is better, than ever it was. the Scotch have all along affected to take him under their protection; his Wife has been daily walking with Lady Augusta (during the tryal) in Leicester-Gardens, & Ld B:s Chariot stands at his door by the hour.

Ld Ferrers has entertained the Town for three days. I was not there, but Mason & Stonhewer were in the D: of Ancaster's Gallery & in the greatest danger (wch I believe they do not yet know themselves) for the Cell underneath them (to wch the Prisoner retires) was on fire during the tryal, & the D: of Anc:r with the Workmen by sawing away some timbers & other assistance contrived to put it out without any alarm given to the Court: several now recollect they smelt burning & heard a noise of sawing, but no one guest at the cause. Miss Johnson, Daughter to the murther'd Man, appeard so cool, & gave so gentle an evidence, that at first sight every one concluded, she was bought off: but this could do him little good. the Surgeon & his own Servants laid open such a scene of barbarity & long-meditated malice, as left no room for his plea of Lunacy, nor any thought of pity in the hearers. the oddest thing was this plea of temporary Lunacy, & his producing two Brothers of his to prove it, one a Clergyman (suspended for Methodism by the Bp of London) the other a sort of Squire, that goes in the countrey by the name of Ragged & Dangerous. he managed the cause himself with more cleverness than any of his Counsell, & (when found guilty) ask'd pardon for his plea, & laid it upon the persuasions of his family. Mrs Shirley (his Mother) Lady Huntingdon, & others of the relations were at Court yesterday with a petition for mercy, but on the 5th of May he is to be hang'd at Tyburn.

The Town are reading the K: of Prussia's Poetry (Le Philosophe sans Souci) & I have done, like the Town. they do not seem so sick of it, as I am. it is all the scum of Voltaire and Ld Bolingbroke, the Crambe recocta of our worst Free-thinkers, toss'd up in German-French rhyme. Tristram Shandy is still a greater object of admiration, the Man as well as the Book. one is invited to dinner, where he dines, a fortnight beforehand. his portrait is done by Reynolds, & now engraving. Dodsley gives 700£ for a second edition, & two new volumes not yet written; & tomorrow will come out two Volumes of Sermons by him. your Friend Mr. Hall has printed two Lyric Epistles, one to my Cousin Shandy on his coming to Town, the other to the grown Gentlewomen, the Misses of York: they seem to me to be absolute madness. these are the best lines in them

I'll tell you a story of Elijah –
Close by a Mob of Children stood
Commenting on his sober mood &c:
And back'd them (their opinions) like such sort of folks
With a few stones & a few jokes:
Till, weary of their pelting & their prattle,
He order'd out his Bears to battle.
It was delightful fun
To see them run
And eat up the young Cattle.

The 7th Vol: of Buffon is come over: do you chuse to have it?

Poor Lady Cobham is at last deliverd from a painful life. she has given Miss Speed above 30,000£.

Mr Brown is well: I heard from him yesterday, & think of visiting him soon. Mason & Stonhewer are both in Town & (if they were here) would send their best Comp:ts to you & Mrs. Wh:n with mine. you see, I have left no room for weather: yet I have observed the birth of the spring, wch (tho' backward) is very beautiful at present. mind, from this day the Therm:r goes to its old place below in the yard, & so pray let its Sister do. Mr Stillingfleet (with whom I am grown acquainted) has convinced me, it ought to do so.

Letter ID: letters.0358 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 43
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 43[?]


Date of composition: 22 April 1760
Date (on letter): April 22. 1760
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): London

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 4 pages, 202 mm x 157 mm


Language: English
Incipit: I am not sorry to hear, you are exceeding busy, except as it has deprived me...
Mentioned: Bolingbroke, Henry St. John, 1st Viscount
Buffon, Comte de
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Frederick the Great
Hall-Stevenson, John
Raby Castle
Speed, Henrietta Jane, 1728-1783
Sterne, Laurence
Stillingfleet, Benjamin
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 130-131, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • 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, section iv, 278
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XXXVI, vol. i, 380-383
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LXXXVII, vol. ii, 347-352
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CVII, vol. ii, 46-48
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XCV, vol. iii, 236-242
  • 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. CC, vol. ii, 132-139
  • 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, 230-231
  • 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. 311, vol. ii, 665-672