William Taylor How to Thomas Gray, 29 September 1763
I was made happy in the receipt of your Favour last Thursday morning, the 22d of September — and I now take the liberty of addressing you again not with a view of Challenging an answer (since a word to Mr Brown will suffice in its stead) but partly to thank you for the favour already received, and partly from a consideration of self-interest, which you will easily discover in the course of reading this. Your Letter to Count Algarotti I forwarded the very next morning, taking upon me to mention to him at the same time, (and that in the strongest terms, which his friendship for me and kind partiality in my favour might warrant) your Objection to the Passage in the Essay upon the Opera in Musick 'Dai Cinesi presano singolarmente gl'Inglesi quel Gusto &c. &c. I even went so far as to beg for an Alteration in the next edition of his Works, provided his Conscience would permit him to subscribe to a Change of Sentiment or at least to a softening of Expression. Should he have taken up the opinion upon conjecture from circumstances of apparent probability, or from any thing dropt in the very book of Chambers, which you mention, or perhaps even from an Assertion in Italian Conversation, I have not the least doubt, but he will readily restore her due to the old England of which he talks so much, especially as he has learned the Art of confessing an errour with a good grace, and is to the last degree ingenuous in so doing.
I am tempted now, Sir, to trespass upon your indulgence with a familiarity somewhat too great, and yet I hesitate in doing it. It seems clear to me from the force & extent of the eulogy you bestow upon Count Algarotti, that he has gained your approbation as a man of true taste, and as an author: taking this for granted, let me suppose that an Edition of all C. Algarotti's works was practicable in England, would it be likely to be acceptable to the lovers of Italian Literature, & to the sensible few? allowing this too in the affirmative, let me suppose again, that the Author would give me all possible encouragement, and Assistance in the prosecution of such an Undertaking, would you think me a madman for letting the thought enter into my Head! You would, I doubt not, and I am sure, with good reason, if I had any Idea of obtruding upon the Publick one line of my own, either by way of note, or in what way soever. This I have not, I promise you, and beg with warmth (as you know what I was before I left England, and I am sure that I am not improved since,) that you would not pronounce me at once an improved Coxcomb. I flatter myself, that the Author would ease me of almost all the trouble upon this occasion, since he has already put into my Hands with manuscript Corrections, & notes the last edition of a very favourite work of his, viz, the Congress of Cythera, which if you have not seen, I hope to have the pleasure of lending you as soon as ever I arrive in England.
You would ask me perhaps, in what manner I would propose printing these works, which would make at least four moderate Volumes in Octavo: not by subscription, I assure you, nor should any of my Friends ever be sollicited even to purchase them, if they were not of their own accord inclined to do so. In short, Sir, I would risk no small expence in such an attempt, since I know my estate is in much better condition for it than my Headpiece. I think I have now said enough to provoke you to a word of opinion & advice upon this business: at least, if I have not, I must defer begging this favour of you more at large, till I have a properer opportunity, for I am writing late by Candle-light, and with such a draw-back of Pain upon me, that I find it no matter of ease to hold out any longer. I intend writing to Mr Brown (whose letter I have received) by the next post, and should your good-nature induce you to desire more particular Intelligence about me, my concerns, or Motions, Mr Brown will have nothing else in his Letter, but what is upon this subject, the most important one in the world to all of us either in writing or Conversing. I am, Sir, with truest respect
Add. MSS 26889, ff. 50-51, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/bldept/manuscr/>
- 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. 378, vol. ii, pp. 819-821 - view pages