Thomas Gray to William Taylor How, 12 January 1768
William Taylor-How Esq, at
Stondon-Place near Ongar
You perceive by Mr Brown's letter, that I pass'd all the summer in the North of England, went from thence to London, & did not arrive here till the middle of December, where I found your parcel. since that time I have been generally confined to my room, & besides I was willing to go thro' the eight volumes before I return'd you an answer. this must be my excuse to you, for only doing now, what in mere civility I ought to have done long ago. first I must condole with you, that so neat an edition should swarm in almost every page with errors of the press, not only in notes & citations from Greek, French, & English authors, but in the Italian text itself, greatly to the disreputation of the Leghorn Publishers. this is the only reason (I think) that could make an edition in England necessary: but I doubt you would not find the matter much mended here, our presses, as they improve in beauty, declining daily in accuracy: besides you would find the expence very considerable, & the sale in no proportion to it, as in reality it is but few people in England, that read currently & with pleasure the Italian tongue; & the fine old editions of their capital Writers are sold at London for a lower price, than they bear in Italy. an English translation I can by no means advise. the justness of thought & good sense might remain; but the graces of elocution (wch make a great part of Algarotti's merit) would be entirely lost, & that merely from the very different genius & complexion of the two languages.
I rather think these volumes should be handsomely bound, before they are put into the Library: they bind very neatly here; & if you approve it, Mr Brown will order it to be done. doubtless there can be no impropriety in making the same present to the University, nor need you at all to fear for the reputation of your Friend: he has merit enough to recommend him in any country, a tincture of various sorts of knowledge; an acquaintance with all the beautiful arts; an easy command, a precision, warmth, & richness of expression; & a judgement, that is rarely mistaken, on any subject to wch he applies it. of the Dialogues I have formerly told you my thoughts. the Essays and Letters (many of them entirely new to me) on the Arts are curious & entertaining. those on other subjects (even where the thoughts are not new to me, but borrowed from his various reading & conversation) often better put, & better express'd than in the originals. I rejoice, when I see Machiavel defended or illustrated, who to me appears one of the wisest Men, that any nation in any age has produced. most of the other discourses military or political are well worth reading, tho' that on Kouli-Khan was a mere Jeu d'esprit, a sort of historical exercise. the letters from Russia I had read before with pleasure, particularly the narrative of Munich & Lascy's campaigns. the detach'd thoughts are often new & just; but there should have been a revisal of them, as they are often to be found in his letters repeated in the very same words. some too of the familiar letters might have been spared. The Congress of Cythera I had seen, & liked before, the Giudicio d'Amore is an addition rather inferior to it. the verses are not equal to the prose, but they are above mediocrity.
I shall be glad to hear your health is improved, & that you have thoughts of favouring us with your company here.
Add. MSS 26889, ff. 81-82, 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 ix, section v, 389-391
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section V, letter IX, vol. i, 480-481
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXXXIII, vol. ii, 488-490
- The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXXXIII, vol. ii, 112-114
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXLIV, vol. iv, 98-100
- 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. CCCXVIII, vol. iii, 173-174
- 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, 284-287
- 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. 462, vol. iii, 995-997