Thomas Gray to John Chute, [24 May 1742]
A Monsieur Mons:r Chute
Gentilhomme Anglois chez Mons:r Mann,
Resident de Sa Majesté Britannique
a la Cour Toscane Florence
Three Days ago, as I was in the Coffee-house very deep in Advertisements, a Servant came in, & waked me (as I thought) with the Name of Mr Chute. for half a minute I was not sure, but that it was You transported into England by some strange Chance the Lord knows how; till he brought me to a Coach that seem'd to have lost its way by looking for a Needle in a Bottle of Hay, in it was a Lady, who said she was not You, but only a near relation, & was so good to give me a Letter, with which I return'd to my Den in order to prey upon it. I had wrote to you but a few days ago, & am glad of so good an Excuse to do it again, wch I may the better do, as my last was all out, & nothing to the Purpose, being design'd for a certain Mr Chute at Rome, & not him at Florence.
I learn from it that I have been somewhat smarter, than I ought, but (to shew you with how little Malice) I protest I have not the least Idea what it was: my Memory would be better, did I read my own Letters so often, as I do yours. you must attribute it to a sort of kittenish Disposition, that scratches, where it means to caress; however I don't repent neither; if 'tis that, has made you write. I know, I need not ask pardon, for you have forgiven me: nay, I have a good Mind to complain myself. how could you say, that I design'd to hurt you, because I knew you could feel? I hate the thoughts of it, & would not for the world wound any thing, that was sensible. 'tis true, I should be glad to scratch the Careless, or the Foolish, but no armour is so impenetrable, as Indifference & Stupidity, and so I may keep my Claws to myself. for another Instance of the shortness of my Memory would you believe, I have so little knowledge of the Florentine History, as not to guess, who the Lady-Errant is you mention? sure it can't be the R:di & her faithful Swain, or may be M. G:di & the little Abbé. what you do there so long, I have no Conception. if you stay at other Places in proportion, I despair of ever seeing you again. 'tis true indeed Mr Mann is not every where. I am shock'd to think of his Sufferings, but he of all Men was born to suffer with a good Grace. he is a Stoick without knowing it, & seems to think Pain a Pleasure: I am very sorry to complement him upon such an Occasion, & wish with all my Heart he were not so pleased. I much fear his Books are gone already; but if not, to be sure he shall have Middleton, & the Sofa. it seems most people here are not such admirers of it, as I was: but I won't give up an inch of it for all that. did I tell you about Mr Garrick, that the Town are horn-mad after; there are a dozen Dukes of a night at Goodmans-fields sometimes, & yet I am stiff in the opposition. our fifth Opera was the Olympiade, in which they retain'd most of Pergolesi's Songs. & yet 'tis gone already, as if it had been a poor thing of Galuppi's. two nights did I enjoy it all alone, snugg in a Nook in the Gallery, but found no one in those regions had ever heard of Pergolesi, nay, I heard several affirm it was a Composition of Pescetti's: now there is a 6th sprung up by the name of Cefalo & Procri. my Lady of Queensbury is come out against my Lady of Marlborough; & she has her Spirit too, & her Originality, but more of the Woman, I think, than t'other; as to the Facts it don't signify two pence, who's in the right; the manner of fighting, & character of the Combatants is all: 'tis hoped old Sarah will at her again. a Play of Mr Glover's, I am told, is prepareing for the stage call'd Boadicea: it is a fine Subject, but I have not an extreme Opinion of him. the Invalides at Chelsea intend to present Ranelagh-Gardens, as a Nusance, for breaking their first Sleep with the sound of Fiddles: it opens, I think, tonight. Messieurs the Commons are to ballot for 7 Persons tomorrow, commission'd to state the publick accounts, & they are to be such, who have no places, nor are anyways dependent on the King. the Committee have petition'd for all Papers relateing to the Convention: a bill has pass'd the lower House for indemnifying all, who might subject themselves to Penalties by revealing any transaction with regard to the Conduct of My Ld Orford, & tomorrow the Lords are summon'd about it. the Wit of the times consists in Satyrical Prints, I believe, there have been some Hundreds within this Month; if you have any hopeful young Designer of Caricaturas, that has a political Turn, he may pick up a pretty Subsistance here: let him pass thro' Holland to improve his Taste by the way. we are all very sorry for poor Queen Hungary; but we know of a second Battle (wch perhaps you may never hear off, but from me) as how Prince Lobbycock came up in the Nick of Time, & cut 120,000 of'em all to pieces, & how the King of Prussia narrowly scaped aboard a Ship, & so got down the Dannub to Wolf-in-Bottle, where Mr Mallyboyce lay incamp'd, & how the Hannoverians with Prince Hissy-Castle at their head, fell upon the French Mounseers, & took him away with all his Treasure, among which is Pitt's Diamond, & the Great Cistern. all this is firmly believed here, & a vast deal more; upon the Strength of which we intend to declare War with France.
You are so obligeing as to put me in mind of our last Years little expeditions; alas! Sr, they are past, & how many Years will it be, at the rate you go on, before we can possibly renew them in this Country? in all probability I shall be gone first on a long Expedition to that undiscover'd Country, from whose bourn no Traveller returns; however (if I can) I will think of you, as I sail down the River of Eternity. I can't help thinking, that I should find no difference almost between this world & t'other (for I converse with none but the dead here) only indeed I should receive, nor write no more Letters (for the Post is not very well regulated) if you see the King of Naples, pray talk with him on this Subject, for I see he is upon Settleing one between his country & Constantinople, & I take this to be but a little more difficult.
My Dab of Musick & Prints you are very good to think of sending with your own; to which I will add a farther Trouble by desireing you to send me some of the Roots of a certain Flower, wch I have seen at Florence, it is a huge white Hyacynth tinged with Pink (Mr M: knows what I mean, by that same token that they grow sometimes in the fat Gerina's Boosom) I mean, if they bear a reasonable Price, wch you will judge of for me: but don't give yourself any pains about it, for if they are not easily had, & at an easy Rate, I am not at all eager for them: do you talk of strumming? ohime! who have not seen the face of a Haspical, since I came home; no; I have hanged up my Harp on the Willows; however I look at my Musick now & then, that I may not forget it, for when you return, I intend to sing a Song of Thanksgiving & praise the Lord with a chearful Noise of many-stringed Instruments. Adieu! dear Sr,
Not forgetting my Kiss Hands to Mr Whithed
Mann, Horace, Sir, 1706-1786
Chute of The Vyne, Sherborne St John, The Vyne , Sherborne St John, UK <http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/vyne/>
[See this record from the Hampshire Record Office]
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter VI, vol. ii, 183-188
- 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. LVI, vol. i, 105-110
- 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, 138-139
- 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. 109, vol. i, 203-208