Skip main navigation

Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [8 February 1747]

Back to Letters page

I had been absent from this Place a few Days, & at my Return found Cibber's Book upon my Table: I return you my Thanks for it, & have already run over a considerable Part, for who could resist Mrs Lætitia Pilkington's Recommendation? (by the Way is there any such Gentlewoman, or has somebody put on the Style of a scribbleing Woman's Panegyric to deceive & laugh at Colley?) he seems to me full as pert & as dull as usual. there are whole Pages of Common-Place Stuff, that for Stupidity might have been wrote by Dr Waterland or any other grave Divine, did not the flirting saucy Phrase give them at a Distance an Air of Youth & Gayety. it is very true, he is often in the right with regard to Tully's Weaknesses; but was there any one that did not see them? those, I imagine, that would find a Man after God's own Heart, are no more likely to trust the Doctor's Recommendation, than the Player's. & as to Reason & Truth: would they know their own Faces, do you think? if they look'd in the Glass, & saw themselves so bedizen'd in tatter'd Fringe & tarnish'd Lace, in French Jewels, & dirty Furbelows, the frippery of a Stroller's Wardrobe?

Litterature (to take it in its most comprehensive Sense, & include every Thing, that requires Invention, or Judgement, or barely Application & Industry) seems indeed drawing apace to its Dissolution; & remarkably since the Beginning of the War. I should be glad to know why, if any one will tell me. for I believe there may be natural Reasons discoverable enough without haveing Recourse to St John, or St Alexander's Revelations. I remember to have read Mr Spence's pretty Book, tho' (as he then had not been at Rome for the last Time) it must have increased greatly since that in Bulk. if you ask me what I read; I protest I don't remember one Syllable; but only in general, that they were the best-bred Sort of Men in the World, just the Kind of Frinds one would wish to meet in a fine Summer's Evening, if one wish'd to meet any at all. the Heads & Tails of the Dialogues, publish'd separate in 16mo, would make the sweetest Reading in Natiur for young Gentlemen of Family & Fortune, that are learning to dance: I am told, he has put his little Picture before it. I rejoyce to hear, there is such a Crowd of dramatical Performances comeing upon the Stage. Agripp:na can stay very well, she thanks you; & be damn'd at Leisure: I hope in God you have not mention'd, or shew'd to any Body that Scene (for trusting in it's Badness, I forgot to caution you concerning it) but I heard the other Day, that I was writeing a Play, & was told the Name of it, wch no body here could know, I'm sure. the Employment you propose to me, much better suits my Inclination. but I much fear our Joynt-Stock would hardly compose a small Volume: what I have, is less considerable than you would imagine; & of that little we should not be willing to publish all. there is an Epistle, ad Amicos (that is, to us all at Cambridge) in English, of above fourscore Lines: the Thoughts are taken from Tibullus, & from a Letter of Mr Pope's in Prose. it begins

While You, where Camus rolls his sedgy Tide &c:

2. An Imitation of Horace, Trojani belli scriptorem &c: about 120 Lines, wrote to me. begins

While haply You (or haply not at all)
Hear the grave Pleadings in the Lawyer's Hall &c:

3. A Translation from Propertius. L: 3. El. 15 ... 50 Lines. begins .. (sent to me at Rheims)

Now prostrate, Bacchus, at thy Shrine I bend &c:

4. An Elegy, Latin. 34 Lines. begins, Quod mihi tam gratæ &c:

5. Another, sent to Florence. 36 Lines.–Ergo desidiæ videor &c:

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Translation from Posidippus, an Epigram .. Some Lines; on the hard Winter: long Verse .. on himself, a little before his Death. long Verse. 2 Imitations of Catullus' Basia. English. a little Ode of 5 Stanza's, to the Spring.

This is all I can any where find. You, I imagine, may have a good deal more. I should not care, how unwise the ordinary Sort of Readers might think my Affection for him provided those few, that ever loved any Body, or judged of any thing rightly, might from such little Remains be moved to consider, what he would have been; & to wish, that Heaven had granted him a longer Life, & a Mind more at Ease. I can't help fancying, that if you could find out Mrs West, & ask her for his Papers of that kind (Ashton might do it in your Name) she would be ready enough to part with them, & we might find something more: at least it would be worth while to try; for she had 'em in a great Box altogether, I well know.

I send you a few Lines, tho' Latin (wch you don't like) for the sake of the Subject. it makes Part of a large Design, & is the Beginning of the fourth Book, wch was intended to treat of the Passions. excuse the 3 first Verses: you know Vanity (with the Romans) is a poetical License.

Hactenus haud segnis Naturæ arcana retexi
Musarum interpres, primusqb Britanna per arva
Romano liquidum deduxi flumine rivum.
Cum Tu opere in medio, spes tanti & causa laboris,
Linquis, & æternam fati te condis in umbram!
Vidi egomet duro graviter concussa dolore
Pectora, in alterius non unquám lenta dolorem;
Et languere oculos vidi & pallescere amantem
Vultum, quo nunquam Pietas nisi rara, Fidesqb
Altus amor Veri, & purum spirabat Honestum.
Visa tamen tardi demúm inclementia morbi
Cessare est, reducemqb iterúm roseo ore Salutem
Speravi, atqb uná tecum, dilecte Favonî,
Credulus heu longos, ut quondam, fallere Soles.
Heu spes nequicquam dulces, atqb irrita vota,
Heu mæstos Soles, sine te quos ducere flendo
Per desideria, & questus jam cogor inanes!
At tu, sancta anima, & nostri non indiga luctûs
Stellanti templo, sinceriqb ætheris igne
Unde orta es, fruere. atqb oh si secura, nec ultrá
Mortalis, notos olím miserata labores
Respectes, tenuesqb vacet cognoscere curas:
Humanam si forté altâ de sede procellam
Contemplere, metus, stimulosqb cupidinis acres,
Gaudiaqb & gemitus, parvoqb in corde tumultum
Irarum ingentem, & sævos sub pectore fluctus:
Respice & has lachrymas, memori quas ictus amore
Fundo; quod possum, proptér lugere sepulchrum
Dum juvat, & mutæ vana hæc jactare favillæ.

P: S: My Love to the Chutheds. pray tell 'em I am learning Whisk, & have sent one of my old Gowns to be made up into full-bottom'd Hoods ... Compliments to Mrs Tr–cy ...

Adieu, Sr, I am
Yours ever
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0149 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 30
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 29


Date of composition: [8 February 1747]
Date (on letter): Sunday-
Calendar: Julian


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


Languages: English, Latin
Incipit: I had been absent from this Place a few Days, & at my Return...
Mentioned: Agrippina, a Tragedy
De Principiis Cogitandi. Liber Primus. Ad Favonium.
Ashton, Thomas, 1715-1775
Chute, John, 1701-1776
Cibber, Colley
Pope, Alexander
Spence, Joseph
Waterland, Dr. Daniel
West, Richard, 1716-1742

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/42, College Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge , Cambridge, 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, letter iv, section iv, 182-185
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter IV, vol. i, 296-298
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XI, vol. ii, 172-175
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXIV, vol. i, 141-143
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XVI, vol. iii, 32-35
  • 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. LXXVI, vol. i, 163-165
  • 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, 144-146
  • 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. 162, vol. ii, 69-75
  • 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, 13-18
  • 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. 131, vol. i, 264-268