Thomas Gray to Edward Bedingfield, [29 April 1756]
I do not doubt but before this time You have made many reflections on my caprice, or extreme unpoliteness, in giving no sign of gratitude, or even of bare sensibility, to your very obliging Letter. but I shall throw part of the fault on you, for only consider how embarassing it is, to receive the highest applause, (& that given with an air of sincerity) without either exposing one's own pride quite naked, or affecting to cover it with an aukward humility, wch every body has eyes to see through. in short I hope You very accurately informed yourself of my age, before you ventured to treat me so, for had I been some years younger, it might have turn'd my head. as it is, I find myself still young enough to tast the sweets of praise (and to like the taste too) yet old enough not to be intoxicated with them. to own the truth, they give me spiritis, but I begin to wonder, they should hurt any body's health, when we can so easily dash them with the bitter salutary drop of misery & mortality, that we always carry about us. I well remember the honour You did me in expressing so kind a prejudice & partiality for one as yet unknown to you, as to offer him your Friendship. I own it is difficult to excuse my silence here, & therefore I will trust this part of my cause to your humanity. begin to exercise your Good-Will to me by bearing with that natural gloom & heaviness of temper, that hangs about me. when we are better acquainted, I fear you will meet with many more essential faults to exercise your indulgence upon.
You must indulge me too in another instance of less importance. that Ode, wch has been mention'd to you under the name of the Powers of Poetry I should very readily shew you, whenever we meet, & be glad to ask your opinion of it: but I can convey it to you no other way than by the Post, wch is not to be depended upon, & I have been already threaten'd with publication, tho' there are no more than three copies of it in the world. to abate your curiosity I assure you it is very incorrect, & being wrote by fits & starts at very distant intervals is so unequal that it will hardly admit of particular corrections. You may believe me, for I pretend to judge of myself with tolerable impartiality. you call it celebrated, but its celebrity is only owing to its being yet unpublish'd. I have written part of another, wch intends to be much better, but my Inspiration is very apt to fail me before I come to a conclusion. I desire to know your opinion of Mr Mason's four new Odes. you will see, that He is a particular Friend of mine, from reading them: yet I expect your judgement upon them & that of your best Northern Criticks, if there be any Criticks there. provided You shew yourself noble & forgive my long inactivity, I will repay your Criticism in Poetry, but it must be Latin, for I too wrote Latin once upon a time.
My Compliments have now a sort of right to wait upon Lady Swinburne, whose former politeness I well remember'd, & whose invitation I should gladly embrace if I had the good fortune of seeing York again. there is another Lady I dare not present my respects to, unless You will introduce & recommend them for me.
Dr Long (in whose College I now reside, for I have left Peter-House) desires me to make his Compts to You.
Your most obedt Servant
HM 21911, Huntington Manuscripts, Department of Manuscripts, The Huntington , San Marino, CA, USA <https://www.huntington.org/library-collections>