Thomas Gray to Edward Bedingfield, 31 January 1758
Having been for a little while in Huntingdonshire, on my return to this place I find a letter from you, the end of wch gives me much concern. I am very sorry we are at such a distance from one another, that it must be yet some time, before I can have any account of your health. if you are, as I flatter myself, recover'd, you will (I hope) do me the pleasure of letting me hear it without delay. if so much of your indisposition remain as to make writing at all troublesome to you, may I presume so far on the good-nature of Miss Swinburne, as to beg She would give me three lines of information. this young Lady has done me so great an honour already, as gives me courage to apply myself to her on this occasion. I preserve (& always shall preserve with great care) the beautiful little Specimen of her art, wch came inclosed in your letter. I am only sorry, that when I would shew & make my boast of it to eyes, that are worthy of that satisfaction, I shall be obliged to cover a part of it, & consequently to rob her of a part of her due praises. this is your fault (for I hope you did not explain the Latin inscription to her). however I return my thanks to you both, to Miss Sw: for all above board, & to You, for what only I am to see.
I go on (with the hope, that you are well enough to read me) to tell you, that I have lately received nine pages of anonymous criticism, containing a good deal both of praise & censure on the Bard only. if I thought fit to hear his opinion about the other, I was to direct to A: B: at a place, wch he told me. I have had the gratitude, or curiosity, or what you please to call it, to follow his direction, & now I have got six pages more, & his name (for that I insisted upon) yet am not much the wiser: however he is a Man of Letters & a good sensible Person, & depends upon no body, & has a little garden. this is all, that I know about him.
I will not send you the Sonnet you mention, but here is something else full as bad, only as it is just wrote, I send it you. it is an epitaph on the Wife of a Friend of mine.
A Friend, a Wife, a Mother sleeps,
A Heart, within whose sacred cell
Each peaceful Virtue lov'd to dwell,
Affection warm, & Faith sincere,
And soft Humanity, were there.
To hide her Cares her only art,
Her pleasure pleasures to impart.
In ling'ring pain, in death resign'd,
Her latest agony of mind
Was felt for him, who could not save
His All from an untimely grave:
Whom what awaits, while yet he strays
Along the lonely vale of days?
A pang to silent Sorrow dear,
A sigh, an unavailing tear,
Till Time shall ev'ry grief remove
With life, with mem'ry, & with love.
Your Friend & Servant
P:S: You should not shew this, because it is not yet inscribed, where it is intended. my best Compliments to the Ladies.
Clerke, John, 1717-1790
Sonnet [on the Death of Mr Richard West]
[Epitaph on Mrs Clerke]
HM 21917, Huntington Manuscripts, Department of Manuscripts, The Huntington , San Marino, CA, USA <https://www.huntington.org/library-collections>