Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [c. 20 June 1760]
I heard yesterday from your old Friend Mr. Field, that Mrs Wharton had brought you a Son, & as I sincerely hope this may be some addition to your happiness, I heartily congratulate you both on the occasion. another thing I rejoice in is, to know, that you not only grow reconciled to your scene, but discover beauties round you, that once were deformities. I am persuaded the whole matter is to have always something going forward. happy they, that can create a rose-tree, or erect a honey-suckle, that can watch the brood of a Hen, or see a fleet of their own ducklings launch into the water! it is with a sentiment of envy I speak it, who never shall have even a thatch'd roof of my own, nor gather a strawberry but in Covent-Garden. I will not believe in the vocality of Old-Park till next summer, when perhaps I may trust my own ears.
I remain (bating some few little excursions, that I have made) still in Town, tho' for these three weeks I have been going into Oxfordshire with Madam Speed; but her affairs, as she says, or her vagaries, as I say, have obliged her to alter her mind ten times within that space: no wonder, for she has got at least 30,000£ with a house in Town, plate, jewels, china, & old-japan infinite, so that indeed it would be ridiculous for her to know her own mind. I, who know mine, do intend to go to Cambridge, but that Owl Fobus is going thither to the Commencement, so that I am forced to stay till his Nonsense is at an end. Chapman you see is dead at last, wch signifies not much, I take it, to any body, for his family (they say) are left in good circumstances. I am neither sorry, nor glad, for M: (I doubt) will scarce succeed to his Prebend. the old Creature is down at Aston, where my Lord has paid him a visit lately, as the Town says, in a Miff, about the garter, & other Frumps, he has met with of late. I believe, this at least is certain, that he has deserted his old attachments, & worships another Idol, who receives his incense with a good deal of coldness & negligence.
I can tell you but little of St Germain. he saw Mons:r D'Affry at the Hague, who in a day or two (on receiving a Courier from his own Court) ask'd the State's leave to apprehend him, but he was gone, & arrived safe in St Mary-Ax, where he had lodgings (I fancy) at his old Friend La-Cour's, the Jew-Physician. after some days a Messenger took charge of him, & he was examined (I believe), before Mr Pitt. they however dismissed him, but with orders to leave England directly, yet I know care was taken, that he should be furnish'd with proper passports to go safe thro' Holland to Hamb'rough: wch gives some room to believe, what many at first imagined, that he was charged with some proposal from the French Court. he is a likely Person enough to make them believe at Paris, that he could somehow serve them on such an occasion.
We are in great alarms about Quebec. the force in the Town was not 3000 Men, sufficient to defend the place (naturally strong) against any attack of the French forces, unfurnish'd as they must be for a formal siege: but by no means to meet them in the field. this however is what Murray has chose to do, whether from rashness, or deceived by false intelligence, I can not tell. the returns of our loss are undoubtedly false, for we have above 100 Officers kill'd or taken. all depends upon the arrival of our Garrison from Louïsbourg, wch was daily expected, but even that (unless they bring provisions with them) may increase the distress, for at the time, when we were told of the plenty & cheapness of all things at Quebec, I am assured, a piece of fresh meat could not be had for 20 Guineas.
If you have seen Stonhewer he has probably told you of my old Scotch (or rather Irish) Poetry. I am gone mad about them. they are said to be translations (literal & in prose) from the Erse-tongue, done by one Macpherson, a young Clergyman in the High-lands. he means to publish a Collection he has of these Specimens of antiquity, if it be antiquity: but what plagues me is, I can not come at any certainty on that head. I was so struck, so extasié with their infinite beauty, that I writ into Scotland to make a thousand enquiries. the letters I have in return are ill-wrote, ill-reason'd, unsatisfactory, calculated (one would imagine) to deceive one, & yet not cunning enough to do it cleverly. in short, the whole external evidence would make one believe these fragments (for so he calls them, tho' nothing can be more entire) counterfeit: but the internal is so strong on the other side, that I am resolved to believe them genuine, spite of the Devil & the Kirk. it is impossible to convince me, that they were invented by the same Man, that writes me these letters. on the other hand it is almost as hard to suppose, if they are original, that he should be able to translate them so admirably. what can one do? since St:r went, I have received another of a very different & inferior kind (being merely descriptive) much more modern than the former (he says) yet very old too; this too in it's way is extremely fine. in short this Man is the very Demon of Poetry, or he has lighted on a treasure hid for ages. the Welch Poets are also coming to light: I have seen a Discourse in Mss. about them (by one Mr Evans, a Clergyman) with specimens of their writings. this is in Latin, &, tho' it don't approach the other, there are fine scraps among it.
You will think I am grown mighty poetical of a sudden; you would think so still more, if you knew, there was a Satyr printed against me & Mason jointly. it is call'd Two Odes: the one is inscribed to Obscurity (that is me) the other to Oblivion. it tells me what I never heard before, for (speaking of himself) the Author says, tho' he has
Nor the Pride, nor Self-Opinion,
That possess the happy Pair,
Each of Taste the fav'rite Minion,
Prancing thro' the desert air:
Yet shall he mount, with classick housings graced,
By help mechanick of equestrian block;
And all unheedful of the Critick's mock
Spur his light Courser o'er the bounds of Taste.
The writer is a Mr Coleman, who publish'd the Connoisseur, nephew to the late Lady Bath, & a Friend of Garrick's. I believe his Odes sell no more than mine did, for I saw a heap of them lie in a Bookseller's window, who recommended them to me as a very pretty thing.
If I did not mention Tristram to you, it was because I thought I had done so before. there is much good fun in it, & humour sometimes hit & sometimes mist. I agree with your opinion of it, & shall see the two future volumes with pleasure. have you read his Sermons (with his own comic figure at the head of them)? they are in the style I think most proper for the Pulpit, & shew a very strong imagination & a sensible heart: but you see him often tottering on the verge of laughter, & ready to throw his perriwig in the face of his audience. now for my season.
|April||10. I observed the Elm putting out.|
|12. That, & the Pear look'd green. Therm: at 62.|
|13. very fine. White-Poplar & Willow put out.|
|15. Standard-Pear (shelter'd) in full bloom.|
|18. Lime & Horn-beam green.|
|19. Swallows flying.|
|20. Th: at 60. Wd S:W: Sky-Lark, Chaffinch, Thrush, Wren, & Robin singing. Horse-Chesnut, Wild-Bryar, Bramble, & Sallow had spread their leaves. Haw-thorn & Lilac had form'd their blossoms. Black-thorn, double-flower'd Peach, & Pears in full bloom. Double-Jonquils, Hyacinths, Anemones, single-Wallflowers & Auriculas in flower. in the fields Dog-Violets, Daisies, Dandelion, Buttercups, Red-Archangel, & Shepherd's Purse.|
|21. Almond out of bloom, & spreading its leaves.|
|26. Lilacs flowring.|
|May||1. Gentianella in flower.|
|2. Pear goes off. Apple blooms. Th: at 63. Wd N:E: still fair & dry.|
|3. Evening & all night hard rain.|
|4. Th: at 40. Wd N:E:, rain.|
|11. Very fine. Wd N:E: Horse-Chesnut in full bloom. Wall-nut & Vine spread. Lilacs, Persian Jasmine, Tulips, Wall-flowers, Pheasant-Eye, Lilly in the Valley in flower. in the fields, Furze, Cowslips, Hare-bells, & Cow-Parsnep.|
|May||13. Jasmine & Acacia spread. fine weather.|
|18. Showry. Wd high.|
|19. Same. Therm: at 56.|
|20. Thunder, Rain... 54.|
|21. Rain. Wd N:E:... 52.|
|31. Green Peas 15d a Quart.|
|June||1........ at 78.|
|2. Scarlet Strawberries, Duke-Cherries; hay-making here.|
|3. Wd S:S:E:, Therm: at 84 (the highest I ever saw it) it was at Noon.|
|since wch till last week we had hot dry weather. now it rains like mad. Cherries & Strawberries in bushels.|
I believe, there is no fear of War with Spain.
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Speed, Henrietta Jane, 1728-1783
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 132-134, 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, section iv, 278, 279-280, 287
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XL, vol. i, 390-391
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LXXXIX, vol. ii, 356-361
- The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXI, vol. ii, 56-58
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XCVII, vol. iii, 245-252
- 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. CCII, vol. ii, 143-148
- 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, 232-234
- 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. 313, vol. ii, 677-682