Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 26 August 1766
Dr Wharton, M:D: at
Old-Park near Darlington
to be left at
Whatever my pen may do, I am sure my thoughts expatiate no where oftener or with more pleasure than to Old-Park. I hope you have made my peace with Miss Debo:. it is certain, whether her name were in my letter or not, she was as present to my memory, as the rest of the little family, & I desire you would present her with two kisses in my name, & one apiece to all the others: for I shall take the liberty to kiss them all (great & small) as you are to be my proxy.
In spite of the rain, wch I think continued with very short intervals till the beginning of this month, & quite effaced the summer from the year, I made a shift to pass May & June not disagreeably in Kent. I was surprised at the beauty of the road to Canterbury, wch (I know not why) had not struck me in the same manner before. the whole county is a rich & well-cultivated garden, orchards, cherry-grounds, hop-gardens, intermix'd with corn & frequent villages, gentle risings cover'd with wood, and every where the Thames & Medway breaking in upon the Landscape with all their navigation. it was indeed owing to the bad weather, that the whole scene was dress'd in that tender emerald-green, wch one usually sees only for a fortnight in the opening of spring, & this continued till I left the country. my residence was eight miles east of Canterbury in a little quiet valley on the skirts of Barham-down. in these parts the whole soil is chalk, and whenever it holds up, in half an hour it is dry enough to walk out. I took the opportunity of three or four days fine weather to go into the Isle of Thanet, saw Margate (wch is Bartholomew-Fair by the seaside) Ramsgate, & other places there, & so came by Sandwich, Deal, Dover, Folkstone, & Hithe back again. the coast is not like Hartlepool: there are no rocks, but only chalky cliffs of no great height, till you come to Dover. there indeed they are noble & picturesque, & the opposite coasts of France begin to bound your view, wch was left before to range unlimited by any thing but the horizon: yet it is by no means a shipless sea, but every where peopled with white sails & vessels of all sizes in motion; and take notice (except in the Isle, wch is all corn-fields, & has very little inclosure) there are in all places hedge-rows & tall trees even within a few yards of the beach, particularly Hithe stands on an eminence cover'd with wood. I shall confess we had fires of a night (ay, & a day too) several times even in June: but don't go & take advantage of this, for it was the most untoward year that ever I remember.
Your Friend Rousseau (I doubt) grows tired of Mr Davenport & Derbyshire. he has pick'd a quarrel with David Hume & writes him letters of 14 pages Folio upbraiding him with all his noirceurs. take one only as a specimen, he says, that at Calais they chanced to sleep in the same room together, & that he overheard David talking in his sleep, & saying, Ah! Je le tiens, ce Jean-Jacques lá. In short (I fear) for want of persecution & admiration (for these are his real complaints) he will go back to the continent.
What shall I say to you about the Ministry? I am as angry as a Common-council Man of London about my Ld Chatham: but a little more patient, & will hold my tongue till the end of the year. in the mean time I do mutter in secret & to you, that to quit the house of Commons, his natural strength; to sap his own popularity & grandeur (which no one but himself could have done) by assuming a foolish title; & to hope that he could win by it & attach to him a Court, that hate him, & will dismiss him, as soon as ever they dare, was the weakest thing, that ever was done by so great a Man. had it not been for this, I should have rejoiced at the breach between him & Ld Temple, & at the union between him & the D: of Grafton & Mr Conway: but patience! we shall see! St: perhaps is in the country (for he hoped for a month's leave of absence) & if you see him, you will learn more than I can tell you.
Mason is at Aston. he is no longer so anxious about his Wife's health, as he was, tho' I find she still has a cough, & moreover I find she is not with child: but he made such a bragging, how could one chuse but believe him.
When I was in town, I mark'd in my pocket-book the utmost limits & division of the two columns in your Thermometer, & ask'd Mr. Ayscough the Instrument-Maker on Ludgate Hill, what scales they were. he immediately assured me, that one was Fahrenheit's, & shew'd me one exactly so divided. the other he took for Reaumur's, but, as he said there were different scales of his contrivance, he could not exactly tell, wch of them it was. your Brother told me, you wanted to know, who wrote Duke Wharton's Life in the Biography: I think, it is chiefly borrowed from a silly book enough call'd Memoirs of that Duke: but who put it together there, no one can inform me. the only person certainly known to write in that vile collection (I mean these latter volumes) is Dr Nicholls, who was expell'd here for stealing books.
Have you read the New Bath-Guide? it is the only [thing] in fashion, & is a new & original kind of humour. Miss Prue's Conversion I doubt you will paste down, as Sr W: St Quintyn did, before he carried it to his daughter. yet I remember you all read Crazy Tales without pasting. Buffon's first collection of Monkies are come out (it makes the 14th volume) something, but not much, to my edification: for he is pretty well acquainted with their persons, but not with their manners.
I shall be glad to hear, how far Mrs Ettrick has succeeded, & when you see an end to her troubles. my best respects to Mrs. Wharton, & compliments to all your family: I will not name them, least I should affront any body.
I am most sincerely Yours,
Mr. Brown is gone to see his Brother near Margate. when is Ld Str: to be married? if Mr & Mrs Jonathan are with you, I desire my compliments.
Brown, James, 1709-1784
Buffon, Comte de
Conway, Henry Seymour, 1721-1795
Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Duke of, 1735-1811
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Rousseau, Jean Jacques
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Thanet, Isle of
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 174-175, 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, letter liii, section iv, 322-324
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter LIII, vol. i, 422-423
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXXVII, vol. ii, 473-476
- The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXXVIII, vol. ii, 103-105
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXXXVIII, vol. iv, 80-85
- 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. CCLXXXIV, vol. iii, 112-117
- 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. 423, vol. iii, 929-933