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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [30 November 1747]

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My Dear Wharton

I rejoice to hear you are safe arrived, tho' drawn by four wild Horses, like People one reads of in the Book of Martyrs. yet I can not chuse but lament your Condition, so coop'd up in the Elvet-House with Spirits & Hobgoblins about you, & Pleasure at one Entrance quite shut out; you must so much the more set open all the other Avenues to admit it, open your Folio's, open your De L'Isle, & take a Prospect of that World, wch the cruel Architect has hid from your corporeal Eyes, & confined 'em to the narrow Contemplation of your own Backside, & Kitchen Garden. Mr Keene has been here, but is now gone to Town for a little While, & returns to pass the Winter with us. we are tolerably gracious, & he speaks mighty well of you: but when I look upon his countenance & his Ways, I can never think of bestowing [Tuthill] upon him (tho' it were never so advantagious, & they both had a Mind to it) and so I have said nothing to either of them. I found, he had no Hopes of your Petition; & believe, you are right in thinking no farther of it. your Mention of Mr Vane, reminds me of poor Smart (not that I, or any other Mortal, pity him) about three Weeks ago he was arrested here at the Suit of a Taylor in London for a Debt of about 50£ of three Years standing. the College had about 28£ due to him in their Hands, the rest (to hinder him from going to the Castle, for he could not raise a Shilling) Brown, May, & Peele, lent him upon his Note. upon this he remain'd confined to his Room, lest his Creditors here should snap him; & the Fellows went round to make out a List of his Debts, wch amount in Cambridge to above 350£. that they might come the readier to some Composition, he was advised to go off in the Night, & lie hid somewhere or other. he has done so, & this has made the Creditors agree to an Assignment of 50£ per ann: out of his Income, wch is above 140£, if he lives at Cambridge (not else). but I am apprehensive, if this come to the Ears of Mr Vane he may take away the 40£ hitherto allowed him by the Duke of Cleveland; for before all this (last Summer) I know they talk'd of doing so, as Mr Smart (they said) was settled in the World. if you found an Opportunity, possibly you might hinder this (wch would totally ruin him now) by representing his Absurdity in the best Light it will bear: but at the same Time they should make this a Condition of its Continuance; that he live in the College, soberly, & within Bounds, for that upon any Information to the Contrary it shall be absolutely stop'd. this would be doing him a real Service, tho' against the Grain: yet I must own, if you heard all his Lies, Impertinence, & Ingratitude in this Affair, it would perhaps quite set you against him, as it has his only Friend (Mr Addison) totally. & yet one would try to save him, for Drunkenness is one great Source of all this, & he may change it. I would not tell this Matter in the North, were I you, till I found it was known by other Means. we have had an Opinion from the Attor:ny General in a manner directly contrary to the former. he does not seem to have been clear then; so that he may possibly not be so now. the Kings-Bench (he says) can take no Cognizance of it; the Visitor must do all, & he is the Vice-Chancellor by K: James's Charter, wch is good. this is sad indeed, & the Fellows, before they acquiesce in it, seem desirous of consulting Dr Lee, who is well acquainted with College-Matters.

Have you seen Lyttelton's Monody on his Wife's Death? there are Parts of it too stiff & poetical; but others truly tender & elegiac, as one would wish. Dodsley is publishing three Miscellaneous Volumes; some new, many that have been already printed. Lyttelton, Nugent, and G: West have given him several Things of theirs. Mr W: has given him three Odes of mine (wch you have seen before) & one of Mr West's (my Friend, who is dead) wch in Spite of the Subject is excellent: it is on the late Queen's Death. there is a Mr Archibald Bower, a Scotchman bred in Italy, Professour in three Universities there, & of the Inquisition. he was employed by the Court of Rome to write a History of the Popes. as he searched into the Materials, his Eyes were open'd: he came to England, has changed his Religion, & continues his Work in our Language under the Patronage of Mr Pitt, the Yorks, &c: the Preface is come out with the Proposals, & promises exceeding well. doubtless there is no part of History more curious, if it be well perform'd.

My best wishes wait upon Mrs. Wharton, and —. my Compliments to Miss Wharton, & to King Harry, the 8th – . Brown will write; [he's the ... little man and always ...]

Adieu, I am ever
T G:

P:S: I said something to Stonhewer, who (I believe) will do what he can. he is now in London.

Letter ID: letters.0161 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 30
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 30[?]


Date of composition: [30 November 1747]
Date (on letter): Nov: 30
Calendar: Julian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages, 235 mm x 183 mm


Language: English
Incipit: I rejoice to hear you are safe arrived, tho' drawn by four wild Horses, ...
Mentioned: Bower, Archibald
Brown, James, 1709-1784
Delisle, Claude
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Lyttelton, George Lyttelton, 1st Lord
Nugent, Robert
Smart, Christopher
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
West, Gilbert
West, Richard, 1716-1742

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 25-26, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XV, vol. ii, 183-186
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XXII, vol. iii, 47-50
  • 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. LXXX, vol. i, 169-174
  • 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, 150-151
  • 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. 143, vol. i, 290-294