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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 5 August 1763

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Dear Doctor

You may well wonder at my long taciturnity: I wonder too, & know not what cause to assign, for it is certain, I think of you daily. I believe, it is owing to the nothingness of my history, for except six weeks that I pass'd in Town towards the end of spring, & a little jaunt to Epsom & Box-Hill, I have been here time out of mind in a place, where no events grow, tho' we preserve those of former days by way of Hortus Siccus in our libraries. my slumbers were disturbed the other day by an unexpected visit from Mr. W: who dined with me, seem'd mighty happy for the time he stay'd, & said he could like to live here: but hurried home in the evening to his new Gallery, wch is all Gothicism, & gold, & crimson, & looking-glass. he has purchased at an auction in Suffolk ebony-chairs & old moveables enough to load a waggon.

Mason & I have received letters from Count Algarotti, Chambellan de sa Majeste le Roi de Prusse, with observations, (that is panegyricks) on our Tragedies & our Odes, & a present of certain Italian Dissertations, wch he has lately publish'd on the state of Painting and Musick. one of them is dedicated to Mr. Pitt, whom he styles – Uomo immortale, e Restitutore d'Inghilterra, Amico del gran Federigo.

I was in Town, when Mr Middleton died, & immediately got all the information I could (first from St:r & then from your Brother) of the dispositions he had made. I suppose, they are as good as you expected, & tho' the prospect is but small, that you should enjoy the benefit of them in your own person, yet that is not impossible; & your Son (I think) stands a very good chance, wch can not chuse but open an agreeable prospect to you, in wch I take a part, & congratulate you both upon it. I doubt you have not read Rousseau's Emile: every body that has children, should read it more than once, for tho' it abounds with his usual glorious absurdity, tho' his general scheme of education be an impracticable chimera: yet there are a thousand lights struck out, a thousand important truths better express'd than ever they were before, that may be of service to the wisest Man. particularly I think he has observed children with more attention & knows their meaning & the working of their little passions better than any other Writer. as to his religious discussions, wch have alarmed the world, & engaged their thoughts more than any other part of his book, I set them all at nought, & wish they had been omitted. Mrs Jonathan told me, you begun your evening-prayer as soon as I was gone, & that it had a great effect upon the congregation: I hope you have not grown weary of it, nor lay it aside, when company comes. poor Mrs. Bonfoy (who taught me to pray) is dead. she struggled near a week against the Iliac Passion (I fear) in great torture with all her senses about her, & with much resolution took leave of her physician some days before she expired, & would suffer no one to see her afterwards but common Servants.

You describe Winston con tanto amore, that I take it amiss I was not suffer'd to see it, & want to be buried there too. but enough of death! I have forgot to tell you that Dr. Long has had an audience of the K: & Queen an hour long at Buckingham-House. his errand was to present them with a Lyricord (such a one!) of his own making, & a glass-sphere: he had long been solliciting this honour, wch Ld Bute at last procured him, & he is very happy. the K: told him, he bid fair for a century of life at least; ask'd him, whether he preach'd; why he did not write verses in the Cambridge Collection; & what not? The Q. spoke French to him, & ask'd, how he liked Handel?

And I ask you, how you like the present times? whether you had not rather be a Printer's Devil, than a Secretary of State? you are to expect (I hear) a new Ministry, composed of the Earl of Shelburne, Mr Rigby, Duke & Dutchess of Bedford, Earl Gower, &c. which doubtless will give universal satisfaction. the great Ld Holland, who is at Paris, being lately asked by a young Man, who was returning home, whether he had any commands in England, made no reply but by shrugging up his shoulders, & fetching a deep sigh.

I kept an exact account of Heat & Cold in the Spring here: the sum & substance of wch is, that (at 9 in the morning) on the 18th of January, the Therm: was at 31, & the small birds were so tame you might take them up with your hand. this was the greatest cold. on the 15th of April it was at 58, & the same afternoon at 65, wch was the greatest heat from Jan: 1 to May 1st.

Feb.  3. Snowdrops flower'd.  
...  12. Crocus & Hepatica fl:, the snow then lieing, & Therm: at 45.  
...  18. Chaffinch sings. Bees appear.  
...  21. White butterfly abroad.  
25. Gnats flie, & large Flies. Mezereon fl:  
27. Honeysuckle & Gooseberry unfold their leaves.  
March  1. Violet flowers (in the garden). Rose opens its leaf.  
...  3. Daffodil & single Hyacinth fl: Spider spins.  
5. Thrush singing.  
6. Elder in leaf, Currant & Weeping Willow in l:  
8. Apricot blows. Sky-Lark singing.  
11. Wind very high at S:E:, wch continued with hard frost.  
16. Frost gone.  
18. Abricot in full bloom.  
19. Almond flowers. Lilac, Barberry, & Gelder-rose in leaf.  
April  2. Standard-Abricot, & Wall-Pears flower. Quince, Apple, and Sweet-briar, in leaf. Currant flowers. Dutch-Elm opens its leaf.  
4. Plumb in leaf.  
5. Crown Imperial fl:  
6. Plumb flowers. Hawthorn, Horse-Chesnut, Mountain-Ash, in leaf.  
9. Lime-tree in leaf. Jonquil & single Anemone flower. Lady-birds seen.  
11. Cowslip flowers, & Auricula. Swallow appears. young Rooks caw in the nest.  
14. Red-Start appears. Cherries in full bloom.  
15. Frontignac Vine in leaf. Double Wall-flower blows.  
16. Nightingale sings. Apple blossoms.  
19. Chaffinch & Red-Start sit on their eggs.  
20. Elm, Willow, & Ash, in flower (with the Black-thorn) Hawthorn in full leaf.  
21. Sycomore quite green. Oak puts out.  

Pray present my respects to Mrs & Miss Wharton.

I am ever
Sincerely Yours.

We have nothing but rain & thunder of late.

Letter ID: letters.0426 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 46
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 46[?]


Date of composition: 5 August 1763
Date (on letter): Aug: 5. 1763
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 3 pages, 226 mm x 185 mm


Language: English
Incipit: You may well wonder at my long taciturnity: I wonder too, & know not...
Mentioned: Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Rousseau, Jean Jacques
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 160-161, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • 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 xlvii, section iv, 303
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XLVII, vol. i, 405
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CVIII, vol. ii, 413-417
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXIX, vol. ii, 75-76
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXIX, vol. iv, 9-14
  • 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. CCLIII, vol. iii, 15-20
  • 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, 259
  • 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. 373, vol. ii, 805-809