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Thomas Gray to Richard Hurd, 25 August 1757

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Dear Sir –

I do not know why you should thank me for what you had a right and title to; but attribute it to the excess of your politeness, and the more so because almost no one else has made me the same compliment. As your acquaintance in the University (you say) do me the honour to admire, it would be ungenerous in me not to give them notice that they are doing a very unfashionable thing, for all people of condition are agreed not to admire, nor even to understand: one very great man, writing to an acquaintance of his and mine, says that he had read them seven or eight times, and that now, when he next sees him, he shall not have above thirty questions to ask. Another, a peer, believes that the last stanza of the Second Ode relates to King Charles the First and Oliver Cromwell. Even my friends tell me they do not succeed, and write me moving topics of consolation on that head; in short, I have heard of nobody but a player and a doctor of divinity that profess their esteem for them. Oh yes! a lady of quality, a friend of Mason's, who is a great reader. She knew there was a compliment to Dryden, but never suspected there was anything said about Shakspeare or Milton, till it was explained to her; and wishes that there had been titles prefixed to tell what they were about.

From this mention of Mason's name you may think, perhaps, we are great correspondents; no such thing; I have not heard from him these two months. I will be sure to scold in my own name as well as in yours. I rejoice to hear you are so ripe for the press, and so voluminous, –not for my own sake only, whom you flatter with the hopes of seeing your labours both public and private, – but for yours too, for to be employed is to be happy. This principle of mine, and I am convinced of its truth, has, as usual, no influence on my practice. I am alone and ennuyé to the last degree, yet do nothing; indeed I have one excuse; my health, which you so kindly enquire after, is not extraordinary, ever since I came hither. It is no great malady, but several little ones, that seem brewing no good to me.

It will be a particular pleasure to me to hear whether Content dwells in Leicestershire, and how she entertains herself there; only do not be too happy, nor forget entirely the quiet ugliness of Cambridge.

I am, dear sir,
Your friend and obliged humble servant.

If Mr. Brown falls in your way, be so good to shew him the beginning of this letter, and it will save me the labour of writing the same thing twice. His first letter, I believe, was in the mail that was robbed, for it was delayed many days; his second I have just received.

Letter ID: letters.0281 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 40
Addressee: Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Addressee's age: 37


Date of composition: 25 August 1757
Date (on letter): Aug: 25. 1757
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: I do not know why you should thank me for what you had a right and title to;...
Mentioned: Odes by Mr. Gray (1757)
Mason, William, 1724-1797

Holding Institution

MS 350, College Library, Eton College , Windsor, 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 xxvi, section iv, 249-251
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XXVI, vol. i, 357-359
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LXIII, vol. ii, 287-288
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter XCVII, vol. ii, 19-21
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter LXXI, vol. iii, 166-168
  • The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, with Letters to the Rev. James Brown, D.D. Ed. by the Rev. John Mitford. London: Richard Bentley, 1853, letter XXIII, 94-97
  • 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. CXLVII, vol. i, 346-347
  • 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. 247, vol. ii, 519-521