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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, 2 September 1760

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My Enquiries, & the Information I am able to give you in consequence of them, are as follows: if they amount to but little, thank yourself for applying to a sucking Antiquary.

Mr. Vertue's Mss (as I do not doubt, you have experienced) will often put you on a false scent. be assured, that Occleve's portrait of Chaucer is not, nor ever was in St John's Library: they have a Mss of the Troilus & Cressida without illuminations, & no other part of his works. in the University Library indeed there is a large volume with most of his works on vellum, & by way of frontispiece is (pasted in) a pretty old print taken (as it says) by Mr Speed from Occleve's original painting in the book De Regimine Principum. in the middle is Chaucer, a whole length; the same countenance, attitude, & dress, that Vertue gives you in the two heads, wch he has engraved of him. the border is composed of escutcheons of arms, all the alliances of the Chaucer Family, & at bottom the tomb of Thomas Chaucer & Maud Burghersh at Ewelm. the print & all the arms are neatly colour'd. I only describe this, because I never took notice of such a print any where else, tho' perhaps you may know it; for I suppose it was done for some of Speed's Works. about the painting I have a great puzzle in my head between Vertue, Mr. D'urry, & Bishop Tanner. Vertue (you know) has twice engraved Chaucer's head, once for D'urry's edition of his works, & a second time in the Set of Poet's Heads. both are done from Occleve's painting: but he never tells us, where he found the painting, as he generally uses to do. D'urry says, there is a portrait of Chaucer (doubtless a whole length, for he describes his port & stature from it), in possession of George Greenwood, Esq. of Chastleton in Gloucestershire. a little after he too mentions the picture by Occleve, but whether the same, or not, does not appear. Tanner in his Bibliotheca, (Artic: Chaucer, see the notes) speaks of Occleve's painting too, but names another work of his (not the De Regim. Principum) & adds, that it is in the King's Library at Westminster: if so, you will certainly find it in the Museum, & Casley's Catalogue will direct you to the place.

Of the Profile of Dr Keys there is only a Copy in his College: but there is a Portrait of him (not in profile) a good picture, & undoubtedly original, a half-figure upon board, dated Anno 1563, æt. suæ 53. There are 14 Latin verses inscribed on it, containing a character of him, as a Scholar & excellent Physician, & thus much more

Qui Cantabrigiæ Gonvilli incæpta minuta
auxit, & e parvo nobile fecit opus;
Et qui Mausoleum Linacro donavit in æde,
quæ nunc de Pauli nomine nomen habet, &c:
Talis erat Caius, qualem sub imaginis umbrâ
Pæne hic viventem picta tabella refert.

At the corners is written Vivit Virtus, & Virtus Vivit, but no Painter's name. in the same room hangs an old picture (very bad at first, & now almost effaced by cleaning) of a Man in a slash'd doublet, dark curl'd hair & beard, looking like a Foreigner, holding a pair of Compasses, & by his side a Polyedron, made up of twelve pentagons. no name, or date. you will see presently, why I mention it.

The Vice-Chancellor (Burroughs, Master of Keys) tells me he very well knew Vertue. that in a book belonging to the board of Works he had discover'd John of Padua to be the architect of Somerset-house, & had found that he likewise built Long-leat for Sr John Thynne. that it was from the similitude of style in those buildings, & in the four Gates of Keys-College, he had imagined the latter to be also the work of John of Padua, & this was all the proof he had of it. upon looking at these gates I plainly see, that they might very well be the work of one Man. from the College-books I find, that the East-side, in wch are the Portæ Virtutis & Sapientiæ, was built in 1566, & 1567. these are joined by two long walls to the Porta Humilitatis, opening to the Street; & in the two walls are two little Dorick frontis-pieces, leading into gardens. all these are (I dare say) of one time, & shew the Roman Architecture reviving amongst us with little Columns & Pilasters, well enough proportion'd in themselves, & neatly executed, but in no proportion to the building they are meant to adorn. in the year 1575 are these words, Porta (quæ Honoris dicitur) & ad Scholas Publicas aperit) a lapide quadrato duroqb extruebatur, ad eam scilicet formam & effigiem, quam Doctor Caius (dum viveret) Architecto præscripserat, elaborata. this is the Gate (more ornamented than the rest, but in the same style) wch you remember: it cost 128£. 9s. 5d. N:B: Dr Caius died July 29, 1573.

In the same year, 1575, are these words: Positum est Joh: Caio ex alabastro monumentum summi decoris & artificii eodem in sacelli loco, quo corpus ejus antea sepeliebatur: cui præter insculpta illius insignia & annotatum ætatis obitusqb diem & annum (uti vivus executoribus ipse præceperat) duas tantummodo sententias has inscripsimus, Vivit post funera Virtus – Fui Caius. this Monument (made to stand upon the ground, but now raised a great deal above the eye on a heavy ugly base projecting from the wall) is a Sarcophagus with rib'd work & mouldings (somewhat antique) placed on a basement, supporting pretty large Corinthian columns of fine Alabaster, wch bear up an intablature, & form a sort of canopy over it. the Capitals are gilt, & the upper part both gilt & painted with ugly scrolls & compartments, à l'Elisabet; the rest is simple and well enough.

Charge of the Founder's Tomb finish'd in 1575.

For Alabaster & Carriage  10£. 10s. 0d.  
To Theodore, & others, for carving  33 .. 16 .. 5  
To Labourers  0 .. 18 .. 1  
Charges extraordinary  2 .. 0 .. 2  

Then in Anno 1576 are these words.

In Atrio Doctoris Caii Columna erecta est, eiqb miro artificio elaboratus, atqb in se 60 Horologia complexus imponitur, quem Theodorus Haveus Cleviensis Artifex egregius & insignis Architecturæ Professor fecit & insigniis (read, insignibus) eorum Generosorum qui tum in Collegio morabantur depinxit, et velut monumentum suæ erga collegium benevolentiæ eidem dedicavit. hujus in summitate lapidis constituitur ventilabrum ad formam Pegasi formatum.

This column is now destroy'd, with all its sun-dials. but when Loggan did his views of the colleges, the Pillar (tho' not the Dials) was still standing.

From all this I draw, that Theodore Haveus of Cleves, the Architect, Sculptor, Painter, & Diallist, did probably build the Porta Honoris (if not all the others) & having work'd many years for Dr Caius & the College, in gratitude left behind him his own picture.

In the Gallery at Emanuel are several pictures worth remarking, but not one name of a Painter to be found.

1. Archb:p Cranmer, head & hands (on board) in his tippet of martens, & seal-ring of his arms, æt: 57.

2. Sr Walter Mildmay (the Founder) whole length, black cap & long gown, book of statutes in his hand, pale & old. 1588. tolerably well done.

3. Sir Antony Mildmay, (his Son) 1596. whole length, doublet of gold tissue, black cloak, many jewels, high-crown'd hat hanging on a chair, armour lying on the floor, & a fine damask'd long pistol. letters on a table directed to hir Majestie's Ambassador. a carpet mightily finish'd.

4. Mrs Joyce Franklin, (a Benefactress) jolly woman above 40 with an enamel'd watch open in her hand. no date, dress of about Q: Mary's time. a head & hands.

5. Dr Hall, Bishop of Exeter, the great gold medal (representing the Synod of Dort) hanging in a chain about his neck. a head miserably done.

6. Effig: Rodulphi Simons, Architecti suâ ætate peritisimi, qui (præter plurima ædificia ab eo præclare facta) duo Collegia, Emanuelis hoc, Sidneii illud, extruxit integre: magnam etiam partem Trinitatis reconcinnavit amplissime. head, & hands with a great pair of compasses.

In St John's Library is what I take for the original of Lady Margaret, kneeling at her oratory under a state. it is hung at a great height, & spoil'd by damp & neglect, while the Master keeps very choicely in his Lodge a miserable copy of it. in the same Library is a very good whole length of Bp Williams, (while Lord Keeper) standing, & a carpet in it finish'd with great care; perhaps therefore by the same hand with that of Sr Ant: Mildmay. in the lodge is a very good old Picture, that used to be call'd Bp Fisher, but Dr Taylor has told them, it is Sr Antony Brown. what his reasons are, I can not tell, as he is not here: 'tis surely of Henry 8ths time, & a Layman; on a board split from top to bottom.

I sympathise with your Gout: it would be strange if I did not, with so many internal monitors as I carry about me, that hourly bid me expect it myself this autumn. yet it frights me to hear of both feet. what did you do, & in the night too, wch one foot only can make of equal duration with a night in Greenland?

I thank you for your anecdote about Sr W:r Raleigh, wch is very extraordinary.

What do you think of the Erse-Poems, now they are come out? I suppose your suspicions are augmented: yet (upon some farther enquiries I have made) Mr D:d Hume (the Historian) writes word, that 'their authenticity is beyond all question; that Adam Smith, the celebrated Professor at Glasgow, has assured him (who doubted too) that he had heard the Piper of the Argyleshire militia repeat all these & many more of equal beauty. that Major Mackay, the Laird & Lady of Macleod, & the Laird of Macfarline, the greatest Antiquarian in all their country, & others, who live in the Highlands very remote from each other, remember them perfectly well, & could not be acquainted with them, if they were not spread into every one's mouth there, & become in a manner national works.' this is certainly the only proof, that works preserved merely by tradition, & not in Manuscript, will admitt of.

Adieu, I have done at last. oh no! my defence of Sr T: Wyat is much at your service, but as it was the first thing I transcribed (when I was little versed in old hands) there probably may be mistakes, wch I could correct by comparing it with the Mss, were I in Town. I have also four long letters of his to the King (while he was Embassador) but, I doubt, you will scarce think them worth printing, as they contain no very remarkable facts, yet they help to shew the spirit, vigilance, & activity of the Man.

Look in Casley's Catalogue of the King's Library at 17. D. 4to. VI. 1. & you will find the Mss of Occleve & Painting of Chaucer.

Letter ID: letters.0369 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 43
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 43


Date of composition: 2 September 1760
Date (on letter): Sept: 2. 1760
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 3 pages


Language: English
Incipit: My Enquiries, & the Information I am able to give you in consequence...
Mentioned: Catalogue of the MSS. of the King's Library
Casley, David
Chaucer, Geoffrey
Hall, Joseph
John of Padua
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Occleve, Thomas
Smith, Adam
Speed, John
Tanner, Thomas
Urry, John
Vertue, George
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

Holding Institution

Availability: The original letter is unlocated, a copy, transcription, or published version survives; a photostat is in MS. Toynbee c.2, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, vol. v, 199-216
  • 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, appendix II, vol. iii, 325-341
  • 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, 239-241
  • The Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, West and Ashton (1734-1771), 2 vols. Chronologically arranged and edited with introduction, notes, and index by Paget Toynbee. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1915, letter no. 215, vol. ii, 186-206
  • The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence. Ed. by W. S. Lewis. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP; London: Oxford UP, 1937-83, vols. 13/14: Horace Walpole's Correspondence with Thomas Gray, Richard West and Thomas Ashton i, 1734-42, Horace Walpole's Correspondence with Thomas Gray ii, 1745-71, ed. by W. S. Lewis, George L. Lam and Charles H. Bennett, 1948, vol. ii, 107-116
  • 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. 320, vol. ii, 696-703