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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 23 January 1760

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Dear Doctor

I am much obliged to you for your antique News: Froissard is a favourite book of mine (tho' I have not attentively read him, but only dip'd here & there) & it is strange to me that People who would give thousands for a dozen Portraits (Originals of that time) to furnish a gallery, should never cast an eye on so many moving pictures of the life, actions, manners, & thoughts of their Ancestors done on the spot, & in strong, tho' simple colours. in the succeeding Century Froissard (I find) was read with great satisfaction by every body, that could read; & on the same footing with King Arthur, Sr Tristram, & Archbishop Turpin: not because they thought him a fabulous Writer, but because they took them all for true and authentic Historians. to so little purpose was it in that age for a Man to be at the pains of writing truth! pray, are you come to the four Irish Kings, that went to school to K: Richard the 2d.'s Master of the Ceremonies; & the Man, who informed Froissard of all he had seen in St Patrick's Purgatory?

You ask after Quebec. Gen: Townsend says, it is much like Richmond-Hill, & the River as fine (but bigger) & the Vale as riant, as rich, & as well cultivated. no great matters are attributed to his conduct. the Officer, who brought over the news, when the Pr: of W: ask'd, how long Gen: T: commanded in the action after Wolfe's death? answer'd, a Minute, Sr. it is certain, he was not at all well with Wolfe, who for some time had not cared to consult with him, or communicate any of his designs to him. he has brought home an Indian Boy with him (design'd for Ld G: Sackville, but he did not chuse to take him) who goes about in his own dress, & is brought into the room to divert his company. the Gen:l after dinner one day had been shewing them a box of scalps & some Indian arms & utensils. when they were gone, the Boy got to the box & found a scalp, wch he knew by the hair belong'd to one of his own nation. he grew into a sudden fury (tho' but eleven years old) & catching up one of the scalping-knives made at his Master with intention to murther him, who in his surprise hardly knew how to avoid him, & by laying open his breast, making signs, & with a few words of French Jargon, that the Boy understood, at last with much difficulty pacified him. the first rejoicing night he was terribly frighted, and thought the bonefire was made for him, & that they were going to torture & devour him. he is mighty fond of venison blood-raw; & once they caught him flourishing his knife over a dog that lay asleep by the fire, because (he said) it was bon manger.

You have heard of the Irish disturbances (I reckon). never were two Houses of Parliament so bepiss'd & shit upon: this is not a figure, but literally so. they placed an old Woman on the Throne, & called for pipes & tobacco; made my Lord Chief-Justice administer an oath (wch they dictated) to my Ld Chancellor; beat the Bp of Killaloe black & blew; play'd at football with Chenevix, the old refugié Bp of Waterford; roll'd my Ld Farnham in the Kennel; pulled Sr Tho: Prendergast by the nose (naturally large) till it was the size of a Cauliflower; & would have hanged Rigby, if he had not got out of a window. all this time the Castle remain'd in perfect tranquillity. at last the Guard was obliged to move (with orders not to fire) but the Mob threw dirt at them. then the Horse broke in upon them, cutting & slashing, and took 17 prisoners: next morning they were all set at liberty, & said to be poor silly people, that knew nothing of the matter. the same night there was a Ball at the Castle, & Play till four in the morning. this tumult happen'd two days before the news of Hawke's victory got to Dublin; & there was another some time before, when first it was known that the Brest-Fleet had sail'd. warning was given (from the best hands in England) six weeks before that time, that there would be a rising of the Papists in Ireland; & the first person, whom the Mob insulted, was a Mr Rowley, a Member always in opposition to the Court, but a Presbyterian. it is strange (but, I am assured, true) that the Government have not yet received any account of the matter from thence, & all the Irish here are ready to fight a Man, that says there has been any riot at all at Dublin. the notion, that had possess'd the crowd, was, that a Union was to be voted between the two Nations, & they should have no more Parliaments there.

Prince F: has done a strange thing in Germany. we have always studiously avoided doing anything to incur the Ban of the Empire. he has now (without waiting for commands from hence) detach'd 14000 Men, the Flower of his flock, to assist the K: of Prussia in Saxony against the Empress-Queen & the Empire. the old Gentleman does not know how to digest it after giving him 2000£ a year on the Irish Establishment, & 20000£ for the Battle of Minden (not out of his own pocket; don't mistake: but out of yours under the head of Extraordinaries). a great Fleet is preparing, & an expedition going forward; but nobody knows whereto: some say Martinico, others Minorca. all thought of a Congress is vanish'd, since the Empress has shew'd herself so cool to our proposal.

Mr. Pitt (not the Great, but the little one, my acquaintance) is setting out on his travels. he goes with my Ld Kinnoul to Lisbon; then (by Sea still) to Cales, then up the Guadalquivir to Seville & Cordova, & so perhaps to Toledo, but certainly to Granada; and after breathing the perfumed air of Andalusia, & contemplating the remains of Moorish Magnificence, reembarks at Gibraltar or Malaga, & sails to Genoa. sure an extraordinary good way of passing a few winter-months, & better than dragging thro' Holland, Germany, & Switzerland, to the same place. now we have been contriving to get my Ld Str: (for whose advantage it will be in several respects) to bear a part in this expedition, & today we have brought it about, and they will go in a fortnight: but this is a secret, & you must not tell, for fear my Lady should be frighted at so much Sea.

The Attorney and Sollic:r General (to whom it was refer'd) have declared that Ld G: S: may be tried by a Court-Martial. Ld H:sse has wrote him a letter to inform him of this, & desires to know (these are the words) how his Ldp would have them proceed, as there is no specific charge against him. I am told, he has answer'd, that he cannot pretend to prescribe how a Court, that sits in judgement upon him, is to proceed against him. that he well knows, nothing can justly be alledged against him; but doubts not from Pr: Ferdinand's treatment of him, that there was some charge against him, especially as he finds himself dismiss'd from all his employments. I hear too, that (whatever the Lawyers have said) the General Officers insist, they will not have any thing to do with his cause, as he is no longer of the Army. so (I suppose) after a little bustle the matter will drop.

Here is a new Farce of Macklin the Player's, that delights the Town much, Love a-la-Mode. a Beau-Jew, an English Gentleman-Jockey, a Scotch Baronet, & an Irish Officer in the Prussian-Service, that make love to a Merchant's Niece. the Irishman is the Heroe, & the happy Man, as he deserves; for Sr Reilichan O'Callaghan is a modest, brave, & generous Soldier; yet with the manners, the Brogue, & the understanding, of an Irishman, wch makes a new Character. the K: is so pleased with the Scotch Character (which is no complement to that nation) that he has sent for a copy of the piece, for it is not printed, to read.

I am sorry to hear, you have reason to complain of Mr Bell, because he seem'd to have some taste in Gothick, & it may not be easy to find such another. it is for my sake, not from your own judgement, that you see the affair I mention'd to you in so good a light; I wish, I could foresee any such consequences, as you do: but fear, it will be the very reverse, & so do others than I. the Musæum goes on as usual: I have got the Earl of Huntingdon & Sr Geo: Bowes's letters to Cecil about the Rebellion in the North. Heberden has married Miss Wollaston of Charterhouse-square this week, whom he formerly courted, but could not then afford to have; for she has (they say) but 2000£ fortune. I have not yet seen her.

My best respects to Mrs. Wharton.

I am ever
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0355 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 43
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 43[?]


Date of composition: 23 January 1760
Date (on letter): Thursday, [Wednesday] Jan: 23. 1760
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 4 pages, 202 mm x 158 mm


Language: English
Incipit: I am much obliged to you for your antique News: Froissard is a favourite...
Mentioned: Tristram
Dublin Castle
Froissart, John
Macklin, Charles
Malory, Sir Thomas
Richmond (Surrey)

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 128-129, 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, section iv, 277-278
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LXXXVI, vol. ii, 342-347
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XCIV, vol. iii, 230-236
  • 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. CXCVII, vol. ii, 117-126
  • 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, 228
  • 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. 308, vol. ii, 655-662