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Thomas Gray to Richard West, [December 1738]

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As I know you are a lover of Curiosities, I send you the following, which is a true & faithful Narrative of what passed in my Study on Saturday the 16th, instant. I was sitting there very tranquil in my chair, when I was suddenly alarmd with a great hubbub of Tongues. In the street, you suppose? No! in my Study, Sir. In your Study say you? Yes & between my books, which is more. For why should not books talk as well as Crabs & Mice & files & Serpents do in Esop. But as I listend with great attention so as to remember what I heard pretty exactly, I shall set down the whole conversation as methodically as I can, with the names prefixd.

Mad: Sevigné. . Mon cher Aristote! do get a little farther or you'll quite suffocate me.

Aristotle. . Οὐδέποτε γυνὴ &=unk; .. I have as much right to be here as you, and I shan't remove a jot.

M. Sevigné. . Oh! the brute! here's my poor Sixth tome is squeezed to death: for God's sake, Bussy, come & rescue me.

Bussy Rabutin. . Ma belle Cousine! I would fly to your assistance. Mais voici un Diable de Strabon qui me tue: I have nobody in my neighbourhood worth conversing with here but Catullus.

Bruyere. . Patience! You must consider we are but books & so can't help ourselves. for my part, I wonder who we all belong to. We are a strange mixture here. I have a Malebranche on one Side of me, and a Gronovius on t'other.

Locke. . Certainly our owner must have very confusd ideas, to jumble us so strangely together. he has associated me with Ovid & Ray the Naturalist.

Virgil. . 'Me vero primum dulces ante omnia Musæ Accipiant!'

Hen: More. . Of all the Speculations that the Soul of Man can entertain herself withall; there is none of greater Moment than this of her immortality.

Cheyne. . Every Man after fourty is a fool or a Physician.

Euclid. . Punctum est, cujus nulla est –

Boileau. . Peste soit de cet homme avec son Punctum! I wonder any Man of Sense will have a Mathematician in his Study.

Swift. . In short let us get the Mathematicians banishd first; the Metaphysicians and Natural Philosophers may follow them. &c.

Vade Mecum. . Pshaw! I and the Bible are enough for any one's library.

This last ridiculous Egotism made me laugh so heartily that I disturbd my poor books & they talk'd no more.

Letter ID: letters.0064 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 22
Addressee: West, Richard, 1716-1742
Addressee's age: 22[?]


Date of composition: [December 1738]
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: [London, United Kingdom]


Languages: English, Latin
Incipit: As I know you are a lover of Curiosities, I send you the following...
Mentioned: 'Vade Mecum'
Bussy, Comte de
Cheyne, George
Locke, John
Malebranche, Nicholas
More, Henry
Ray, John
Swift, Jonathan
Sévigné, Mme de

Holding Institution

Availability: The original letter is unlocated, a copy, transcription, or published version survives

Print Versions

  • Gray and his Friends: Letters and Relics, in great part hitherto unpublished. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1890, section II, letter no. 34, 154-155
  • 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. L, vol. i, 93-94
  • 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. 139, vol. ii, 17-19
  • 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. 58*, vol. i, 93-94