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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [31 October 1734]

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The Honrble Horace Walpole Esq
at the house of the right Honrble Sr Robert Walpole
in St James's Square London

[           ]

For Gods sake send me your Quære's, & I'll do my best to get information upon those Points, you don't understand: I warrant, you imagine that People in one College, know the Customs of others; but you mistake, they are quite little Societies by themselves: ye Dresses, Language, Customs &c are different in different Colledges: what passes for Wit in one, would not be understood if it were carried to another: thus the Men of Peter-house, Pembroke & Clare-hall of course must be Tories; those of Trinity, Rakes; of Kings, Scholars; of Sidney, Wigs; of St Johns, Worthy men & so on: now what to say about this Terra Incognita, I don't know; First then it is a great old Town, shaped like a Spider, with a nasty lump in the middle of it, & half a dozen scambling long legs: it has 14 Parishes, 12 Colledges, & 4 Halls, these Halls only entertain Students, who after a term of years, are elected into the Colledges: there are 5 ranks in the University, subordinate to the Vice-chancellour, who is chose annually: these are [Masters, Fellows, Fellow-Commoners, Pensione]rs, , & Sizers; The Masters of Colledges are twelve grey-hair'd Gentlefolks, who are all mad with Pride; the Fellows are sleepy, drunken, dull, illiterate Things; the Fellow-Com: are imitatours of the Fellows, or else Beaux, or else nothing: the Pension: grave, formal Sots, who would be thought old; or else drink Ale, & sing Songs against ye Excise. The Sizers are Graziers Eldest Sons, who come to get good Learning, that they may all be Archbishops of Canterbury: these 2 last Orders are qualified to take Scholarships; one of which, your humble Servt has had given him: first they led me into the hall, & there I swore Allegiance to ye King; then I went to a room, where I took 50000 Latin Oaths, such as, to wear a Square Cap, to make 6 verses upon the Epistle or Gospel every Sunday morning, to chant very loud in Chappel, to wear a clean Surplice, &c: &c: Now as to eating: the Fellow-Com: dine at the Fellows Table, their Commons is worth 6s-4d a-week, the Pensioners pay but 2s-4d; if any body don't like their Commons, they send down into the Kitchen to know, what's for Sizing: the Cook sends up a Catalogue of what there is; & they chuse, what they please: they are obliged to pay for Commons, whither they eat it, or no: there is always Plenty enough: the Sizers feast upon the leavings of the rest; as to dress, the Fell: Commoners usually wear a Prunella Gown with Sleeves, a hat & no band; but their proper habit has its Sleeves trimmed with Gold-lace, this they only wear at publick Ceremonies; neither do the Noblemen use their pr: Habit commonly, but wear only a black Padesoy Gown: the Men of Kings are a sort of University by themselves; & differ in Customs from all the rest; every body hates 'em & when Almanzor comes to me, our Peoples stare at him, like a Lord-mayors Show, & wonder to see a human Creature among them: if I tell you, I never stirr out, perhaps you won't believe me; especially when you know, there's a Club of Wits kept at the Mitre, all such as come from Eton; where Alm: would introduce me, if I so pleased:–yet you will not think it strange, that I don't go abroad, when I tell you, that I am got into a room; such [a] hugeous one, that little i is quite lost in it; so [that] when I get up in the morning, I begin to travel [tow]ards the middle of it with might & main, & with much ado about noon bate at a great Table, which stands half-way it: so then, by that time, (after having pursued my journey full speed); that I arrive at the door, it is so dark & late, & I am so tired, that I am obliged to turn back again: so about Midnight I get to the bedside: then, thinks you, I suppose, he goes to sleep: hold you a bit; in this Country it is so far from that, that we go to bed to wake, & rise to sleep: in short, those that go along the street, do nothing but walk in their sleep: they run against every Post they meet: but I beg pardon, for talking so much of myself, since that's not, what you care for–(To be continued)

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Letter ID: letters.0002 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 17
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 17


Date of composition: [31 October 1734]
Date (on letter): [Oct 31]
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: [London, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: To / The Honrble Horace Walpole Esq / at the house of the right Honrble Sr Robert Walpole / in St James's Square London (postmark: CAMBRIDGE 1 NO)


Language: English
Incipit: For Gods sake send me your Quære's, & I'll do my best...
Mentioned: Ashton, Thomas, 1715-1775
West, Richard, 1716-1742

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/2, College Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge , Cambridge, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • 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. 2, vol. i, 4-7
  • 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. i, 57-60
  • 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. 2, vol. i, 3-5