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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [c. December 1734]

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The Honble Horatio]
Wal[pole Esq
at the house of t]he right [honble Sr Robert Wal]pole
in [St James's Square Lond]on

Præscript: you don't send me word when you think you shall come to Sarag:
Dear Dimidium animæ meæ

As you take a great deal of pleasure in concluding that I am dead, & resolve not to let me live any longer; methinks you ought to be good to my Ashes, & give 'em leave to rest in peace: but instead of that, whereas I ought to be divested of all human Passions, & forget the Pleasures of your World; you must needs be diverting me, so that I made every nail in my Coffin start with laughing: it happen'd, that on the 26th Instant at twelve of the clock at midnight, being a hard frost; I had wrapt myself up in my Shroud very snugg & warm; when in comes your Letter, which (as I told you before) made me stretch my Skeleton-jaws in such a horse-laugh, that all the dead pop'd up their heads & stared: but to see the frowzy Countenances of the Creatures especially one old Lady-Carcase, that made most hideous Grimaces, & would needs tell me, that I was a very uncivil Person to disturb a Woman of her Quality, that did me the honour to lie so near me: & truly she had not been in such a Surprise, this threescore & ten Year, come next March: besides her Commode was discomposed, & in her hurry she had lost her Wedding Ring, which she was buried in; nay, she said, she believed she should fall in fits, & certainly, that would be her Death: but I gave her a Rowland for her Oliver, 'i'gad: I told her Ladyship the more she stirred, the more she'd stink & that to my knowledge, tho' she put a good face upon the matter; she was not sound: so she lay'd her down very quietly, and crept under her Winding-Sheet for fear of Spirits. now your Arrival only can deliver me from such a state of Separation; for, as your Soul is large enough to serve for both of us, it will be ill-natured of you, if you don't reanimate my Corps: at least I hope for a place in your heart, as formerly: tho', by your last letter, but one; it seems, you have either forgot yourself, or entertain a less favourable Opinion of me, than that; with which you once honoured

your friend, the Defunct ...

As my letter ends so prettily in that p[...]

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Letter ID: letters.0005 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 18
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 17


Date of composition: [c. December 1734]
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): From St Peters Charnel-house
Place of addressee: [London, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: [To / The Honble Horatio] / Wal[pole Esq / at the house of t]he right [honble Sr Robert Wal]pole / in [St James's Square Lond]on


Languages: English, Latin
Incipit: As you take a great deal of pleasure in concluding that I am dead...

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/5, 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. 5, vol. i, 15-17
  • 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, 68-70
  • 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. 5, vol. i, 11-12