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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [14 January 1735]

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[T]he Honorble Mr Horace Walpole
[at] the House of ye right honble [S]r Robert Walpole
in St James's Square London

Tityre, dum patulæ recubo sub tegmine fagi

Though you'll think perhaps it's a little too cold weather for giving oneself languishing airs under a tree; however supposing it's by the fireside, it will be full as well; so as I was going to say –but, I believe, I was going to say nothing, so I must begin over again–
My Dearest Celadon

Yesterday morning, (being the morning I set apart for lying abed till one aclock) I was waked about ten with hollowing & the Noise of a Bagpipe at the door; so I got up, & open'd the door, & saw all the court full of strange appearances: at first I concluded 'twas you with a whole Masquerade at your heels, but upon more mature deliberation imagined it might be Amadis de Gaul come to set me free from this enchanted Castle with his train of conquer'd Monsters & Oddities: the first, whom I took for the Knight in person, had his face painted after the manner of ye ancient Britains. he played melodiously on the aforenamed Instrument, & had a Plow upon his Back; what it meant, I did not apprehend at first: he said nothing at all, but made many very significant Grimaces: before him & on each side a Number of Folks cover'd over with Tags & Points form'd themselves into a Country Dance: there follow'd something, which I apprehended was the beauteous Oriana, in a white Dimoty Petticoat & Boddice; her head & face were veil'd: she was supported by her two Gentlemen-ushers, & seem'd to be very obstreperous, for she struggled & kicked, & snorted, & fizzled: I concluded she was falling in fits, & was running with my Hungary water Bottle: when she was so violent, that she got loose from her Attendants, & run away upon all fours into the middle of ye Court, & her hood falling off discover'd a large pair of Ears. in short, Oriana was metamorphosed into a very genteel Jack-ass: upon this the whole crowd set up a great Shout of, God speed the Plough. after all I was inform'd by a Negro Gentlewoman with a very long beard, who had a great deal to do in the Ceremony, that it was Plough-Monday, & that all this was the Custom of the Country; they march in this manner thro' all the Colledges in Town. the Term is now begun again, & I have made such a wonderful progress in Philosophy, that I begin to be quite persuaded, that black is white, & that fire will not burn, & that I ought not, either to give credit to my eyes or feeling; they tell me too, that I am nothing in the world, & that I only fancy, I exist: do but come to me quickly & one lesson of thine, my dear Philosopher, will restore me to the use of my Senses, & make me think myself something, as long as I am

your friend & Servant
[           ]

P:S: the inclosed is the oath of Matriculation. I am charmed with Popes Letter – never did any body long for anything, as I do for your Masquerade; pray d'ye design to go, as a Judge, or a Devil; or undisguised: or as an Angel in propriâ Personâ. I wonder how you can dislike the Distressed Mother– [           ]

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Letter ID: letters.0009 (Source: TEI/XML)


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


Date of composition: [14 January 1735]
Date (on letter): [Jan 14]
Calendar: Julian


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

Physical description

Addressed: To / [T]he Honorble Mr Horace Walpole / [at] the House of ye right honble [S]r Robert Walpole / in St James's Square London (postmark: CAMBRIDGE 15 1A)


Languages: English, Latin
Incipit: Though you'll think perhaps it's a little too cold weather...
Mentioned: Amadis de Gaul
Philips, Ambrose
Pope, Alexander

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/8, 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. 8, vol. i, 21-24
  • 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, 73-75
  • 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. 9, vol. i, 17-19