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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [23 February 1738]

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The Honble Horace Walpole Esq
at the Treasury St James

My best Horace

I confess, I am amazed: of all likely things this is the last I should have believed would come to pass: however I congratulate you upon being able at this time to talk of Clytemnæstra, & Mrs Porter: I wish, you have not admired this last-mention'd Gentlewoman long enough to catch a little of her art from her, for if I'm not mistaken, you are a very different person behind the Scenes, & whatever face you set upon the matter, I guess – but perhaps I guess wrong; I wish I may for your sake; perhaps you are as cool as you would seem: either way I may wish you joy; of your Dissimulation, or Philosophy: I long extremely to see you, but till I have that pleasure, me-thinks you might be a little more open in writing; have pity a little upon my curiosity: if you distrust my faith (I won't say Honour; that's for Gentlefolks) and imagine I would shew your letters to any one; yet rely upon my vanity, which won't suffer me to do an ill thing; if you fear the common fate of loose papers, I give you my word to sacrifice to the fire immediately (no small sacrifice, I assure you) all I shall receive, if you desire it: I don't wonder at the new study you have taken a likeing to; first because it diverts your thoughts from disagreeable objects, next, because it particularly suits your Genius, & lastly, because I believe it the most excellent of all sciences, to which in proportion as the rest are subservient, so great a degree of estimation they ought to gain: would you believe it, 'tis the very thing I would wish to apply to, myself? ay! as simple as I stand here: but then the Apparatus necessary to it costs so much; nay, part of it is wholly out of one's power to procure; and then who should pare one, & burnish one? for they would have more trouble & fuss with me, than Cinderaxa's sisters had with their feet, to make 'em fit for the little glass Slipper: oh yes! to be sure one must be lick'd; now to lick oneself I take to be altogether impracticable, & to ask another to lick one, would not be quite so civil; Bear I was born, & bear, I believe, I'm like to remain: consequently a little ungainly in my fondnesses, but I'll be bold to say, you shan't in a hurry meet with a more loving poor animal, than

your faithful Creature,

P: S: I beg you to continue your Essay: & tell Zeph: when you see him to expect a letter in Rabbinical Hebrew from me, unless he writes directly.

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Letter ID: letters.0053 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 21
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 20


Date of composition: [23 February 1738]
Date (on letter): [Feb 23]
Calendar: Julian


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

Physical description

Addressed: To / The Honble Horace Walpole Esq / at the Treasury St James (postmark: SAFFRON WALDEN 24 FE)


Language: English
Incipit: I confess, I am amazed: of all likely things this is the last...

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/35, 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. 76, vol. i, 178-180
  • 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, 151-152
  • 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. 49, vol. i, 79-80