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Thomas Gray/Horace Walpole to Richard West, 31 July 1740

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Dear West,

I have advised with the most notable antiquarians of this city on the meaning of Thur gut Luetis. I can get no satisfactory interpretation. In my opinion 'tis Welsh. I don't love offering conjectures on a language in which I have hitherto made little proficiency, but I will trust you with my explication. You know the famous Aglaughlan, mother of Cadwalladhor, was renowned for her conjugal virtues, and grief on the death of her royal spouse. I conclude this medal was struck in her regency, by her express order, to the memory of her lord, and that the inscription Thur gut Luetis means no more than her dear Llewis or Llewellin.

In return for your coins I send you two or three of different kinds. The first is a money of one of the kings of Naples; the device, a horse; the motto, Equitas regni. This curious pun is on a coin in the Great Duke's collection, and by great chance I have met with a second. Another is, a satirical medal struck on Lewis XIV.; 'tis a bomb, covered with flower-deluces, bursting; the motto, Se ipsissimo. The last, and almost the only one I ever saw with a text well applied, is a German medal with a rebellious town besieged and blocked up; the inscription, This kind is not expelled but by fasting.

Now I mention medals, have they yet struck the intended one on the taking of Porto Bello? Admiral Vernon will shine in our medallic history. We have just received the news of the bombarding Carthagena, and the taking Chagre. We are in great expectation of some important victory obtained by the squadron under sir John Norris: we are told the Duke is to be of the expedition: is it true? All the letters too talk of France's suddenly declaring war; I hope they will defer it for a season, or one shall be obliged to return through Germany.

The Conclave still subsists, and the divisions still increase; it was very near separating last week, but by breaking into two popes; they were on the dawn of a schism. Aldovrandi had thirty-three voices for three days, but could not procure the requisite two more; the Camerlingo having engaged his faction to sign a protestation against him, and each party were inclined to elect. I don't know whether one should wish for a schism or not; it might probably rekindle the zeal for the church in the powers of Europe, which has been so far decaying.

On Wednesday we expect a third she-meteor. Those learned luminaries the Ladies P[omfret] and W[alpole] are to be joined by the Lady M[ary] W[ortley] M[ontagu]. You have not been witness to the rhapsody of mystic nonsense which these two fair ones debate incessantly, and consequently cannot figure what must be the issue of this triple alliance: we have some idea of it. Only figure the coalition of prudery, debauchery, sentiment, history, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and metaphysics; all, except the second, understood by halves, by quarters, or not at all. You shall have the journals of this notable academy. Adieu, my dear West!

Yours ever,

Though far unworthy to enter into so learned and political a correspondence, I am employed pour barbouiller une page de 7 pouces et demie en hauteur, et 5 en largeur; and to inform you that we are at Florence, a city of Italy, and the capital of Tuscany: the latitude I cannot justly tell, but it is governed by a prince called Great-duke; an excellent place to employ all one's animal sensations in, but utterly contrary to one's rational powers. I have struck a medal upon myself: the device is thus O, and the motto Nihilissimo, which I take in the most concise manner to contain a full account of my person, sentiments, occupations, and late glorious successes. If you choose to be annihilated too, you cannot do better than undertake this journey. Here you shall get up at twelve o'clock, breakfast till three, dine till five, sleep till six, drink cooling liquors till eight, go to the bridge till ten, sup till two, and so sleep till twelve again.

Labore fessi venimus ad larem nostrum,
Desideratoque acquiescimus lecto:
Hoc est, quod unum est, pro laboribus tantis.
O quid solutis est beatius curis?

We shall never come home again; a universal war is just upon the point of breaking out; all outlets will be shut up. I shall be secure in my nothingness, while you, that will be so absurd as to exist, will envy me. You don't tell me what proficiency you make in the noble science of defence. Don't you start still at the sound of a gun? Have you learned to say Ha! ha! and is your neck clothed with thunder? Are your whiskers of a tolerable length? And have you got drunk yet with brandy and gunpowder? Adieu, noble captain!

Letter ID: letters.0104 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writers: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771 and
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Writers's age: 23 and 22
Addressee: West, Richard, 1716-1742
Addressee's age: 24[?]


Date of composition: 31 July 1740
Date (on letter): July 31, 1740. N.S.
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Florence, Italy
Address (on letter): Florence


Language: English
Incipit: I have advised with the most notable antiquarians of this city...
Mentioned: Cartagena
Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley

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

Print Versions

  • The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, 5 vols. London: G. G. and J. Robinson and J. Edwards, 1798, vol. iv, 450-452
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section II, letter XXVIII, vol. ii, 106-108
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section II, letter XXVIII, vol. ii, 127-130
  • Gray and his Friends: Letters and Relics, in great part hitherto unpublished. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1890, section II, letter fragment, 150
  • 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, postscript, letter no. XLIII, vol. i, 78-79
  • 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. 125, vol. i, 324-328
  • 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, 225-229
  • 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. 92, vol. i, 170-173