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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [20 October 1746]

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My Dear Sr

I found (as soon as I got hither) a very kind Letter from Mr Chute, from whence I have Reason to hope we may all meet in Town about a Week hence. You have probably been there, since I left you, & consequently have seen the Mr Barry you desired some Account of: yet as I am not certain of this, & should be glad to know whether we agree about him; I will nevertheless tell you what he is, & the Impression he made upon me. he is upwards of six Foot in Height, well & proportionably made, treads well, & knows what to do with his Limbs; in short a noble graceful Figure: I can say nothing of his Face, but that it was all Black, with a wide Mouth & good Eyes. his Voice is of a clear & pleasing Tone, something like Delane's, but not so deep-mouth'd, not so like a Passing Bell. when high strained, it is apt to crack a little, & be hoarse: but in its common Pitch, & when it sinks into any softer Passion, particularly expressive & touching. in the first Scenes, especially where he recounts to the Senate the Progress of his Love, & the Means he used to win Desdemona, he was quite mistaken, & I took a Pique against him: instead of a Cool Narration he flew into a Rant of Voice & Action, as tho' he were relating the Circumstances of a Battle that was fought yesterday. I expected nothing more from him, but was deceived: in the Scenes of Rage & Jealousy he was seldom inferior to Quin: in the Parts of Tenderness & Sorrow far above him. these latter seem to be his peculiarly: his Action is not very various, but rarely improper, or without Dignity: & some of his Attitudes are really fine. he is not perfect to be sure; but I think may make a better Player than any now on the Stage in a little while. however to see a Man in one Character, & but once, is not sufficient: so I rather ask your Opinion by this, than give you mine.

I annex (as you desired) another Ode. all it pretends to with you is, that it is mine, & that you never saw it before, & that it is not so long as t'other.

Lo, where the rosie-bosom'd Hours,
Fair Venus' Train, appear,
Disclose the long-expecting Flowers,
And wake the purple Year!
The Attic Warbler pours her Throat
Responsive to the Cuckow's Note,
The untaught Harmony of Spring:
While whisp'ring Pleasure as they fly
Cool Zephyrs thro' the clear blue Sky
Their gather'd Fragrance fling

Where'er the Oak's thick Branches stretch
A broader browner Shade;
Where'er the rude & moss-grown Beech
O'ercanopies the Glade; –a Bank
Oercanopied with luscious Woodbine
Shakesp: Mids: Night's Dream

Beside some Water's rushy Brink
With me the Muse shall sit, & think
(At Ease reclined in rustic State)
How vain the Ardour of the Crowd,
How low, how indigent the Proud,
How little are the Great!

Still is the toiling Hand of Care:
The panting Herds repose.
Yet hark, how thro' the peopled Air
The busy Murmur glows!
The Insect-Youth are on the Wing
Eager to tast the honied Spring,
And float amid the liquid Noon: Nare per æstatem liquidam. Virg:
Some lightly o'er the Current skim,
Some shew their gayly-gilded Trim
Quick-glanceing to the Sun.

To Contemplation's sober Eye
Such is the Race of Man:
And they that creep, & they that fly,
Shall end where they began.
Alike the Busy & the Gay
But flutter thro' Life's little Day,
In Fortune's varying Colours drest:
Brush'd by the Hand of rough Mischance,
Or chill'd by Age, their airy Dance
They leave, in Dust to rest.

Methinks I hear in Accents low
The sportive Kind reply,
Poor Moralist! & what art Thou?
A solitary Fly!
Thy Joys no glittering Female meets,
No Hive hast thou of hoarded Sweets,
No painted Plumage to display:
On hasty Wings thy Youth is flown;
Thy Sun is set; thy Spring is gone:
We frolick, while 'tis May.

My Compliments to Ashton.

Adieu, I am sincerely
T G:
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Letter ID: letters.0143 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 29
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 29


Date of composition: [20 October 1746]
Date (on letter): Oct: 20
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Camb:


Language: English
Incipit: I found (as soon as I got hither) a very kind Letter from Mr Chute,...
Mentioned: Ashton, Thomas, 1715-1775
Chute, John, 1701-1776
Ode on the Spring
Shakespeare, William

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/41, 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. 157, vol. ii, 55-58
  • 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. ii, 6-8
  • 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. 125, vol. i, 249-252