Skip main navigation

Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [11 December 1746]

Back to Letters page

Dr Thomas Wharton at
By Caxton Bay

My Dear Wharton

I would make you an Excuse (as indeed I ought) if they were a Sort of Thing I ever gave any Credit to myself in these Cases, but I know they are never true. nothing so silly as Indolence, when it hopes to disguise itself: every one knows it by it's Saunter; as they do his Majesty (God bless him) at a Masquerade by the Firmness of his Tread, & the Elevation of his Chin. however somewhat I had to say, that has a little Shadow of Reason in it. I have been in Town (I suppose you know) flaunting about at publick Places of all kinds with my two Italianized Friends. the World itself has some Attraction in it to a Solitary of six Years standing; & agreeable well-meaning People of Sense (thank Heaven there are so few of them) are my peculiar Magnet. it is no Wonder then, if I felt some Reluctance at parting with them so soon; or if my Spirits, when I return'd back to my Cell, should sink for a time, not indeed to Storm & Tempest, but a good deal below Changeable. besides Seneca says (and my Pitch of Philosophy does not pretend to be much above Seneca) Nunquam mores, quos extuli, refero. aliquid ex eo, quod composui, turbatur: aliquid ex his, quæ fugavi, redit. and it will happen to such as we, mere Imps of Science. well it may, when Wisdom herself is forced often–in sweet retired Solitude

To plume her Feathers, & let grow her Wings,
That in the various Bustle of Resort
Were all too ruffled & sometimes impair'd.

It is a foolish Thing, that one can't only not live as one pleases, but where & with whom one pleases, without Money. Swift somewhere says, that Money is Liberty; & I fear money is Friendship too & Society, & almost every external Blessing. it is a great tho' ill-natured, Comfort to see most of those, who have it in Plenty, without Pleasure, without Liberty, & without Friends.

Mr Brown (who I assure you holds up his Head & his Spirits very notably) will give you an Account of your College Proceedings, if they may be so call'd, where nothing proceeds at all. only the last Week Roger was so wise to declare ex motu proprio, that he took Mr Delaval (who is now a Fell: Commoner) into his own Tuition. this raised the dirty Spirit of his Friend, Mr May (now Tutor in Francis's Room) against him, & even gentle Mr Peele, (who never acts but in Conjunction) together with Mr Brown (who pretended to be mighty angry, tho' in reality heartily glad) and they all came to an Eclaircissement in the Parlour. they abused him pretty reasonably, & it ended in threatening them as usual with a Visitor. in short they are all as rude as may be, leave him at Table by himself, never go into the Parlour, till he comes out; or if he enters, when they are there, continue sitting even in his own Magisterial Chair. May bickers with him publickly about twenty paltry Matters, & Roger t'other Day told him he was impertinent. what would you have more? you see they do as one would wish. if you were here all would be right. I am surprised not to hear you mention, when that will be; pray give an Account of yourself.

I am very sincerely Yours
T G:

P:S: When I went to Town Part of my Errand was to sell a little Stock I had, to pay off Birkett's old Debt now at Xmas, but it was so low, I should have lost near 12 per Cent, & so it continues. if you think of being here near that Time, & find it not inconvenient to you to lend me 40£, you will save me the Money I mention. (as I remember you once offer'd) but if any Inconvenience attend it, you must imagine I don't by any Means desire it; & you need not be at the Trouble of any Excuse, as I well know, nothing but the not being able would hinder your doing it immediately. let me know, because otherwise I have another Journey to make to Town.

Letter ID: letters.0145 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 30
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 29[?]


Date of composition: [11 December 1746]
Date (on letter): Dec: 11
Calendar: Julian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 2 pages, 228 mm x 184 mm
Addressed: To / Dr Thomas Wharton at / Durham / By Caxton Bay (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: I would make you an Excuse (as indeed I ought) if they were a Sort...
Mentioned: Birkett, George, 1690-1745
Brown, James, 1709-1784
Chute, John, 1701-1776
Milton, John
Swift, Jonathan
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 15-16, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York: printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley, London; and J. Todd, York, 1775, letter iii, section iv, 180-181
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter III, vol. i, 294-296
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter VIII, vol. ii, 164-167
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXII, vol. i, 136-138
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XIII, vol. iii, 22-25
  • 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, letter no. LXXI, vol. i, 149-151
  • 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. 127, vol. i, 254-257