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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [c. 15 June 1747]

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When I received the testimonial of so many considerable personages to adorn the second page of my next edition, and (adding them to the Testimonium Autoris de seipso) do relish and enjoy all the conscious pleasure resulting from six pennyworths of glory, I cannot but close my satisfaction with a sigh for the fate of my fellow-labourer in poetry, the unfortunate Mr. Golding, cut off in the flower or rather the bud of his honours, who had he survived but a fortnight more, might have been by your kind offices as much delighted with himself, as I. Windsor and Eton might have gone down to posterity together, perhaps appeared in the same volume, like Philips and Smith, and we might have set at once to Mr. Pond for the frontispiece, but these, alas! are vain reflections. To return to myself. Nay! but you are such a wit! sure the gentlemen an't so good, are they? and don't you play upon the word. I promise you, few take to it here at all, which is a good sign (for I never knew anything liked here, that ever proved to be so any where else,) it is said to be mine, but I strenuously deny it, and so do all that are in the secret, so that nobody knows what to think; a few only of King's College gave me the lie, but I hope to demolish them; for if I don't know, who should? Tell Mr. Chute, I would not have served him so, for any brother in Christendom, and am very angry. To make my peace with the noble youth you mention, I send you a Poem that I am sure they will read (as well as they can) a masterpiece–it is said, being an admirable improvement on that beautiful piece called Pugna Porcorum, which begins

Plangite porcelli Porcorum pigra propago;

but that is in Latin, and not for their reading, but indeed, this is worth a thousand of it, and unfortunately it is not perfect, and it is not mine.


Great D draws near–the Dutchess sure is come,
Open the doors of the withdrawing-room;
Her daughters deck'd most daintily I see,
The Dowager grows a perfect double D.
E enters next, and with her Eve appears.
Not like yon Dowager deprest with years;
What Ease and Elegance her person grace,
Bright beaming, as the Evening-star, her face;
Queen Esther next–how fair e'en after death,
Then one faint glimpse of Queen Elizabeth;
No more, our Esthers now are nought but Hetties,
Elizabeths all dwindled into Betties;
In vain you think to find them under E,
They're all diverted into H and B.
F follows fast the fair–and in his rear,
See Folly, Fashion, Foppery, straight appear,
All with fantastic clews, fantastic clothes,
With Fans and Flounces, Fringe and Furbelows.
Here Grub-street Geese presume to joke and jeer,
All, all, but Grannam Osborne's Gazetteer.
High heaves his hugeness H, methinks we see,
Henry the Eighth's most monstrous majesty,
But why on such mock grandeur should we dwell,
H mounts to Heaven, and H descends to Hell.

As H the Hebrew found, so I the Jew,
See Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, pass in view;
The walls of old Jerusalem appear,
See Israel, and all Judah thronging there.

P pokes his head out, yet has not a pain;
Like Punch, he peeps, but soon pops in again;
Pleased with his Pranks, the Pisgys call him Puck,
Mortals he loves to prick, and pinch, and pluck;
Now a pert Prig, he perks upon your face,
Now peers, pores, ponders, with profound grimace,
Now a proud Prince, in pompous Purple drest,
And now a Player, a Peer, a Pimp, or Priest;
A Pea, a Pin, in a perpetual round,
Now seems a Penny, and now shews a Pound;
Like Perch or Pike, in Pond you see him come,
He in plantations hangs like Pear or Plum,
Pippin or Peach; then perches on the spray,
In form of Parrot, Pye, or Popinjay.
P, Proteus-like all tricks, all shapes can shew,
The Pleasantest Person in the Christ-Cross row.

As K a King, Q represents a Queen,
And seems small difference the sounds between;
K, as a man, with hoarser accent speaks,
In shriller notes Q like a female squeaks;
Behold K struts, as might a King become,
Q draws her train along the Drawing-room,
Slow follow all the quality of State,
Queer Queensbury only does refuse to wait.

Thus great R reigns in town, while different far,
Rests in retirement, little Rural R;
Remote from cities lives in lone Retreat,
With Rooks and Rabbit burrows round his seat–
S, sails the Swan slow down the Silver stream.

So big with Weddings, waddles W,
And brings all Womankind before your view;
A Wench, a Wife, a Widow, and a W–e,
With Woe behind, and Wantonness before.

When you and Mr Chute can get the remainder of Mariane, I shall be much obliged to you for it–I am terribly impatient.

Letter ID: letters.0157 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 30
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 29


Date of composition: [c. 15 June 1747]
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: When I received the testimonial of so many considerable personages...
Mentioned: Pugna Porcorum
Chute, John, 1701-1776
Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College
Philips, John
The Characters of the Christ-Cross Row, By a Critic, To Mrs ---

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

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, vol. v, 217-221
  • 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, appendix I, vol. iii, 323-325
  • 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. 164, vol. ii, 79-84
  • 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, 26-30
  • 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. 139, vol. i, 282-286