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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [November 1747]

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It is a misfortune to me to be at a distance from both of you at present. A letter can give one so little idea of such matters! [ ] I always believed well of his heart and temper, and would gladly do so still. If they are as they should be, I should have expected every thing from such an explanation; for it is a tenet with me (a simple one, you'll perhaps say), that if ever two people, who love one another, come to breaking, it is for want of a timely eclaircissement, a full and precise one, without witnesses or mediators, and without reserving any one disagreeable circumstance for the mind to brood upon in silence.

I am not totally of your mind as to Mr. Lyttleton's Elegy, though I love kids and fawns as little as you do. If it were all like the fourth stanza, I should be excessively pleased. Nature and sorrow, and tenderness, are the true genius of such things; and something of these I find in several parts of it (not in the orange-tree): poetical ornaments are foreign to the purpose; for they only show a man is not sorry;–and devotion worse; for it teaches him, that he ought not to be sorry, which is all the pleasure of the thing. I beg leave to turn your weathercock the contrary way. Your Epistle I have not seen a great while, and doctor M. is not in the way to give me a sight of it: but I remember enough to be sure all the world will be pleased with it, even with all its faults upon its head, if you don't care to mend them. I would try to do it myself (however hazardous), rather than it should remain unpublished. As to my Eton Ode, Mr. Dodsley is padrone. The second you had, I suppose you do not think worth giving him: otherwise, to me it seems not worse than the former. He might have Selima too, unless she be of too little importance for his patriot-collection; or perhaps the connections you had with her may interfere. Che so io? Adieu!

I am yours ever,
T. G.
Letter ID: letters.0160 (Source: TEI/XML)


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


Date of composition: [November 1747]
Date (on letter): Nov. Tuesday
Calendar: Julian


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


Language: English
Incipit: It is a misfortune to me to be at a distance from both of you at present....
Mentioned: Ashton, Thomas, 1715-1775
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Lyttelton, George Lyttelton, 1st Lord
Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College
Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes
Ode on the Spring

Holding Institution

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. v, 388-389
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, appendix, letter VI, vol. i, 546-547
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XXXI, vol. ii, 224-225
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXXIX, vol. i, 165-166
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XXXVIII, vol. iii, 95-97
  • 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. LXXXIII, vol. i, 181-182
  • Essays and Criticisms by Thomas Gray. Ed. with Introduction and Notes by Clark Sutherland Northup. Boston and London: D. C. Heath & Co., 1911, letter excerpt, 149-150
  • 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. 167, vol. ii, 87-89
  • 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, 32-34
  • 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. 142, vol. i, 288-290