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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 9 August 1750

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My dear Wharton

Aristotle says (one may write Greek to you without Scandal) that Οἱ τόποι οὐ διαλύουσι τὴν φιλίαν ἁπλῶς, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν· ἐὰν δὲ χρόνιος ἀπουσία γένηται καὶ τῆς φιλίας δοκεῖ λήθην ποιεῖν· ὅθεν εἴρηται

Πολλὰς δὴ φιλίας ἀπροσηγορία διέλυσεν.

but Aristotle may say whatever he pleases. I do not find myself at all the worse for it. I could indeed wish to refresh my Ενέργεια a little at Durham by a Sight of you, but when is there a Probability of my being so happy? it concerned me greatly when I heard the other Day, that your Asthma continued at Times to afflict you, & that you were often obliged to go into the Country to breath. you cannot oblige me more than by giving me an Account of the State both of your Body & Mind; I hope the latter is able to keep you chearful & easy in spite of the Frailties of its Companion. as to my own it can do neither one, nor the other; & I have the Mortification to find my spiritual Part the most infirm Thing about me. You have doubtless heard of the Loss I have had in Dr. Middleton, whose House was the only easy Place one could find to converse in at Cambridge. for my Part I find a Friend so uncommon a Thing, that I can not help regretting even an old Acquaintance, wch is an indifferent Likeness of it, & tho' I don't approve the Spirit of his Books, methinks 'tis pity the World should lose so rare a Thing as a good Writer. my Studies can not furnish a Recommendation of many new Books to you. there is a Defense de l'Esprit des Loix by Montesquieu himself. it has some lively Things in it, but is very short, & his Adversary appears to be so mean a Bigot, that he deserved no Answer. there are 3 V: in 4to of, Histoire du Cabinet du Roi, by Mess: Buffons, & D'Aubenton. the first is a Man of Character, but (I am told) has hurt it by this Work. it is all a Sort of Introduction to Natural History. the weak Part of it is a Love of System, wch runs thro' it, the most contrary Thing in the World to a Science, entirely grounded upon Experiments, & that has nothing to do with Vivacity of Imagination. there are some microscopical Observations, that seem'd curious to me, on those Animalcula to wch we are supposed to owe our Origin; & wch he has discover'd of like Figure in Females not pregnant, & in almost every Thing we use for Nourishment, even Vegetables, particularly in their Fruits & Seeds. not that he allows them to be animated Bodies, but Molecules organisées. if you ask what that is, I can not tell; no more than I can understand a new System of Generation wch he builds upon it. but what I was going to commend is a general View he gives of the Face of the Earth, follow'd by a particular one of all known Nations, their peculiar Figure & Manners, wch is the best Epitome of Geography I ever met with, & wrote with Sense, & Elegance: in short these Books are well worth turning over. the Memoires of the Abbé de Mongon in 5 V: are highly commended, but I have not seen them. he was engaged in several Embassies to Germany, England, &c: during the Course of the late War. The Presid: Henault's Abregé Chronol:ique de l'Hist: de France I believe I have before mention'd to you, as a very good Book of its Kind.

You advised me in your last to be acquainted with [Keene] & we are accordingly on very good & civil Terms: but to make us love one another (I reckon) you hardly proposed. I always placed the Service he did me [about Tuthill] to your Account. this latter has done him some Service, about his Regulations. if you will give me the Pleasure of a Letter, while I continue here, it will be a great Satisfaction to me. I shall stay a Month longer. my best Wishes to Mrs Wharton & your Family. I am

Ever Yours

Do not imagine I have forgot my Debts, I hope to repay them this Year.

Letter ID: letters.0174 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 33
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 33[?]


Date of composition: 9 August 1750
Date (on letter): Aug: 9. 1750
Calendar: Julian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages, 185 mm x 148 mm


Languages: English, Greek
Incipit: Aristotle says (one may write Greek to you without Scandal) that...
Mentioned: Aristotle
Buffon, Comte de
Daubenton, Louis
Hénault, President
Montgon, Abbé Charles de

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 39-40, 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 xiii, section iv, 209-210
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XIII, vol. i, 320-322
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XXIII, vol. ii, 205-207
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXXIV, vol. i, 158-160
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XXX, vol. iii, 72-75
  • 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. XCI, vol. i, 205-208
  • 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, 161-163
  • 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. 154, vol. i, 327-330