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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 31 January 1761

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My dear Doctor

You seem to forget me: if it were for any other reason, than that you are very busy, that is, very happy, I should not so easily pass it over.

I send you a Swedish & English Calendar. the first Column is by Berger, a Disciple of Linnæus; the 2d by Mr Stillingfleet, the 3d (very imperfect indeed) by me. you are to observe, as you tend your plantations & take your walks, how the Spring advances in the North, & whether Old-Park most resembles Upsal, or Stratton. this latter has on one side a barren black heath, on the other a light sandy loam; all the country about it is a dead flat. you see, it is necessary you should know the situation (I do not mean any reflection upon any body's place) & this is Mr. Stillingfleet's description of his Friend Mr Marsham's Seat, to wch in summer he retires, & botanizes. I have lately made an acquaintance with this Philosopher, who lives in a garret here in the winter, that he may support some near relations, who depend upon him. he is always employ'd, & always chearful, & seems to me a very worthy honest Man. his present scheme is to send some Persons properly qualified to reside a year or two in Attica to make themselves acquainted with the climate, productions, & natural history of the country, that we may understand Aristotle & Theophrastus, &c: who have been heathen-Greek to us for so many ages. this he has got proposed to Ld Bute, who is no unlikely Person to put it in execution, being himself a Botanist, & having now in the press a new System of Botany of his own writing in several volumes, the profits of wch he gives to Dr Hill (the Inspector) who has lately got the place of Master-Gardiner at Kensington, reckon'd worth near 2000£ a-year. there is an odd thing for you!

One hears nothing of the K:, but what gives one the best opinion of him imaginable: I hope, it may hold. the R: F: run loose about the world, & people do not know how to treat them, nor they how to be treated. they visit & are visited: some come to the Street-door to receive them, & that, they say, is too much: others to the head of the stairs, & that they think too little. no body sits down with them, not even in their own house, unless at a card-table, so the world are like to grow very weary of the honour. none but the D: of Y: enjoy themselves (you know, he always did) but the world seems weary of this honour too, for a different reason. I have just heard no bad story of him. when he was at Southampton in the summer, there was a Clergyman in the neighbourhood with two very handsome daughters. he had soon wind of them, & drop'd in for some reason or other, came again & again, & grew familiar enough to eat a bone of their mutton. at last he said to the Father, Miss — lead a mighty confined life here always at home, why can't you let one of them go, & take an airing now and then with me in my chaise? Ah! Sr (says the Parson) do but look at them, a couple of hale fresh-colour'd hearty Wenches! they need no airing, they are well-enough: but there is their Mother, poor Woman, has been in a declining way many years. if your R: H: would give her an airing now & then, it would be doing us a great kindness indeed!

You see, old Wortley-Montagu is dead at last at 83. it was not mere avarice, & its companion, abstinence, that kept him alive so long. he every day drank (I think, it was) half a pint of Tokay, wch he imported himself from Hungary in greater quantity than he could use, & sold the Overplus for any price he chose to set upon it. he has left better than half a million of money: to Lady Mary 1200£ a-year, in case she gives up her pretensions to dowry; & if not, it comes to his Son. to the same Son 1000£ per an: for life only, & after him to his Daughter, Lady Bute. (now this Son is about 80,000£ in debt) to all Lady Bute's Children, which are eleven, 2000£ a-piece. all the remainder to Lady Bute, & after her to her second Son, who takes the name of Wortley, & (if he fail) to the next in order; & after all these & their Children to Ld Sandwich, to whom in present he leaves some old Manuscripts. now I must tell you a story of Lady Mary. as she was on her travels, she had occasion to go somewhere by sea, & (to save charges) got a passage on board a Man of War: the ship was (I think) Commodore Barnet's. when he had landed her, she told him, she knew she was not to offer to pay for her passage, but in consideration of his many civilities entreated him to wear a ring for her sake, & press'd him to accept it, wch he did. it was an emerald of remarkable size & beauty. some time after, as he wore it, some Friend was admiring it, & asking how he came by it. when he heard from whom it came, he laugh'd & desired him to shew it to a Jeweller, whom he knew. the Man was sent for: he unset it; it was a paste not worth 40 shillings.

The Ministry are much out of joint. Mr P: much out of humour, his popularity tottering, chiefly occasion'd by a Pamphlet against the German War, written by that squeaking acquaintance of ours, Mr. Mauduit: it has had a vast run. the Irish are very intractable, even the Lds J:s themselves; great difficulties about who shall be sent over to tame them: my Ld H:ss again named, but (I am told) has refused it. every body waits for a new Parliament to settle their ideas.

I have had no gout, since you went: I will not brag, lest it return with redoubled violence. I am very foolish, & do nothing to mark, that I ever was: I am going to C:ge to take the fresh air this fine winter for a month or so. we have had snow one day this winter, but it did not lie: it was several months ago. the 18th of Jan: I took a walk to Kentish-Town, wind N: W:, bright & frosty. Therm: at Noon was at 42. the grass remarkably green & flourishing. I observed, on dry banks facing the South that Chickweed, Dandelion, Groundsel, Red Archangel, & Shepherds-Purse were beginning to flower. this is all I know of the Country.

My best compliments to Mrs Wharton. I hear her butter is the best in the Bishoprick, & that even Deborah has learn'd to spin. I rejoice you are all in health, but why are you deaf: & blind too, or you could not vote for F: V:! I have abundance more to say, but my paper won't hear of it.



Lat: 59, 51 1/2"  Lat: 52, 45"  
Hasel begins to f:  12 Apr:  23 Jan:  
Snowdrop F:  13 Apr:  26 Jan:  4 Feb:  
(White Wagtail) appears  13 Apr:  12 Feb:  3 Feb:  
Violets F:  3 May } 28 March } 28 March  
Snowdrop goes off  } }  
Apricot f:  } 1 April }  
Elm F:  8 May  1 April   
(Swallow returns)  9 May  6 April   
(Cuckow heard)  12 May  17 April   
(Nightingale sings)  15 May  9 April   
Birch L:  13 May  1 April   
Alder L:  14 May  7 April   
Bramble L:  7 May  3 April   
Elm l:  15 May  10 April  16 April  
Hawthorn l:  15 May  10 April  
Acacia l:  15 May  12 April   
Lime l:  21 May  12 April  16 April  
Aspen l:  20 May  25 April   
Sycamore l:  13 April   
White Poplar l:  17 April   
Beech l:  21 April   
Chestnut & Maple l:  18 April  18 April  
Oak l:  20 May  18 April  18 April  
Ash l:  21 May  22 April   
Fig l:  21 April  24 April  
Horse-Chestnut F:  12 May  12 May  
Mulberry L:  14 May   
Crab & Apple f:  2 June  23 April  22 April  
Cherry f:  28 May  18 April  17 April  
Lilac f:  8 June  27 April  24 April  
Hawthorn f:  17 June  10 May  12 May  
Plumbtree f:  28 May  16 April   
Lilly of yeValley F:  30 May  3 May   
Broom F:  24 April   
Mulberry L:  14 May   
Elder f:  29 June  25 April   
Lady-Smock f:  28 May  18 April   
Pea & Bean f:  29 April   
Strawberries ripe  26 June  9 July  16 June  
Cherries  7 July  25 June (on Walls)   
Currants  9 July  30 June  4 July  
Hay cut  7 July  18 May (near Lond:)  
Rye  4 Aug:  19 June at Stoke   
Wheat  21 August  15 Sept: (latest)  
Barley  16 Aug:  3 Aug:  4 Sept:  
(Cuckow silent)  15 July  end of July   
(Swallow gone)  17 Sept:  21 Sept:  28 Sept:  
Birch, Elm, Sycomore, Lime, change colour  22 Sept:  14 Sept:   
Ash drops its leaves  6 Octob:  9 Octob:  5 Oct:  
Elm strip'd  7 Octob:  
Lime falls  12 Octob:   
Hasel strip'd  17 Octob:   

Observe, from this Calendar it appears, that there is a wonderful difference between the earlier Phænomena of the Spring in Sweden & in England, no less than 78 days in the flow'ring of the Snow-Drop, 61 days in the appearance of the Wagtail, 62 days in the bloom of the Lilac, 43 days in the leafing of the Oak, 40 days in the blooming of the Cherry-tree, 36 days in the singing of the Nightingale, 33 in the return of the Swallow, 25 in that of the Cuckow, & so on. yet the Summer-flowers nearly keep time alike in both climates, the Harvest differs not a fortnight, some of the Fruits only 9 days; nay, strawberries come earlier there by 13 days, than with us. the Swallow stays with us only 4 days longer than with them, & the Ashtree begins to lose its leaves within 3 days of the same time. these differences, & these uniformities I know not how to account for.

Mr Stillingfleet's Kalendar goes no farther than Oct: 26. but I observed, that, on Dec: 2, many of our Rosetrees had put out new leaves, and the Laurustine, Polyanthus, single yellow, & bloody Wallflowers, Cytisus, & scarlet Geranium were still in flower.

Jan: 15. 1756. the Honeysuckles were in leaf, and single Hepatica & Snowdrop in flower.

As to the noise of Birds, Mr St: marks their times thus in Norfolk.

4 Feb:  Woodlark singing.  
12 Do  Rooks pair.  
16 Do  Thrush sings.  
Do  Chaffinch sings.  
22 Do  Partridges pair.  
2 March.  Rooks build.  
Do  Ring-Dove cooes.  
15 April.  Bittern bumps.  
16 Do  Redstart returns.  
28 Do  Black-cap sings.  
Do  White-throat seen.  
5 June.  Goatsucker (or Fern-Owl), heard in the evening.  
After the end of June most Birds are silent for a time, probably the moulting-season; only the Goldfinch, Yellow-Hamber, & Crested Wren, are heard to chirp.  
7 Aug:  Nuthatch chatters.  
14 Do  Stone-Curlew whistles at night.  
15 Do  Young Owls heard in the evening.  
17 Do  Goatsucker no longer heard.  
26 Do  Robins singing.  
16 Sept:  Chaffinch chirping.  
25 Do  Woodlark sings, & Feldefares arrive.  
27 Do  Black-bird sings.  
29 Do  Thrush sings.  
2 Octob:  Royston-Crow comes.  
10 Do  Woodlark in full song.  
Do  Ringdove cooes.  
22 Do  Woodcock returns.  
24 Do  Skylark sings.  

I add the order of several fruits ripening
at Stoke, that year.

Hautboy-Strawberry  25 June  
Wall-Duke Cherry  Do  
Early Apricot  Do  
Black-heart Cherry  2 July  
Raspberry  4 Do  
Gooseberry  15 Do  
Masculine Apricot  Do  
Black Fig  30 Do  
Muscle } 
Orleans } Plumb }   18 Aug: 
Gr: Gage } 
Filberd }
Nectarine }
Newingt: Peach }   4 Sept:  
Morella-Cherry }
Mulberry }   
Walnut }   18 Sept:  
Melon }  
Bergamot-Pear }  25 Do  
Black Muscadine Grape }
Nectarine over  Do  
White Muscad: Grape  12 Oct:  
Letter ID: letters.0381 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 44
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 44[?]


Date of composition: 31 January 1761
Date (on letter): Jan: 31. 1761
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 6 pages, ff. 139-140: 205 mm x 160 mm f. 141: 330 mm x 202 mm


Language: English
Incipit: You seem to forget me: if it were for any other reason, than that you are...
Mentioned: Aristotle
Berger, Alexander Malachias
Hill, Dr. John
Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley
Old Park
Stillingfleet, Benjamin
Stratton Strawless

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 139-141, 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, section iv, 288
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XCV, vol. ii, 376-384
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CIII, vol. iii, 270-280
  • 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. CCXVIII, vol. ii, 199-209
  • 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. 331, vol. ii, 724-732