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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [11 January 1762]

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Dear Doctor

The best piece of news I have to send you is, that Mason is Residentiary of York, wch is worth near 200£ a-year: he owes it to our Friend Mr F: Montagu, who is Brother-in-Law to Dean Fountayne. the Precentorship (worth as much more) being vacant at the same time, Ld H: has obtain'd that too for him: but for this he must come & kiss hands; & as the ceremony is not yet over, we do not proclaim it aloud for the present. he now (I think) may wait for Mr Hutton's exit with great patience, & shut his insatiable repining mouth. I hope to see him here in his way to Town.

I pity your Brother, & have little hope left of his Wife's recovery: tho' I have been told that Dr Lowth's, after she had continued for some years in that condition, was perfectly restored. it may be worth while to enquire in what method she was treated. the papers were to have been sent to Boswel-Court the week after I left London to be seen before they were pack'd up. Mr Jonathan is perhaps unable to attend to it, but doubtless you have order'd somebody to hasten Bromwich, & see that the sorts are right. I shall not be at London till the middle of March. My old Friend Miss Speed has done what the World calls a very foolish thing. she has married the Baron de la Peyriere, Son to the Sardinian Minister, the Comte de Viry. he is about 28 years old, (ten years younger than herself) but looks nearer 40. this is not the effect of debauchery, for he is a very sober Man; good-natured & honest, & no Conjurer. the estate of the family is about 4000£ a-year. the Castle of Viry is in Savoy a few miles from Geneva, commanding a fine view of the Lake. what she has done with her money, I know not: but (I suspect) kept it to herself. her religion she need not change, but she must never expect to be well-received at that Court, till she does; & I do not think she will make quite a Julie in the country.

The Heloïse cruelly disappointed me, but it has its Partisans, among wch are Mason & Mr Hurd. for me I admire nothing but Fingal (I conclude, you have read it: if not, Stonhewer can lend it you) yet I remain still in doubt about the authenticity of those poems, tho' inclining rather to believe them genuine in spite of the World. whether they are the inventions of antiquity, or of a modern Scotchman, either case is to me alike unaccountable. je m'y pers.

I take no joy in the Spanish War, being too old to privateer, & too poor to buy stock; nor do I hope for a good end of any war, as it will be now probably conducted. oh that foolishest of Great Men, that sold his inestimable diamond for a paltry peerage & pension: the very night it happen'd was I swearing, that it was a damn'd lie, & never could be: but it was for want of reading Thomas a Kempis, who knew Mankind so much better, than I.

Young Pitt (whom I believe you have heard me mention) is return'd to England: from him I hope to get much information concerning Spain, wch no body has seen: he is no bad Observer. I saw a Man yesterday, who has been atop of M: Ætna, & seen the ruins of a Temple at Agrigentum, whose Columns (when standing) were 96 feet in height: a moderate Man might hide himself in one of the flutings. by the way there is a Mr Phelps (now gone Secretary with the Embassy to Turin) who has been all over Sicily, & means to give us an account of its remains. there are two more volumes of Buffon (the 9th & 10th) arrived in England; & the two last Maps of D'anville's Europe. one Mr Needham, Tutor to a Ld Gormanstown now on his travels, has made a strange discovery. he saw a figure of Isis at Turin, on whose back was a pilaster of antique characters, not hieroglyphicks, but such as are sometimes seen on Egyptian statues. when he came to Rome, in the Vatican Library he was shew'd a Glossary of the ancient Chinese tongue. he was struck with the similitude of the characters, & on comparing them with an exact copy he had of the inscription, found that he could read it, & that it signified, | This Statue of Isis is copied from another in such a City: the original is so many measures in height, & so many in breadth.| if this be true, it may open many new things to us. Deguignes some time ago wrote a dissertation to prove, that China was peopled from Egypt.

I still flatter myself with the notion of seeing you in Summer: but God knows, how it will be. I am persuading Mr Brown to make a visit to Lady Strathmore (who has often invited him) & then you will see him too: he is at present not very well, having something of the Sciatica, wch hangs about him.

present my best services to Mrs Wharton, I am ever
Truly Yours
T G:

P:S: the Q: is said here to be ill, & to spit blood: she is not with child, I am afraid.

Letter ID: letters.0406 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 45
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 45[?]


Date of composition: [11 January 1762]
Date (on letter): Jan: 1761
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages, 230 mm x 185 mm


Language: English
Incipit: The best piece of news I have to send you is, that Mason is Residentiary...
Mentioned: Agrigentum
Anville, Jean Baptiste d'
Brown, James, 1709-1784
Buffon, Comte de
De Guignes, Joseph
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Kempis, Thomas à
Lowth, Robert
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Needham, John Turberville
Rousseau, Jean Jacques
Speed, Henrietta Jane, 1728-1783
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 137-138, 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 xl, section iv, 287-288
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XCIII, vol. ii, 369-373
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CI, vol. iii, 262-267
  • 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. CCXXXVII, vol. ii, 248-252
  • 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, 248-249
  • 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. 353, vol. ii, 769-773