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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, 28 February 1762

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I return you my best thanks for the copy of your book, which you sent me, and have not at all lessened my opinion of it since I read it in print, though the press has in general a bad effect on the complection of one's works. The engravings look, as you say, better than I had expected, yet not altogether so well as I could wish. I rejoice in the good dispositions of our court, and in the propriety of their application to you: the work is a thing so much to be wished; has so near a connection with the turn of your studies and of your curiosity; and might find such ample materials among your hoards and in your head; that it will be a sin if you let it drop and come to nothing, or worse than nothing, for want of your assistance. The historical part should be in the manner of Henault, a mere abridgement, a series of facts selected with judgment, that may serve as a clue to lead the mind along in the midst of those ruins and scattered monuments of art, that time has spared. This would be sufficient, and better than Montfaucon's more diffuse narrative. Such a work (I have heard) Mr. Burke is now employed about, which though not intended for this purpose might be applied perhaps to this use. Then at the end of each reign should come a dissertation explanatory of the plates, and pointing out the turn of thought, the customs, ceremonials, arms, dresses, luxury, and private life, with the improvement or decline of the arts during that period. This you must do yourself, beside taking upon you the superintendence, direction, and choice of materials. As to the expence, that must be the king's own entirely, and he must give the book to foreign ministers and people of note; for it is obvious no private man can undertake such a thing without a subscription, and no gentleman will care for such an expedient; and a gentleman it should be, because he must have easy access to archives, cabinets, and collections of all sorts. I protest I do not think it impossible but they may give into such a scheme: they approve the design, they wish to encourage the arts and to be magnificent, and they have no Versailles or Herculaneum.

I hope to see you toward the end of March. If you bestow a line on me, pray tell me whether the baronne de la Peyriere is gone to her castle of Viry; and whether Fingal be discovered or shrewdly suspected to be a forgery.

I am yours ever,
Letter ID: letters.0409 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 45
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 44


Date of composition: 28 February 1762
Date (on letter): Sunday, February 28, 1762
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I return you my best thanks for the copy of your book, which you sent...
Mentioned: Burke, Edmund
Hénault, President
Montfaucon, Bernard de
Speed, Henrietta Jane, 1728-1783
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

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, 399-403
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, appendix, letter XIII, vol. i, 554-559
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CIII, vol. ii, 397-398
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXIV, vol. ii, 62-63
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXI, vol. iii, 293-295
  • 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. CCXXXIX, vol. ii, 253-255
  • 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. 220, vol. ii, 210-213
  • 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, 121-123
  • 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. 356, vol. ii, 774-776