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Thomas Gray to James Brown, [before 17 February 1763]

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You will make my best acknowledgements to Mr Howe, who not content to rank me in the number of his Friends is so polite as to make excuses for having done me that honour.

I was not born so far from the Sun as to be ignorant of Count Algarotti's name & reputation; nor am I so far advanced in years or in philosophy, as not to feel the warmth of his approbation. the odes in question, as their motto shews, were meant to be vocal to the Intelligent alone. how few they were in my own country, Mr Howe can testify; & yet my ambition was terminated by that small circle. I have good reason to be proud, if my voice has reach'd the ear & apprehension of a Stranger distinguish'd as one of the best Judges in Europe.

I am equally pleased with the just applause he bestows on Mr Mason, & particularly on the Caractacus, wch is the work of a Man: whereas the Elfrida is only that of a Boy, a promising boy indeed, & of no common Genius: yet this is the popular performance with us, & the other little known in comparison.

Neither Count Algarotti, nor Mr Howe (I believe) have heard of Ossian, the Son of Fingal. if Mr H: were not upon the wing, & on his way homewards, I would send it to him in Italy. he would there see, that Imagination dwelt many hundred years agoe in all her pomp on the cold and barren mountains of Scotland. the truth (I believe) is that without any respect of climates she reigns in all nascent societies of Men, where the necessities of life force every one to think & act much for himself ..

Letter ID: letters.0420 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 46
Addressee: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Addressee's age: 54[?]


Date of composition: [before 17 February 1763]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 1 page, 226 mm x 186 mm


Language: English
Incipit: You will make my best acknowledgements to Mr Howe, who not content...
Mentioned: Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
How, William Taylor, d. 1777
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Mason, William, 1724-1797

Holding Institution

Add. MSS 26889, ff. 23-24, 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 xlv, section iv, 300-301
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XLV, vol. i, 402-403
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CVI, vol. ii, 410-411
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXVII, vol. ii, 73-74
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXVII, vol. iv, 6-7
  • 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. CCXLIX, vol. iii, 8-9
  • 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, 257-258
  • 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. 367, vol. ii, 797-798