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Thomas Gray to James Brown, [20 May 1765]

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The Revd Mr Brown,
President of Pembroke Hall

Dear Sr

I can not help writing a line, whereas you have reason to expect a volume, wch indeed could not contain the history of this wonderful period. we are at the eve, I fear, of some great event, & perhaps a very tragical one. the bill of regency brought in by the ministry against their own will, afterwards turn'd by them to serve their own purpose, & that purpose afterwards drop'd & aukwardly disavowed by them, are things, that you must have heard already in gross, & the detail I have not time to give you. I shall only tell you, that yesterday the D: of C: was sent in the morning to Hayes at eleven, & did not come back till past four. when you know he undertook the embassy, you will imagine, what the terms were. he carried a Carte Blanche with him, honours, offices, absolute & unlimited power. all wch (to the astonishment of all mankind) were sent back as they came, with a peremptory refusal. whether from resentment of their former craft & little unworthy dealings with him, or that he may be press'd & intreated in a more submissive manner to accept the uncontroll'd guidance of the nation, is hard to say. I hope the latter, for then he will yield, & if he does not, God knows what may be the consequence. Bedford House is like a fortress besieged. soldiers looking over the walls, & patrolling round all the avenues. he immured within, & the Dutchess ill with fright. the mob curseing him without & his garrison murmuring at the service they are forced to do within. at the time of the great disturbance the Ministers were all there in the house, & had not risen from table. had it not been for the Guards, the house had certainly been pull'd down, & all the family murther'd. they say, there were few or no weavers among the mob, but in these times of scarcity & general discontent, it is no wonder, if all the villainous populace of London should join them. I saw the Weavers at the door of the house of Lords on Thursday. as far as my eye can judge, I do not believe, they were 5000, & they neither appear'd insolent, nor intimidated. the noise was great, & I assure you, there were many blank faces in fine coaches to be seen, & much bowing & smiling, & civil words thrown at random among the ragged regiment. tomorrow is the day, when worse is expected, & it is certain numbers are flocking to Town from Norfolk, Essex, &c: the London Militia are order'd out, & no one can say, where this may end. if Mr P: accepts, all this may vanish into smoke.

Adieu! I shall write again very soon.

Don't shew my letter to any but Mr Talbot.

Letter ID: letters.0457 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 48
Addressee: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Addressee's age: 56[?]


Date of composition: [20 May 1765]
Date (on letter): Monday. May 20.
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [London, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 2 pages, 203 mm x 162 mm
Addressed: To / The Revd Mr Brown, / President of Pembroke Hall / Cambridge (postmark: 20[...])


Language: English
Incipit: I can not help writing a line, whereas you have reason to expect a volume,...
Mentioned: Hayes
Talbot, William, d. 1811
Surrogates: Digital facsimile [JPEG] from original letter

Holding Institution

MS. Montagu d. 17, fols. 95-96, Montagu papers, Special Collections, Bodleian Library, Oxford University , Oxford, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • 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. 403, vol. ii, 874-876