Skip main navigation

Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [13 December 1765]

Back to Letters page

I am very much obliged to you for the detail you enter into on the subject of your own health: in this you cannot be too circumstantial for me, who had received no account of you, but at second hand – such as, that you were dangerously ill, and therefore went to France; that you meant to try a better climate, and therefore staid at Paris; that you had relapsed, and were confined to your bed, and extremely in vogue, and supped in the best company, and were at all public diversions. I rejoice to find (improbable as it seemed) that all the wonderful part of this is strictly true, and that the serious part has been a little exaggerated. This latter I conclude not so much from your own account of yourself, as from the spirits in which I see you write; and long may they continue to support you! I mean in a reasonable degree of elevation: but if (take notice) they are so volatile, so flippant, as to suggest any of those doctrines of health, which you preach with all the zeal of a French atheist; at least, if they really do influence your practice; I utterly renounce them and all their works. They are evil spirits, and will lead you to destruction. – You have long built your hopes on temperance, you say, and hardiness. On the first point we are agreed. The second has totally disappointed you, and therefore you will persist in it; by all means. But then be sure to persist too in being young, in stopping the course of time, and making the shadow return back upon your sun-dial. If you find this not so easy, acquiesce with a good grace in my anilities, put on your understockings of yarn or woollen, even in the night-time. Don't provoke me! or I shall order you two night-caps (which by the way would do your eyes good), and put a little of any French liqueur into your water: they are nothing but brandy and sugar, and among their various flavours some of them may surely be palatable enough. The pain in your feet I can bear; but I shudder at the sickness in your stomach, and the weakness, that still continues. I conjure you, as you love yourself; I conjure you by Strawberry, not to trifle with these edge-tools. There is no cure for the gout, when in the stomach, but to throw it into the limbs. There is no relief for the gout in the limbs, but in gentle warmth and gradual perspiration.

I was much entertained with your account of our neighbours. As an Englishman and an Antigallican, I rejoice at their dulness and their nastiness: though I fear we shall come to imitate them in both. Their atheism is a little too much, too shocking to rejoice at. I have been long sick at it in their authors, and hated them for it: but I pity their poor innocent people of fashion. They were bad enough, when they believed every thing!

I have searched where you directed me; which I could not do sooner, as I was at London when I received your letter, and could not easily find her grace's works. Here they abound in every library. The print you ask after is the frontispiece to Nature's pictures drawn by Fancy's pencil. But lest there should be any mistake, I must tell you, the family are not at dinner, but sitting round a rousing fire and telling stories. The room is just such a one as we lived in at Rheims: I mean as to the glazing and ceiling. The chimney is supported by cariatides: over the mantle-piece the arms of the family. The duke and duchess are crowned with laurel. A servant stands behind him, holding a hat and feather. Another is shutting a window. Diepenbecke delin. & (I think) S. Clouwe sculps. It is a very pretty and curious print, and I thank you for the sight of it. If it ever was a picture, what a picture to have!

I must tell you, that upon cleaning an old picture here at St. John's Lodge, which I always took for a Holbein; on a ring, which the figure wears, they have found H. H. It has been always called [Bp] Fisher; but is plainly a layman, and probably sir Anthony Denny, who was a benefactor to the college.

What is come of your Sevigné-curiosity? I should be glad of a line now and then, when you have leisure.

I wish you well, and am ever
Letter ID: letters.0472 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 49
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 48


Date of composition: [13 December 1765]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I am very much obliged to you for the detail you enter into on the subject...
Mentioned: Antrobus, Mary, b. 1732
Newcastle, Margaret Duchess of
Sévigné, Mme de

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, 359-361
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, appendix, letter XVI, vol. i, 561-563
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXXIV, vol. ii, 461-464
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXXVI, vol. ii, 98-101
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXXXV, vol. iv, 67-70
  • 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. CCLXXX, vol. iii, 97-100
  • 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. 234, vol. ii, 244-248
  • 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, 146-148
  • 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. 418, vol. ii, 906-908