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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 5 March 1766

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Dr Wharton M:D: at
Old-Park near Darlington

Dear Doctor

I am amazed at myself, when I think I have never wrote to you: to be sure it is the sin of witchcraft or something worse. something indeed might be said for it, had I been married like Mason, who (for the first time since that great event) has just thought fit to tell me, that he never pass'd so happy a winter as the last, & this in spite of his anxieties, wch perhaps (he says) might even make a part of his happiness: for his Wife is by no means in health, she has a constant cough, yet he is assured, her lungs are not affected, & that it is nothing of the consumptive kind. what say you to this case? may I flatter him, that breeding will be a cure for this disorder? if so, I hear she is in a fair way to be well. as to me I have been neither happy, nor miserable: but in a gentle stupefaction of mind, & very tolerable health of body hitherto. if they last, I shall not much complain. the accounts one has lately had from all parts make me suppose you buried under the snow, like the old Queen of Denmark: as soon as you are dug out, I should rejoice to hear your voice from the battlements of Old-Park. the greatest cold we have felt here was Jan: 2, Thermom: (in the garden) at 4 in the afternoon standing at 30 Deg: ½, and next day fell a little snow, wch did not lie. it was the first we had had during the winter. again, Feb: 5 toward night, Therm: was down at 30 D: with a clear sky; the snow-drops then beginning to blow in the garden: next day was a little snow. but on the 11th & 12th fell a deep snow (the weather not very cold) wch however was melted on ye 15th, & made a flood in the river. next day the Thrush was singing, & the Rooks building. at & about London instead of snow they had heavy rains. on the 19th the red Hepatica blew, & next day the Primrose. the Crocus is now in full bloom. so ends my chronicle.

My oracle of state (who now & then utters a little, as far as he may with discretion) is a very slave & pack-horse, that never breaths any air better than that of London, except like an Apprentice, on Sundays with his Master and Co:. however he is in health, & a very good Boy. it is strange, the turn that things have taken. that the late Ministry should negociate a reconciliation with Ld B:, & that Ld Temple should join them; that they should after making their (bad) apologies be received with a gracious kind of contempt, & told that his Ldp: could enter into no political connections with them: that on the first division on the American business that happen'd in the H: of Lords they should however all join to carry a point against the Ministry by a majority indeed of four only, but the D: of Y–k present & making one: that when the Ministers expostulated in a proper place, they should be seriously assured the K: would support them. that on a division on an insignificant point to try their strength in the H: of Commons they should again lose it by 12 majority: that they should persist nevertheless: that Mr Pitt should appear tanquam e machinâ, speak for 3 hours & ½, & assert the rights of the Colonies in their greatest latitude: that the Minister should profess himself ready to act with & even serve under him: that he should receive such a compliment with coldness, & a sort of derision: that Norton should move to send him to the Tower: that when the great questions came on, the Miny: should always carry their point at one, two, three in the morning by majorities of 110 & 170 (Mr Pitt entirely concurring with them, & the Tories, People of the Court, & many Placemen, even Ld G: Sackville, constantly voting against them) all these events are unaccountable on any principles of common-sense. I attribute much of the singular part to the interposition of Women as rash as they are foolish. on Monday (I do not doubt, tho' as yet I do not certainly know it) the Bill to repeal the Stamp-act went thro' that House, & to-day it is before the Lords, who surely will not venture to throw it out. oh, that they would!–but after this important business is well over, there must be an eclaircissement: some amends must be made & some gracious condescensions insisted on, or else who would go on, that really means to serve his country! The D: of Bedford & Ld Temple were gone down to their Villas, & I believe are not likely to come back. Ld Chesterfield, who had not been for many years at the house, came the other day to qualify himself in order to leave a proxy, that should vote with the Ministry. some body (I thought) made no bad application of those lines in Virgil L: 6. v: 489

At Danaum proceres, Agamemnoniæq phalanges &c:

to Mr Pitt's first appearance (for no one expected him) in the house. turn to the place.

Every thing is politicks. there are no literary productions worth your notice, at least of our country. the French have finish'd their great Encyclopedie in 17 Volumes: but there are many flimsey articles very hastily treated, & great incorrectness of the Press. there are now 13 Vol: of Buffon's Natural History, & he is not come to the Monkies yet, who are a very numerous people. the Life of Petrarch has entertain'd me: it is not well written, but very curious & laid together from his own letters & the original writings of the 14th Century: so that it takes in much of the history of those obscure times, & the characters of many remarkable persons. there are 2 vols: 4to, & another (unpublish'd yet) that will compleat it.

Mr W: writes me now & then a long and lively letter from Paris, to wch place he went the last summer with the gout upon him sometimes in his limbs, often in his stomach & head. he has got somehow well (not by means of the climate, one would think) goes to all publick places, sees all the best company & is very much in fashion. he says, he sunk like Queen Eleanour at Charing-Cross, & has risen again at Paris. he returns again in April: but his health is certainly in a deplorable state. Mad: de la Perriere is come over from the Hague to be Ministress at London. her Father-in-law Viry is now first Minister at Turin. I sate a morning with her before I left London. she is a prodigious fine Lady, & a Catholick (tho' she did not expressly own it to me) not fatter than she was: she had a cage of foreign birds & a piping Bullfinch at her elbow, two little Dogs on a cushion in her lap, a Cockatoo on her shoulder, & a sl[ight] suspicion of Rouge on her cheeks. They were all exceeding glad to [see] me, & I them.

Pray tell me the history of your winter, & present my respects to Mrs Wharton. I hope Miss Wharton & Miss Peggy with the assistance of Sister Betty make a great progress in Natural History: recommend me to all their good graces, & believe me ever

Truly Yours

If you chance to see or send to Mr & Mrs Leighton, I will trouble you to make my compliments: I have never received the box of shells, tho' possibly it may wait for me at Mr Jonathan's in Town, where I shall be in April. Mr Brown is well & desires to be remember'd to you & Mrs Wharton. I have just heard, there are like to be warm debates in the house of Lords, but that the Ministry will undoubtedly carry it in spite of them all. they say, Ld Cambden will soon be Chancellour.

Letter ID: letters.0475 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 49
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 49[?]


Date of composition: 5 March 1766
Date (on letter): March 5. 1766
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Pemb: C:
Place of addressee: Durham, United Kingdom

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 3 pages, 227 mm x 190 mm
Addressed: To / Dr Wharton M:D: at / Old-Park near Darlington / Durham (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: I am amazed at myself, when I think I have never wrote to you:...
Mentioned: Encyclopédie
American Colonies
Buffon, Comte de
Conway, Henry Seymour, 1721-1795
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Old Park
Sade, Abbé de
Speed, Henrietta Jane, 1728-1783
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 172-173, 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 lii, section iv, 320-321
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter LII, vol. i, 420-421
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXXVI, vol. ii, 468-472
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXXVII, vol. ii, 101-102
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXXXVII, vol. iv, 74-80
  • 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. CCLXXXI, vol. iii, 100-105
  • 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. 420, vol. iii, 919-923