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Thomas Gray to James Beattie, 1 February 1768

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To Mr Beattie

Dear Sr

I am almost sorry to have raised any degree of impatience in you, because I can by no means satisfy it. the sole reason I have to publish these few additions now is to make up (in bulk) for the omission of that long story; & as to the notes, I do it out of spite, because the Publick did not understand the two odes (wch I have call'd Pindaric) tho' the first was not very dark, & the second alluded to a few common facts to be found in any six-penny History of England by way of question & answer for the use of children. the parallel passages I insert out of justice to those writers, from whom I happen'd to take the hint of any line, as far as I can recollect.

I rejoice to be in the hands of Mr Foulis, who has the laudable ambition of surpassing his Predecessors, the Etiennes, & the Elzeviers as well in literature, as in the proper art of his profession. he surprises me in mentioning Miss Hepburne, after whom I have been enquiring these fourteen years in vain. when the two odes were first publish'd, I sent them to her: but as I was forced to direct them very much at random, probably they never came to her hands. when the present edition comes out, I beg of Mr Foulis to offer her a copy in my name (with my respects, & grateful remembrances). he will send another to you, Sr, & a third to Ld Gray, if he will do me the honour of accepting it. these are all the presents I pretend to make (for I would have it consider'd only as a new edition of an old book) after this if he pleases to send me one or two, I shall think myself obliged to him. I can not advise him to print a great number, especially as Dodsley has it in his power to print as many as he pleases, tho' I desire him not to do so.

You are very good to me in taking this trouble upon you. all I can say is, that I shall be happy to return it in kind, whenever you will give me the opportunity. believe me,

Sr faithfully Yours

You will be so obliging to tell me this packet is come to your hands.

The Title (I would wish) should be only Poems by Mr Gray without any mention of notes or additions. the size, & disposition of the lines I must leave to Mr Foulis: if he thinks it should be in 4to, the two Odes printed at Str:y Hill are very well (as you say) as to the form & type, but the paper is rather too thin & transparent. I prescribed nothing to Dodsley, but it appear'd to me, that he meant to publish a smaller edition (& consequently a cheaper) than in 4to, but of this I am not certain. Mr F: will also determine, whether the few notes there are shall stand at the bottom of the page (wch is better for the Reader) or be thrown to the end with references (wch improves the beauty of the book). the poems should stand (I think) in this order & with these titles.

  • 1. Ode. Lo! where the rosy &c:
  • 2. Ode, on the death of a favourite Cat.
  • 3. Ode, on a distant prospect of Eton-College.
  • 4. Ode, to Adversity.
  • 5. The progress of Poesy, a Pindaric Ode.
  • 6. The Bard, a Pindaric Ode.
  • 7. The Fatal Sisters (from the Norse-tongue)
  • 8. The Descent of Odin (from the Norse-tongue)
  • 9. The Triumphs of Owen, a fragment (from the Welch)
  • 10. Elegy, written in a country church-yard.

please to observe, that I am entirely unversed in the doctrine of stops, whoever therefore shall deign to correct them, will do me a friendly office: I wish I stood in need of no other correction. if Mr F: has the large edition with Mr Bentley's designs, he will do well to print from it (the long story being omitted) as it seems the most accurate for in Dodsley's miscellanies there are several blunders of the press. the Strawberry-hill edition of the two Pindaricks is also the best. /now for the notes.

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Letter ID: letters.0522 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 51
Addressee: Beattie, James, 1735-1803
Addressee's age: 32


Date of composition: 1 February 1768
Date (on letter): Feb: 1. 1768
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Pembroke-Hall

Physical description

Addressed: To Mr Beattie


Language: English
Incipit: I am almost sorry to have raised any degree of impatience in you,...
Mentioned: Odes by Mr. Gray (1757)
Poems by Mr. Gray (1768)
Poems by Mr. Gray (1768)
Dodsley, James, 1724-1797

Holding Institution

AU MS 30/24/6/5, AU MS 30, Papers of James Beattie (1735-1803), Historic Collections, Special Libraries and Archives, King's College, University of Aberdeen Library , Aberdeen, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes; covering letter only (a photostat is in MS. Toynbee d.32, Bodleian Library, Oxford), the instructions for printing are at Princeton University Library, Robert H. Taylor Collection, section I. Modern (Bound) Manuscripts, vol. 52

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 lvii, section iv, 329-330
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter LVII, vol. i, 428-429
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXXXIV, vol. ii, 490-491
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXXXIV, vol. ii, 114-116
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXLVI, vol. iv, 101-103
  • 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. CCCXX, vol. iii, 175-177
  • 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. 466, vol. iii, 1001-1004