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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, 6 March 1768

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Here is sir William Cornwallis, entitled Essayes of certaine Paradoxes. 2d Edit. 1617, Lond.

King Richard III.   
The French Pockes    
Good to be in debt   praised.  
Julian the Apostate's vertues   

The title-page will probably suffice you; but if you would know any more of him, he has read nothing but the common chronicles, and those without attention: for example, speaking of Anne the queen, he says, she was barren, of which Richard had often complained to Rotheram. He extenuates the murder of Henry VI. and his son: the first, he says, might be a malicious accusation, for that many did suppose he died of mere melancholy and grief: the latter cannot be proved to be the action of Richard (though executed in his presence); and if it were, he did it out of love to his brother Edward. He justifies the death of the lords at Pomfret, from reasons of state, for his own preservation, the safety of the commonwealth, and the ancient nobility. The execution of Hastings he excuses from necessity, from the dishonesty and sensuality of the man: what was his crime with respect to Richard, he does not say. Dr. Shaw's sermon was not by the king's command, but to be imputed to the preacher's own ambition: but if it was by order, to charge his mother with adultery was a matter of no such great moment, since it is no wonder in that sex. Of the murder in the Tower he doubts; but if it were by his order, the offence was to God, not to his people; and how could he demonstrate his love more amply, than to venture his soul for their quiet? Have you enough, pray? You see it is an idle declamation, the exercise of a school-boy that is to be bred a statesman.

I have looked in Stowe: to be sure there is no proclamation there. Mr. Hume, I suppose, means Speed, where it is given, how truly I know not; but that he had seen the original is sure, and seems to quote the very words of it in the beginning of that speech which Perkin makes to James IV. and also just afterwards, where he treats of the Cornish rebellion.

Guthrie, you see, has vented himself in the Critical Review. His History I never saw, nor is it here, nor do I know any one that ever saw it. He is a rascal, but rascals may chance to meet with curious records; and that commission to sir J. Tyrrell (if it be not a lye) is such: so is the order for Henry the sixth's funeral. I would by no means take notice of him, write what he would. I am glad you have seen the Manchester-roll.

It is not I that talk of Phil. de Comines; it was mentioned to me as a thing that looked like a voluntary omission: but I see you have taken notice of it in the note to p. 71, though rather too slightly. You have not observed that the same writer says, c. 55, Richard tua de sa main, ou fit tuer en sa presence, quelque lieu apart, ce bon homme le roi Henry. Another oversight I think there is at p. 43, where you speak of the roll of parliament and the contract with lady Eleanor Boteler, as things newly come to light; whereas Speed has given at large the same roll in his History.

I am ever yours,
Letter ID: letters.0529 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 51
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 50


Date of composition: 6 March 1768
Date (on letter): March 6, 1768
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: Here is sir William Cornwallis, entitled Essayes of certaine Paradoxes....
Mentioned: Critical Review
Commynes, Philip de
Cornwallis, Sir William
Guthrie, William
Hume, David
Speed, John
Stow, John
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

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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, 379-380
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXXXVII, vol. ii, 500-502
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXXXVII, vol. ii, 124-126
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CL, vol. iv, 114-116
  • 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. CCCXXV, vol. iii, 190-192
  • 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, 294-296
  • 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. 242, vol. ii, 285-288
  • 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, 178-181
  • 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. 473, vol. iii, 1024-1025