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Thomas Gray to James Beattie, [16 July 1769]

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Dear Sr

I have been so unfortunate as to lose the pleasure of seeing your two Friends Dr Gerard & Mr Duncan. when they pass'd thro' this place, I was at London; & tho' Ld Strathmore told me, there was a Gentleman, who had letters for me, he coud not tell me where he was lodged. after my return hither, when they (I suppose) were leaving London, I received your letter by the post.

The late ceremony of the D: of Grafton's Installation has hinder'd me from acknowledging sooner the satisfaction your friendly compliment gave me. I thought myself bound in gratitude to his Grace unasked to take upon me the task of writing those verses, that are usually set to musick on this occasion. I do not think them worth sending you, because they are by nature doom'd to live but a single day, or if their existence is prolong'd beyond that date, it is only by means of news-paper parodies, & witless criticism. this sort of abuse I had reason to expect, but did not think it worth while to avoid it.

Mr Foulis is magnificent in his gratitude: I can not figure to myself, how it can be worth his while to offer me such a present. you can judge better of this than I, & if he does not hurt himself by it, I would accept the Homer with many thanks. I have not got, nor even seen it.

I could wish to subscribe to his new edition of Milton, & desire to be set down for two copies of ye large paper: but you must inform me where & when I may pay the money.

You have taught me to long for a second letter, & particularly for what you say will make the contents of it: I have nothing to requite it with, but plain & friendly truth, & that you shall have, join'd to a zeal for your fame, & a pleasure in your success.

I am now setting forward on a journey towards the North of England, but it will not reach so far as I should wish, as I must return hither before Michaelmas, & shall barely have time to visit a few places & a few Friends.

I am, Sr, faithfully & sincerely

If you favor me with a letter soon, be pleased to direct at Tho: Wharton's Esq of Old-Park near Darlington, Durham. To be left at Sunderland-Bridge.

Letter ID: letters.0560 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 52
Addressee: Beattie, James, 1735-1803
Addressee's age: 33


Date of composition: [16 July 1769]
Date (on letter): [July 16, 1769]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Address (on letter): [Cambridge]


Language: English
Incipit: I have been so unfortunate as to lose the pleasure of seeing your two Friends...
Mentioned: Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Duke of, 1735-1811
Milton, John
Ode for Music

Holding Institution

AU MS 30/24/6/7, 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; a photostat is in MS. Toynbee d.32, Bodleian Library, Oxford

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 iii, section v, 348-350
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section V, letter III, vol. i, 445-446
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section V, letter IV, vol. ii, 516-517
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXLIII, vol. ii, 134-135
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section V, letter V, vol. iv, 137-138
  • 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, fragment, letter no. CCCXLVIII, vol. iii, 228-230
  • 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. 501, vol. iii, 1070-1072