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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 18 April 1770

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Thomas Wharton Esq of
Old Park near

My dear Sr

I have been sincerely anxious for Miss Wharton, whose illness must have been indeed severe, if she is only now recovering. let us hope everything from the spring, wch begins (tho' slowly) to give new life to all things, & pray give my best respects to her, & thanks for remembring me & my dictionary at a time, when she well may be excused for thinking of nothing but herself.

I have utterly forgot, where my journal left off, but (I think) it was after the account of Gordale near Settle. if so, there was little more worth your notice: the principal things were Wharldale in the way from Skipton to Ottley, & Kirstall-Abbey 3 mile from Leedes. the first is the valley form'd by the River Wharf, well-cultivated, well-inhabited, well-wooded, but with high rocky crags at distance, that border the green country on either hand: thro' the midst of it runs the river in long windings deep, clear, & full to the brink, and of no inconsiderable breadth. how it comes to be so fine & copious a stream here, & at Tadcaster (so much lower) should have nothing but a wide stony channel with little or no water, I cannot tell you. Kirstall is a noble ruin in the Semi-Saxon style of building, as old as K: Stephen toward the end of his reign, 1152. the whole Church is still standing (the roof excepted) seated in a delicious quiet valley on the banks of the river Are, & preserved with religious reverence by the Duke of Montagu. adjoining to the church between that & the river are variety of chappels & remnants of the abbey, shatter'd by the encroachments of the ivy, & surmounted by many a sturdy tree, whose twisted roots break thro' the fret of the vaulting, & hang streaming from the roofs. the gloom of these ancient cells, the shade & verdure of the landscape, the glittering & murmur of the stream, the lofty towers & long perspectives of the Church, in the midst of a clear bright day, detain'd me for many hours & were the truest subjects for my glass I have yet met with any where. as I lay at that smoky ugly busy town of Leedes, I drop'd all farther thoughts of my journal, & after passing two days at Mason's (tho' he was absent) pursued my way by Nottingham, Leicester, Harborough, Kettering, Thrapston, & Huntington to Cambridge, where I arrived, 22 Oct:, having met with no rain to signify, till this last day of my journey. there's luck for you!

I do think of seeing Wales this summer, having never found my spirits lower than at present, & feeling that motion & change of the scene is absolutely necessary to me. I will make Aston in my way to Chester, & shall rejoice to meet you there the last week in May; Mason writes me word, that he wishes it, & tho' his old house is down & his new one not up, proposes to receive us like Princes in grain.

Adieu, my dear Sr & believe me most faithfully yours,
T G:

My best compliments to Mrs Wharton & the family. our weather till Christmas continued mild & open. 28 Dec: some snow fell but did not lie. the 4th of Jan: was stormy & snowy, wch was often repeated during that month, yet the latter half of it was warm & gentle. 18 Feb: was snow again, the rest of it mostly fine. snow again on 15th March, from 23 to 30 March was cold & dry, Wd E: or N:E:. on ye 31st rain. from thence till within a week past, Wd N:W: or N:E: with much hail & sleet; & on 4 Apr: a thunder-storm. it is now fine springweather.

1 March.  first violet appear'd. frogs abroad.  
4 —  Almond blow'd, & Gooseberry spread its leaves.  
9 —  Apricot blow'd.  
1 April.  Violets in full bloom, & double Daffodils.  
5 —  Wren singing. double Jonquils.  
Letter ID: letters.0597 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 53
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 53[?]


Date of composition: 18 April 1770
Date (on letter): 18 April 1770
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: Durham, United Kingdom

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages, 224 mm x 184 mm
Addressed: To / Thomas Wharton Esq of / Old Park near / Darlington / Durham (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: I have been sincerely anxious for Miss Wharton, whose illness must have...
Mentioned: Aire, River
Gordale Scar
Kirkstall Abbey
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Wharfe, River

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 212-213, 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 v, section v, 379-380
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section V, letter V, vol. i, 471-472
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section V, letter XI, vol. ii, 552-554
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXLV, vol. ii, 166-167
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section V, letter XI, vol. iv, 182-184
  • 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. CCCLXIII, vol. iii, 279-281
  • 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. 519, vol. iii, 1125-1127