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Thomas Warton to Thomas Gray, 20 April 1770

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I am infinitely obliged to you for the Favour of your Letter. Your Plan for the History of English Poetry is admirably constructed; and much improved from an Idea of Pope, which Mr Mason obligingly sent me by Application from our Friend Dr Hurd. I regrett that a writer of your consummate Taste should not have executed it.

Although I have not followed this Plan, yet it is of great service to me, and throws much light on many of my Periods, by giving connected views and Details. I begin with such an introduction, or general Dissertation, as you had intended: viz. on the Northern Poetry with its introduction into England by the Danes and Saxons, & its duration. I then begin my History at the conquest which I write chronologically in Sections; and continue, as matter successively offers itself, in a series of regular Annals, down to & beyond the Restoration. I think with you, that Dramatic poetry is detached from the idea of my work, that it requires a separate consideration, & will swell the size of my book beyond all bounds. One of my Sections, a very large one, is entirely on Chaucer, and exactly fills your Title of Part Second. In the course of my Annals I consider collaterally the Poetry of different Nations as influencing our own. What I have at present finished ends with the section on Chaucer, & will almost make my first Volume; for I design two Volumes in quarto. This first Volume will soon be in the press. I should have said before, that although I proceed chronologically, yet I often stand still to give some general view, as perhaps of a particular species of poetry, &c. and even anticipate sometimes for this purpose. These views often form one Section; yet are interwoven into the Tenor of the work without interrupting my historical series. In this respect, some of my Sections have the effect of your Parts or Divisions.

You do me a favour in requesting me to pay an attention to Mr Stiguer. I return to Oxford in a few Days, when I will make it my business to find him out, and to introduce him according to your wishes. I do not know his College, nor have I heard of his name. But he will easily be found out.

I cannot take my Leave without declaring, that my strongest incitement to prosecute the History of English Poetry is the pleasing hope of being approved by you; whose true genius I so justly venerate, and whose genuine Poetry has ever given me such sincere pleasure.

I am, Sir, with the greatest Esteem, your most obedient humble Servant
T. Warton
Letter ID: letters.0599 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Warton, Thomas, 1728-1790
Writer's age: 42
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 53


Date of composition: 20 April 1770
Date (on letter): April 20. 1770
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Winchester, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Winchester-College

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 2 pages, 320 mm x 194 mm


Language: English
Incipit: I am infinitely obliged to you for the Favour of your Letter....
Mentioned: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Pope, Alexander
Warton, Thomas, 1728-1790
Surrogates: Digital facsimile [JPEG] from original letter

Holding Institution

Dep. c. 638, f. 42, Warton papers, Special Collections, Bodleian Library, Oxford University , Oxford, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes; the Warton papers are the property of Trinity College, Oxford, they were deposited in the Bodleian in 1978 and 1979

Print Versions

  • 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. 521, vol. iii, 1128-1130