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Horace Walpole to Thomas Gray, 25 March 1771

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To Mr Gray at Pembroke college Cambridge

I am very much pleased with the head of Richardson, and very angry with Bannerman, who shall do nothing for me, since he will not do any thing for me. I only suspend the Bull of Excommunication, till I am sure I shall not want Him. If the young Man copies Mezzotinto, as well as he does etching, which is not probable, I shall beg you to seize the prints in Bannerman's hands, if it is not inconsistent with the Charters of the City of Cambridge, & deliver them to Mr Tyson's Engraver. But as you talked of being in town in March, I hope to settle this with you by a verbal negotiation.

I have had my House in town broken open, & every thing broken open in my House, & I have not lost to the Value of sixpence. The Story is so long, that if I began to tell it you, you woud be here before it was finished, tho you shoud not arrive till Christmas. It is talked of more than My Lord Mayor, & My Lord Mayor knows as much what to make of it, as any Body does. If you know any Saint that dragged a beautifull young Woman into a Wood to ravish her, & after throwing her on her back, & spreading open her Legs, walked quietly away without touching her, to show his continence, you have a faint Idea of my House-breakers. Some people have confounded me with my cousin just arrived from France, & imagine they sought for French papers; others say I am Junius– but Lord help me! I am no such great Man, nor keep Treason in my glass-case of China. My Miniatures, thank you, are very safe, & so is Queen Elizabeth's old face, & all my coins & medals, tho the doors of the Cabinets were broken to pieces. you never saw such a Scene of havoc as my first floor was, & yet five pounds will repair all the damage. I have a suspicion about the person, whom we are watching, but not the least guess at his Selfdenial. He burst a great hole in the door of the Area, & must have had an Iron crow to force open the Chest, for the brass flapper is bent & shivered into seven pieces, but contented himself with tumbling the prints & tapestry chairs. Silver candlesticks, linnen, spoons, nothing struck his fancy; yet he was in no hurry, for he ransacked the offices, & every room of the first floor, and nobody knows when he came in or went out, tho he seems to have taken no precaution not to be heard. There were only the two Maids in town, who were waked by a Passenger that found the Street door open between five & six in the Morning. In Short, this is the first Virtuoso that ever visited a collection by main force in the middle of the night.

yrs ever

P.S. Monday night.
I had sealed my letter, but am forced to open it again & put it in a cover, for I have this minute received yours & Thornhill. The Likeness is well preserved & I shall not quarrel with the price, but it is too black, & the wig very hard–however as Worlidge's style is fashionable, two or three more by the same hand may not displease, therefore pray trouble yourself to give the young Man two more, but none to Bannerman. Tell me how I shall send the money I owe you, besides a thousand thanks.

Letter ID: letters.0628 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Writer's age: 53
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 54


Date of composition: 25 March 1771
Date (on letter): March 25. 1771
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Arlington Street
Place of addressee: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: To Mr Gray at Pembroke college Cambridge


Language: English
Incipit: I am very much pleased with the head of Richardson, and very angry with...
Mentioned: Junius
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Surrogates: Digital facsimile [JPEG] from original letter

Holding Institution

HW MSS, Manuscript Collections, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University Library , New Haven, CT (Beinecke)/Farmington, CT (Lewis Walpole), USA <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • 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. 248, vol. ii, 295-298
  • 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, 188-190
  • 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. 546, vol. iii, 1175-1177