Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 12 March 1740
Proposals for printing by Subscription, in
THIS LARGE LETTER
The Travels of T: G: GENT: which will consist of the following Particulars.
The Author arrives at Dover; his conversation with the Mayor of that Corporation; sets out in the Pacquet-Boat, grows very sick; the Author spews, a very minute account of all the circumstances thereof: his arrival at Calais; how the inhabitants of that country speak French, & are said to be all Papishes; the Author's reflexions thereupon.
How they feed him with Soupe, & what Soupe is. how he meets with a Capucin; & what a Capucin is. how they shut him up in a Post-Chaise, & send him to Paris; he goes wondring along dureing 6 days; & how there are Trees, & Houses just as in England. arrives at Paris without knowing it.
Full account of the river Seine, & of the various animals & plants its borders produce. Description of the little Creature, called an Abbé, its parts, & their uses; with the reasons, why they will not live in England, & the methods, that have been used to propagate them there. a Cut of the Inside of a Nunnery; it's Structure, wonderfully adapted to the use of the animals, that inhabit it: a short account of them, how they propagate without the help of a Male, & how they eat up their own young ones, like Cats, and Rabbets. supposed to have both Sexes in themselves, like a Snail. Dissection of a Dutchess with Copper-Plates, very curious.
Goes to the Opera; grand Orchestra of Humstrums, Bagpipes, Salt-boxes, Tabours, & Pipes. Anatomy of a French Ear, shewing the formation of it to be entirely different from that of an English one, & that Sounds have a directly contrary effect upon one & the other. Farinelli at Paris said to have a fine manner, but no voice. Grand Ballet, in which there is no seeing the dance for Petticoats. Old Women with flowers, & jewels stuck in the Curls of their grey Hair; Red-heel'd Shoes & Roll-ups innumerable, Hoops, & Paniers immeasurable, Paint unspeakable. Tables, wherein is calculated with the utmost exactness, the several Degrees of Red, now in use, from the riseing blush of an Advocate's Wife to the flameing Crimson of a Princess of the blood; done by a Limner in great Vogue.
The Author takes unto him a Taylour. his Character. how he covers him with Silk, & Fringe, & widens his figure with buckram a yard on each side; Wastcoat, & Breeches so strait, he can neither breath, nor walk. how the Barber curls him en Bequille, & à la negligee, & ties a vast Solitaire about his Neck; how the Milliner lengthens his ruffles to his finger's ends, & sticks his two arms into a Muff. how he cannot stir, & how they cut him in proportion to his Clothes.
He is carried to Versailles; despises it infinitely. a dissertation upon Taste. goes to an Installation in the Chappel-royal. enter the King, & 50 Fiddlers Solus. Kettle-Drums, & Trumpets, Queens, & Dauphins, Princesses, & Cardinals, Incense, & the Mass. Old Knights, makeing Curtsies; Holy-Ghosts, & Fiery-tongues.
Goes into the Country to Rheims in Champagne. stays there 3 Months, what he did there (he must beg the reader's pardon, but) he has really forgot.
Proceeds to Lyons. Vastness of that City. Can't see the Streets for houses. how rich it is, & how much it stinks. Poem upon the Confluence of the Rhône, & the Saône, by a friend of the Author's; very pretty!
Makes a journey into Savoy, & in his way visits the Grande Chartreuse; he is set astride upon a Mule's back, & begins to climb up the Mountain. Rocks & Torrents beneath; Pinetrees, & Snows above; horrours, & terrours on all sides. the Author dies of the Fright.
He goes to Geneva. his mortal antipathy to a Presbyterian, & the cure for it. returns to Lyons. gets a surfeit with eating Ortolans, & Lampreys; is advised to go into Italy for the benefit of the air....
Sets out the latter end of November to cross the Alps. he is devoured by a Wolf, & how it is to be devoured by a Wolf. the 7th day he comes to the foot of Mount Cenis. how he is wrap'd up in Bear Skins, & Bever-Skins, Boots on his legs, Caps on his head, Muffs on his hands, & Taffety over his eyes; he is placed on a Bier, & is carried to heaven by the savages blind-fold. how he lights among a certain fat nation, call'd Clouds; how they are always in a Sweat, & never speak, but they fart. how they flock about him, & think him very odd for not doing so too. he falls flump into Italy.
Arrives at Turin; goes to Genoa, & from thence to Placentia; crosses the River Trebia: the Ghost of Hannibal appears to him; & what it, & he, say upon the occasion. locked out of Parma in a cold winter's night: the author by an ingenious stratagem gains admittance. despises that City, & proceeds thro' Reggio to Modena. how the Duke, & Dutchess lye over their own Stables, & go every night to a vile Italian Comedy. despises them, & it; & proceeds to Bologna.
Enters into the Dominions of the Pope o' Rome. meets the Devil, & what he says on the occasion. very publick, & scandalous doings between the Vines & the Elm-trees, & how the Olive-trees are shock'd thereupon. Author longs for Bologna-Sausages, & Hams; & how he grows as fat as a Hog.
Observations on Antiquities. the Author proves, that Bologna was the ancient Tarentum; that the Battle of Salamis, contrary to the vulgar opinion, was fought by Land, & that not far from Ravenna. that the Romans were a Colony of the Jews, & that Eneas was the same with Ehud.
Arrival at Florence. is of opinion, that the Venus of Medicis is a modern performance, & that a very indifferent one, & much inferiour to the K: Charles at Chareing-Cross. Account of the City, & Manners of the Inhabitants. a learned Dissertation on the true Situation of Gomorrah. . . .
And here will end the first part of these instructive & entertaining Voyages. the Subscribers are to pay 20 Guineas; 19 down, & the remainder upon delivery of the book. N:B: A few are printed on the softest Royal Brown Paper for the use of the Curious. . . . .
(Which is a dear more than I give any body else. it is very odd to begin with a Parenthesis, but) You may think me a Beast, for not haveing sooner wrote to you, & to be sure a Beast I am. now when one owns it, I don't see what you have left to say. I take this opportunity to inform you (an opportunity I have had every week this twelvemonth) that I am arrived safe at Calais, & am at present at Florence, a city in Italy in I don't know how many degrees N: latitude. under the Line I am sure it is not, for I am at this instant expireing with Cold. You must know, that not being certain what circumstances of my History would particularly suit your curiosity, & knowing that all I had to say to you would overflow the narrow limits of many a good quire of Paper, I have taken this method of laying before you the contents, that you may pitch upon what you please, & give me your orders accordingly to expatiate thereupon: for I conclude you will write to me; won't you? oh! yes, when you know, that in a week I set out for Rome, & that the Pope is dead, & that I shall be (I should say, God willing; & if nothing extraordinary intervene; & if I'm alive, & well; & in all human probability) at the Coronation of a new one. now as you have no other correspondent there, & as if you do not, I certainly shall not write again (observe my impudence) I take it to be your interest to send me a vast letter, full of all sorts of News, & Bawdy, & Politics, & such other ingredients, as to you shall seem convenient with all decent expedition. only do not be too severe upon the Pretender; &, if you like my Style, pray say so. this is à la Françoise; & if you think it a little too foolish, & impertinent; you shall be treated alla Toscana with a thousand Signoria Illustrissima's. in the mean time I have the honour to remain
P:S: This is à l'Angloise. I don't know where you are; if at Cambridge, pray let me know all how, & about it; and if my old friends Thompson, or Clark fall in your way, say I am extremely theirs. but if you are in town, I entreat you to make my best Compliments to Mrs. Wharton. Adieu, Yours Sincerely a second time.
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 1-2, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/bldept/manuscr/>
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section II, letter XVII, vol. ii, 71-77
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section II, letter XVII, vol. ii, 83-91
- The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, with Letters to the Rev. James Brown, D.D. Ed. by the Rev. John Mitford. London: Richard Bentley, 1853, letter II, 5-13
- 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. XXXII, vol. i, 52-57
- 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. 79, vol. i, 138-143