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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [8 September 1751]

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Daughter of Jove, relentless Power,
Thou Tamer of the human Breast!
Whose iron Scourge, & torturing Hour,
The bad affright, afflict the best,
Bound in thy adamantine Chain
The Proud are taught to tast of Pain
And purple Tyrants vainly groan
With Pangs unfelt before, unpitied & alone.
When first thy Sire to send on Earth
Virtue, his darling Child, design'd,
To Thee he gave the heav'nly Birth
And bad to form her infant Mind.
Stern rugged Nurse! thy rigid Lore
With Patience many a Year she bore:
What Sorrow was thou bad'st her know,
And from her own she learn'd to melt at other's Woe.
Scared at thy Frown terrific, fly
Self-pleasing Folly's idle Brood,
Wild Laughter, Noise, & thoughtless Joy,
And leave us Leisure to be good:
Light they disperse, & with them go
The Summer-Friend, the flatt'ring Foe;
By vain Prosperity received,
To her they vow their Truth, & are again believed.
Wisdom in sable Garb array'd,
Immers'd in rapturous Thought profound,
And Melancholy, silent Maid,
With leaden Eye, that loves the Ground
Still on thy solemn Steps attend:
Warm Charity, the general Friend,
With Justice, to herself severe,
And Pity, dropping soft the sadly-pleasing Tear.
Oh! gently on thy Suppliant's Head
Dread Goddess lay thy chast'ning Hand,
Not in thy Gorgon-Terrors clad,
Nor circled with the vengeful Band,
As by the Impious thou art seen,
With thund'ring Voice, & threat'ning Mien,
With screaming Horrour's funeral Cry,
Despair, & fell Disease, & ghastly Poverty.
Thy Form benign, oh Goddess, wear,
Thy milder Influence impart;
Thy philosophic Train be there
To soften, not to wound, my Heart.
The generous Spark extinct revive,
Teach me to love, & to forgive,
Exact my own Defects to scan,
What others are, to feel, & know myself a Man.

I send you this (as you desire) merely to make up half a dozen; tho' it will hardly answer your End in furnishing out either a Head or Tail-piece. but your own Fable may much better supply the Place. you have alter'd it to its Advantage; but there is still something a little embarrass'd here & there in the Expression. I rejoice to find you apply (pardon the Use of so odious a Word) to the History of your own Times. speak, & spare not. be as impartial as you can; & after all, the World will not believe, you are so, tho' you should make as many Protestations as Bishop Burnet. they will feel in their own Breast, & find it very possible to hate fourscore Persons, yea, ninety & nine: so you must rest satisfied with the Testimony of your own Conscience. somebody has laughed at Mr Dodsley or at me, when they talk'd of the Bat: I have nothing more, either nocturnal or diurnal, to deck his Miscellany with. we have a Man here that writes a good Hand; but he has two little Failings, that hinder my recommending him to you. he is lousy, & he is mad: he sets out this Week for Bedlam; but if you insist upon it, I don't doubt he will pay his Respects to you. I have seen two of Dr M:idns unpublish'd Works. one is about 44 Pages in 4to against Dr Waterland, who wrote a very orthodox Book on the Importance of the Doctrine of ye Trinity, & insisted, that Christians ought to have no Communion with such as differ from them in Fundamentals. M:idn enters no farther into the Doctrine itself than to shew that a mere speculative Point can never be call'd a Fundamental; & that the earlier Fathers, on whose concurrent Tradition Wat:d would build, are so far, when they speak of the three Persons, from agreeing with the present Notion of our Church, that they declare for the Inferiority of the Son, & seem to have no clear & distinct Idea of the H: Ghost at all. the rest is employed in exposing the Folly & Cruelty of Stiffness & Zealotism in Religion, & in shewing that the primitive Ages of the Church, in wch Tradition had its Rise, were (even by Confession of the best Scholars & most orthodox Writers) the Æra of Nonsense & Absurdity. it is finish'd, & very well wrote; but has been mostly incorporated into his other Works, particularly the Enquiry: & for this Reason I suppose he has writ upon it, This wholly laid aside. the second is in Latin, on Miracles; to shew, that of the two Methods of defending Christianity, one from its intrinsic Evidence, the Holiness and Purity of its Doctrines; the other from its external, the Miracles said to be wrought to confirm it. the first has been little attended to by reason of its Difficulty; the second much insisted upon, because it appear'd an easier Task, but that it can in reality prove nothing at all. 'Nobilis illa quidem Defensio (the first) quam si obtinere potuissent, rem simul omnem expediisse, causam qb penitús vicisse viderentur. at causæ hujus defendendæ labor cum tantâ argumentandi cavillandi qb molestiâ conjunctus ad alteram, quam dixi, defensionis viam, ut commodiorem longé & faciliorem, plerosque adegit—ego veró istiusmodi defensione Religionem nostram non modo non confirmari, sed dubiam potiús suspectam qb reddi existimo.' he then proceeds to consider Miracles in general, & afterwards those of the Pagans, compared with those of Xt. I only tell you the Plan, for I have not read it out (tho' it is short) but you will not doubt to what Conclusion it tends. there is another Thing, I know not what, I am to see. as to the Treatise on Prayer; they say, it is burnt indeed.

Adieu, I am ever
T G.
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Letter ID: letters.0182 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 34
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 34


Date of composition: [8 September 1751]
Date (on letter): Sept: 8
Calendar: Julian


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


Language: English
Incipit: I send you this (as you desire) merely to make up half a dozen;...
Mentioned: Designs by Mr. R. Bentley (1753)
Burnet, Gilbert
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Smart, Christopher
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Waterland, Dr. Daniel

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/51, College Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge , Cambridge, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, 5 vols. London: G. G. and J. Robinson and J. Edwards, 1798, vol. v, 390-392
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XXVIII, vol. ii, 215-217
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXXXI, vol. i, 168-170
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XXXV, vol. iii, 84-86
  • 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. XCV, vol. i, 212-215
  • Essays and Criticisms by Thomas Gray. Ed. with Introduction and Notes by Clark Sutherland Northup. Boston and London: D. C. Heath & Co., 1911, letter excerpt, 170-173
  • 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. 175, vol. ii, 111-116
  • 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, 52-55
  • 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. 161, vol. i, 346-350