Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, 21 October 1760
Don't be afraid of me: I will not come, till you tell me, I may: tho' I long very much to see you. I hear, you have let your hair grow, & visit none of your neighbouring gentry, two (I should think) capital crimes in that county, & indeed in all counties. I hear too (& rejoice) that you have recover'd your hearing. I have nothing equally important to tell you of myself, but that I have not had the Gout, since I saw you: yet don't let me brag; the winter is but just begun.
I have pass'd a part of the summer on a charming hill near Henley with the Thames running at my foot; but in the company of a pack of Women, that wore my spirits, tho' not their own. the rest of the season I was at Cambridge in a duller, & more congenial, situation. did I tell you, that our Friend Chapman, a week before he died, eat five huge mackrell (fat & full of roe) at one dinner, wch produced an indigestion: but on Trinity-Sunday he finish'd himself with the best part of a large Turbot, wch he carried to his grave, poor Man! he never held up his head after. from Cambridge I am come hither, yet am going into Kent for a fortnight, or so. you astonish me in wondring, that my Lady C: left me nothing. for my part I wonder'd to find, she had given me 20£ for a ring; as much as she gave to several of her own Nieces. the World said before her death, that Mrs Sp: & I had shut ourselves up with her in order to make her Will, & that afterwards we were to be married.
There is a second Edition of the Scotch Fragments, yet very few admire them, & almost all take them for fictions. I have a letter from D: Hume, the Historian, that asserts them to be genuine, & cites the names of several People (that know both languages) who have heard them current in the mouths of Pipers & other illiterate persons in various & distant parts of the Highlands. there is a subscription for Mr Macpherson, wch will enable him to undertake a mission among the Mountaineers, & pick up all the scatter'd remnants of old poetry. he is certainly an admirable Judge; if his learned Friends do not pervert, or over-rule his taste.
Mason is here in Town, but so dissipated with his duties at Sion-Hill, or his attention to the Beaux Arts, that I see but little of him. the last spring (for the first time) there was an Exhibition in a publick-room of pictures, sculptures, engravings, &c: sent in by all the Artists in imitation of what has been long practised at Paris. among the rest there is a Mr Sandby, who excells in Landscape, with figures, Views of Buildings, Ruins, &c: & has been much employ'd by the Duke, Ld Harcourt, Ld Scarborough, & others. hitherto he has dealt in wash'd Drawings & Water-Colours, but has of late only practised in oil. he (& Mason together) have cook'd up a great picture of M: Snowdon, in wch the Bard & Edward the first make their appearance; and this is to be his Exhibition-Picture for next year, but (till then) it is a sort of secret.
The great Expedition takes up every body's thoughts. there is such a train of artillery on board, as never was seen before during this war. some talk of Brest, others of Rochefort. if the wind (wch is very high) does not blow it away, I do believe, it will succeed, for the French seem in a miserable way.
The Duke is well-recover'd of his paralytic attack, tho' it is still visible in his face, when he speaks. it has been occasion'd by the long intermission of his usual violent exercises, for he can not ride, or walk much now on account of a dropsy confined to a certain part, & not dangerous in itself. yet he appears at NewMarket, but in his Chaise.
Mason & Mr Brown send their best services. Dr Heberden enquires kindly after you, & has his good dinners as usual.
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Speed, Henrietta Jane, 1728-1783
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 135-136, 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 IV, letter XCII, vol. ii, 366-369
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter C, vol. iii, 259-262
- 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. CCIX, vol. ii, 166-170
- 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, 241
- 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. 321, vol. ii, 703-705