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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [26 April 1744]

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Thomas Wharton Esq, at Mr Alderman
Wharton's of
By Caxton Bay

You write so feelingly to little Mr Brown, & represent your abandon'd Condition in Terms so touching, that, what Gratitude could not effect in several Months, Compassion has brought about in a few Days, & broke that strong Attachment, or rather Allegiance, wch I & all here owe to our sovereign Lady & Mistress, the President of Presidents, & Head of Heads (if I may be permitted to pronounce her Name, that ineffable Octogrammaton) the Power of LAZINESS. you must know she had been pleased to appoint me (in Preference to so many old Servants of hers, who had spent their whole Lives in qualifying themselves for the Office) Grand Picker of Straws, & Push-Pin-Player in ordinary to her Supinity (for that is her Title) the first is much in the Nature of Ld President of the Council, & the other, like the Groom-Porter, only without the Profit. but, as they are both Things of very great Honour in this Country, I consider'd with myself the Load of Envy attending such great Charges, & besides (between you & I) I found myself unable to support the Fatigue of keeping up the Appearance, that Persons of such Dignity must do, so I thought proper to decline it, & excused myself as well as I could: however as you see such an Affair must take up a good deal of Time, & it has always been the Policy of this Court to proceed slowly, like the Imperial, & that of Spain, in the Dispatch of Business; so that you will the easier forgive me, if I have not answer'd your Letter before.

You desire to know, it seems, what Character the Poem of your young Friend bears here. I wonder to hear you ask the Opinion of a Nation, where those who pretend to judge, don't judge at all; & the rest (the wiser Part) wait to catch the Judgement of the World immediately above them, that is, Dick's Coffee-House, & the Rainbow: so that the readier Way would be to ask Mrs This & Mrs T'other, that keeps the Bar there. however to shew you I'm a Judge, as well as my Countrymen, tho' I have rather turn'd it over, than read it, (but no matter: no more have they) it seems to me above the middleing, & now & then (but for a little while) rises even to the best, particularly in Description. it is often obscure, & even unintelligible, & too much infected with the Hutchinson-Jargon. in short it's great fault is that it was publish'd at least 9 Years too early. and so methinks in a few Words, a la Mode du Temple, I have very pertly dispatch'd what perhaps may for several Years have employd a very ingenious Man worth 50 of myself. here is a small poem, call'd the Enthusiast, wch is all pure Description, & as they tell me by the same Hand. is it so, or not? Item, a more bulky one upon Health, wrote by a Physician: do you know him? Master Tommy Lucretius (since you are so good to enquire after the Child) is but a puleing Chitt yet, not a bit grown to speak off, I believe, poor Thing! it has got the Worms, that will carry it off at last. oh Lord! I forgot to tell you, that Mr Trollope & I are in a course of Tar-Water, he for his Present, and I for my future Distempers: if you think it will kill me, send away a Man & Horse directly, for I drink like a Fish. I should be glad to know how your [ ] goes on, & give you Joy of it.

You are much in the Right to have a Taste for Socrates, he was a divine Man. I must tell you by Way of the News of the Place, that the other Day Mr Fraigneau (entering upon his Professorship) made an Apology for him an Hour long in the Schools, & all the World, except Trinity-College, brought in Socrates Guilty. Adieu, Dr Sir, & believe me

Your Friend & Servant,
T G.
Letter ID: letters.0133 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 27
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 27[?]


Date of composition: [26 April 1744]
Date (on letter): Thursday Ap: 26.
Calendar: Julian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 2 pages, 233 mm x 186 mm
Addressed: To / Thomas Wharton Esq, at Mr Alderman / Wharton's of / Durham / By Caxton Bay (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: You write so feelingly to little Mr Brown, & represent your...
Mentioned: De Principiis Cogitandi. Liber Primus. Ad Favonium.
Akenside, Dr. Mark
Armstrong, John
Brown, James, 1709-1784
Stoke Poges
Warton, Joseph

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 9-10, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York: printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley, London; and J. Todd, York, 1775, letter ii, section iv, 177-179
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter II, vol. i, 292-294
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter V, vol. ii, 148-150
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LX, vol. i, 132-134
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter VIII, vol. ii, 189-192
  • 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. LX, vol. i, 117-121
  • 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, 141-142
  • 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. 115, vol. i, 222-225