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Thomas Gray to James Brown, [13 October 1764]

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To The Revd Mr Brown, President of Pembroke Hall Cambridge
Southampton 13 OC

Dear Sr

Since I have been here, I have received from you, & by your means, five letters. that from Pa: I could wish, you had open'd; as I know, you by your good will would have done. the sum of it is, that he is at Geneva with the Rhone tumbling its blew & green tide directly under his window. that he has pass'd a fortnight in the Pais de Vaux, & the Cantons of Bern, Fribourg, & Soleurre, & return'd by the Lake of Neufchatel. that the whole country & particularly the last-named appear'd to him astonishingly beautiful. he enquired much after Rousseau, but did not meet with him. his residence is at Moitier au Travers about 4 Leagues from Neufchatel, where he lives in great plenty, the Booksellers at the Hague being his Bank, & ready to answer any sum he draws for. it is amazing, what he got by his two last books. he is often flying about from village to village, generally wears a sort of Armenian dress, & posses for a kind of Misanthrope, but is held in great veneration by the people.

He says, he saw all the matters that come in course in France, & was greatly disappointed. the only thing he mentions is the Church at Amiens, wch was really fine. they set out in a few days (his date is 19 Sept:) & go by Chamberry to Turin, from whence he will write to you. his letter (he says) is not worth the postage, but it is the abundance, & not the want, of matter, that makes it so poor.

After this what shall I say to you of my Lilliputian travels? on Monday I think to see Salisbury, & to be sure Wilton, & Amesbury & Stone-henge. this will take up three days, & then I come back hither, & think to be in London on Saturday or Monday after. for the weather grows untoward, & the Sea (that is this little miniature of it, Southampton-River) rages horribly, & looks as if it would eat one. else I should have gone to Lymington & Christchurch, & call'd upon Mr Mansfield in the New-forest to see the Bow, that kill'd William Rufus, wch he pretends to possess. (say not a word of Andover! ) my Ld Delawar has erected a little monument on the spot, where according to ancient tradition that King was slain, & another in Gods-House Chappel, where the Earl of Cambridge, Ld Scroop & Sr Thomas Grey were inter'd by Henry 5th, after he had cut off their heads: it is in this Town, & now the French Church. here lives Dr St Andre, famous for the affair of the Rabbit-Woman, & for marrying Lady Betty Molyneux, after they had disposed of her first Husband. She died not long since in the odour of sanctity. he is 80 years old, & is now building a Palazzino here hard by in a delightful spot call'd Bellevue, & has lately produced a natural Son to inherit it. what do you say to poor Iwan, & the last Russ Manifesto? will no body kill me that Dragoness? must we wait, till her Son does it himself.

Mr St: has been at Glamis. he tells me no news. he only confutes a piece of news I sent him, wch I am glad to hear, is a lye. I must tell you a small anecdote I just hear, that delights me. Sr F: Norton has a mother living in a town in Yorkshire in a very indifferent lodging. a good house was to be sold there the other day. he thought in decency he ought to appear willing to buy it for her. when the people, to whom it belongs, imagined that every thing was agreed on, he insisted on having two pictures as fixtures, wch they value at 60£. so Mrs Norton lives, where she did.

I am sorry for the D: of Devonshire! the cause, I fear is losing ground; & I know the Person (where Mr T: has lately been) look'd upon all as gone, if this event should happen. Adieu! when I get to Town, I shall pick up something to tell you.

I am ever Yours.

I know nothing of Mason but that he is well.

Letter ID: letters.0446 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 47
Addressee: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Addressee's age: 55[?]


Date of composition: [13 October 1764]
Date (on letter): Oct: 13.
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Addressed: To The Revd Mr Brown, President of Pembroke Hall Cambridge (postmark: Southampton 13 OC)


Language: English
Incipit: Since I have been here, I have received from you, & by your means, five letters....
Mentioned: Amesbury
New Forest
Palgrave, William, 1735-1799
Rousseau, Jean Jacques
Rufus's Stone
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Talbot, William, d. 1811

Holding Institution

Library, Historical Society of Pennsylvania , Philadelphia, PA, USA <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes; a photostat is in MS. Toynbee d.32, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Print Versions

  • 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 LXXXV, 323-327
  • 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. CCLXI, vol. iii, 43-46
  • 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. 393, vol. ii, 844-847