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Thomas Gray to Edward Bedingfield, [29 December 1756]

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To Edward Bedingfield Esq at Oxburgh Hall near Stoke-ferry Norfolk


I know I have reason to make you many excuses but I never found them answer any other end than to fill up vacancies in a Letter, therefore I shall only tell you that I have been longer on the wing this year than usual & than I at first intended, & that I am now return'd at last to my cell, & my solitude. Frere Thomas is not so devoted to his books or his orisons, as to forget the promise you have made him; & whenever any occasion calls you this way, his other Great-Chair holds open its arms to receive you, if not with all the grace, yet with as much good-will, as any Dutchesses quilted Peché-Mortel, or Sofa with a triple gold-fringe. You desire to see more of an Ode wch is no favourite of mine, but as you are disposed to be kind to it, here is the beginning. the end you have already.

Strophe I.

Awake, Æolian Lyre, awake,
And give to rapture all thy trembling strings.
From Helicon's harmonious springs
A thousand rills their mazy progress take:
The laughing flowers, that round them blow,
Drink life & fragrance, as they flow.
Now the rich stream of musick winds along
Deep, majestic, smooth, & strong,
Thro' verdant vales, & Ceres' golden reign:
Now rushing down the steep amain,
Impetuous, headlong, see it pour,
While rocks & nodding groves rebellow to the roar.

Antist: I.

Oh Sovereign of the willing Soul,
Parent of sweet & solemn-breathing airs,
Inchanting Shell! the sullen Cares,
And frantic Passions hear thy soft controul.
On Thracia's hills the Lord of War
Has curb'd the fury of his car,
And drop'd his thirsty lance at thy command.
Perching on the scepter'd hand
Of Jove thy magick lulls the feather'd King
With ruffled plumes, & flagging wing.
Quench'd in black clouds of slumber lie
The terror of his beak, & light'nings of his eye.

[           ]

It is very strange, that while I am writing to you after so long an interval, a Letter of yours should come, & interrupt me so seasonably. I am & shall be at Cambridge, these many months, as far as I can foresee, & how glad to see you, judge by yourself. if I stay to say more, the Post will not stay for me;

I am, Sr
Your most obedient Servant
Letter ID: letters.0262 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 40
Addressee: Bedingfield, Edward, b. 1730
Addressee's age: 26


Date of composition: [29 December 1756]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: [Stoke Ferry, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: To Edward Bedingfield Esq at Oxburgh Hall near Stoke-ferry Norfolk (postmark: CAM[BRIDGE])


Language: English
Incipit: I know I have reason to make you many excuses but I never found...
Mentioned: The Progress of Poesy. A Pindaric Ode

Holding Institution

HM 21913, Huntington Manuscripts, Department of Manuscripts, The Huntington , San Marino, CA, USA <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes; a photostat is in MS. Toynbee c.2, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Print Versions

  • 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. 231, vol. ii, 490-492