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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [8 December 1734]

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The Honble Horatio Walpole Esq
at the house of the right honble Sr Robert Walpole
in St James's Square London

[           ]

I (tho' I say it) had too much modesty to venture answering your dear, diverting Letter, in the Poetical Strain myself: but, when I was last at the DEVIL, meeting by chance with the deceased Mr Dennis there, he offer'd his Service, &, being tip'd with a Tester, wrought, what follows–

From purling Streams & the Elysian Scene,
From Groves, that smile with never-fading Green
I reascend; in Atropos' despight
Restored to Celadon, & upper light:
Ye gods, that sway the Regions under ground,
Reveal to mortal View your realms profound;
At his command admit the eye of Day;
When Celadon commands, what God can disobey?
Nor seeks he your Tartarean fires to know,
The house of Torture, & th' Abyss of Woe;
But happy fields & Mansions free from Pain,
Gay Meads, & springing flowers best please ye gentle Swain:

That little, naked, melancholy thing
My Soul, when first she tryed her flight to wing;
Began with speed new Regions to explore,
And blunder'd thro' a narrow Postern door;
First most devoutly having said its Prayers,
It tumbled down a thousand pair of [Stairs],
Thro' Entries long, thro' Cellars vast & deep,
Where ghostly Rats their habitations keep,
Where Spiders spread their Webs, & owlish Goblins sleep.
After so many Chances had befell,
It came into a mead of Asphodel:
Betwixt the Confines of ye light & dark
It lies, of 'Lyzium ye St James's park:
Here Spirit-Beaux flutter along the Mall,
And shadows in disguise scate o'er ye Iced Canal:
Here groves embower'd, & more sequester'd Shades,
Frequented by ye Ghosts of Ancient Maids,
Are seen to rise: the melancholy Scene
With gloomy haunts, & twilight walks between
Conceals the wayward band: here spend their time
Greensickness Girls, that died in youthful prime,
Virgins forlorn, all drest in Willow-green-i
With Queen Elizabeth and Nicolini.

More to reveal, or many words to use
Would tire alike your patience & my muse.
Believe, that never was so faithful found
Queen Proserpine to Pluto under ground,
Or Cleopatra to her Marc-Antony
As Orozmades to his Celadony.

Lucrece for half a crown will shew you fun,
But Mrs Oldfield is become a Nun.
Nobles & Cits, Prince Pluto & his Spouse
Flock to the Ghost of Covent-Garden house:
Plays, which were hiss'd above, below revive;
When dead applauded, that were damn'd alive:
The People, as in life, still keep their Passions,
But differ something from the world in Fashions.
Queen Artemisia breakfasts on Bohea.
And Alexander wears a Ramilie.

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Letter ID: letters.0004 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 18
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 17


Date of composition: [8 December 1734]
Date (on letter): [Dec 8]
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: [London, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: To / The Honble Horatio Walpole Esq / at the house of the right honble Sr Robert Walpole / in St James's Square London (postmark: CAMBRIDGE 9 DE)


Language: English
Incipit: I (tho' I say it) had too much modesty to venture answering...
Mentioned: Dennis, John
[Lines Spoken by the Ghost of John Dennis at the Devil Tavern]

Holding Institution

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

Print Versions

  • 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. 4, vol. i, 12-15
  • 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. i, 65-67
  • 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. 4, vol. i, 9-11