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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [August 1736]

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The Honble Mr Horace Walpole
At Kings-College Cambridge

[           ]

I was hinder'd in my last, & so could not give you all the trouble I would have done; the Description of a road, which your Coach-wheels have so often honour'd, it would be needless to give you; suffice it, that I arrived at Birnam-wood without the loss of any of my fine Jewels, & that no little Cacaturient Gentlewoman made me any reverences by the way; I live with my Uncle, a great hunter in imagination; his Dogs take up every chair in the house, so I'm forced to stand at this present writing, & tho' the Gout forbids him galloping after 'em in the field, yet he continues still to regale his Ears & Nose with their comfortable Noise and Stink; he holds me mighty cheap I perceive for walking, when I should ride, & reading, when I should hunt: my comfort amidst all this is, that I have at the distance of half a mile thro' a green Lane, a Forest (the vulgar call it a Common) all my own; at least as good as so, for I spy no human thing in it but myself; it is a little Chaos of Mountains & Precipices; Mountains it is true, that don't ascend much above the Clouds, nor are the Declivities quite so amazing, as Dover-Cliff; but just such hills as people, who love their Necks as well as I do, may venture to climb, & Crags, that give the eye as much pleasure, as if they were more dangerous: both Vale & Hill is cover'd over with most venerable Beeches, & other very reverend Vegetables, that like most ancient People, are always dreaming out their old Stories to the Winds

And, as they bow their hoary Tops, relate
In murm'ring Sounds the dark Decrees of Fate;
While Visions, as Poetic eyes avow,
Cling to each Leaf, & swarm on ev'ry Bough:

At the foot of one of these squats me I; il Penseroso, and there grow to the Trunk for a whole morning,

– the tim'rous Hare, & sportive Squirrel
Gambol around me –

like Adam in Paradise, but commonly without an Eve, & besides I think he did not use to read Virgil, as I usually do there: in this situation I often converse with my Horace aloud too, that is, talk to you; for I don't remember, that I ever heard you answer me; I beg pardon for taking all the conversation to myself; but it is your own fault indeed. We have old Mr Southern at a Gentlemans house a little way off, who often comes to see us; he is now 77 year old, & has almost wholly lost his Memory, but is as agreeable, as an old Man can be; at least I persuade myself so, when I look upon him, & think of Isabella & Oroonoko. I shall be in Town in about 3 weeks, I believe; if you direct your letters to London, they will take care to send 'em safe; but I must desire, you would fold 'em with a little more art, for your last had been open'd without breaking the Seal, Adieu,

Dr          , yours ever

P:S: Regreet Almanzor from me,
Wish Pol: Cutcher joy from me,
Give Cole an humble service from me.

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Letter ID: letters.0029 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 19
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 18


Date of composition: [August 1736]
Calendar: Julian


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

Physical description

Addressed: To / The Honble Mr Horace Walpole / At Kings-College Cambridge (postmark: WINDSOR AV)


Language: English
Incipit: I was hinder'd in my last, & so could not give you all the trouble...
Mentioned: Burnham Beeches
Cole, William, 1714-1782
Southerne, Thomas
[Lines Written at Burnham]

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/23, College Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge , Cambridge, 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 ix, section i, 23-25
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section I, letter IX, vol. i, 153-154
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section I, letter IX, vol. ii, 18-19
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter IX, vol. i, 20-21
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section I, letter IX, vol. ii, 20-22
  • 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. VII, vol. i, 7-8
  • 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. 39, vol. i, 92-95
  • 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, 105-107
  • 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. 26, vol. i, 46-49