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Thomas Gray/Horace Walpole to Thomas Ashton, [14 May 1740]

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Boileau's Discord dwelt in a College of Monks. At present the Lady is in the Conclave. Cardinal Corsini has been interrogated about certain Millions of Crowns that are absent from the Apostolic Chamber; He refuses giving Account, but to a Pope: However he has set several Arithmeticians to work, to compose Summs, & flourish out Expenses, which probably never existed. Cardinal Cibo pretends to have a Banker at Genoa, who will prove that he has received three Millions on the Part of the Eminent Corsini. This Cibo is a madman, but set on by others. He had formerly some great office in the government, from whence they are generally rais'd to the Cardinalate. After a time, not being promoted as he expected, he resign'd his Post, and retir'd to a Mountain where He built a most magnificient Hermitage. There He inhabited for two years, grew tir'd, came back and received the Hat.

Other feuds have been between Card. Portia and the Faction of Benedict the Thirteenth, by whom He was made Cardinal. About a month ago, he was within three Votes of being Pope. he did not apply to any Party, but went gleaning privately from all & of a sudden burst out with a Number; but too soon, & that threw Him quite out. Having been since left out of their Meetings, he ask'd one of the Benedictine Cardinals the reason; who replied, that he never had been their Friend, & never should be of their assemblies; & did not even hesitate to call him Apostate. This flung Portia into such a Rage that He spit blood, & instantly left the Conclave with all his Baggage. But the great Cause of their Antipathy to Him, was His having been one of the Four, that voted for putting Coscia to Death; Who now regains his Interest, & may prove somewhat disagreable to his Enemies; Whose Honesty is not abundantly heavier than His Own. He met Corsini t'other Day, & told Him, He heard His Eminence had a mind to his Cell: Corsini answer'd He was very well contented with that He had. Oh, says Coscia, I don't mean here in the Conclave; but in the Castle St. Angelo.

With all these Animosities, One is near having a Pope. Card. Gotti, an Old, inoffensive Dominican, without any Relations, wanted yesterday but two voices; & is still most likely to succeed. Card. Altieri has been sent for from Albano, whither he was retir'd upon account of his Brother's Death, & his own Illness; & where He was to stay till the Election drew nigh. There! there's a sufficient Competency of Conclave News, I think.

We have miserable Weather for the Season; Coud You think I was writing to You by my fireside at Rome in the middle of May? the Common People say tis occasion'd by the Pope's Soul, which cannot find Rest.

How goes your War? We are persuaded here of an additional one with France, Lord! it will be dreadfull to return thro Germany. I don't know who cooks up the News, here, but we have some Strange Peice every day. One that is much in Vogue, & would not be disagreable for US, is, that the Czarina has clap'd the Marquis de la Chetardie in Prison. One must hope till some Months hence tis all contradicted.

I am balancing in great Uncertainty, whether to go to Naples or stay here; You know 'twoud be provoking to have a Pope chosen just as One's Back was turn'd: and if I wait, I fear the Heats may arrive. I don't know what to do.

We are going to-night to a Great Assembly, at One of the Villas just out of the City, whither all the English are invited; amongst the rest, Mr. Stuard and his two Sons. There is one lives with Him call'd Lord Dunbar, Murray's brother, who wou'd be his Minister, if he had any Occasion for One. I meet him frequently in public places, & like Him. He is very sensible, very agreable & well bred.

Good night, Child: by the way I have had no letters from England, these two last Posts.

Yrs ever.

I am by trade a Finisher of Letters. don't you wonder at the Conclave? instead of being immured, every one in his proper hutch, as one used to imagine: they have the liberty of skuttleing out of one hole into another, & might breed, if they were young enough. I do assure you every thing one has heard say of Italy is a Lye, & am firmly of opinion, that no mortal was ever here before us. I am writeing to prove there never was any such people as the Romans, that this was antiently a Colony of the Jews, and that the Coliseum was built on the model of Solomon's Temple. our people have told so many Stories of them, that they don't believe any thing we say about ourselves; Porto Bello is still said to be impregnable & it is reported the Dutch have declared War against us. the English Court here brighten up on the News of our Conquests, & conclude all the contrary has happen'd. you do not know perhaps, that we have our little good fortune in the Mediterranean, where Adml. Haddock has overturn'd certain little Boats carrying troops to Majorca, drown'd a few hundreds of them, & taken a little Grandee of Spain, that commanded the expedition: at least so they say at Naples: I'm very sorry, but methinks they seem in a bad condition. is West dead to the World in general, or only so to me? for you I have not the impudence to accuse; but you are to take this, as a sort of reproof, & I hope you will demean yourself accordingly. you are hereby authorized to make my very particular compliments to My Ld. Plymouth, & return him my thanks de l'honneur de son souvenir. so I finish my Postscript with

Yours Ever
Letter ID: letters.0097 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writers: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771 and
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Writers's age: 23 and 22
Addressee: Ashton, Thomas, 1715-1775
Addressee's age: 25


Date of composition: [14 May 1740]
Date (on letter): May 14, 1740. N.S.
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Rome, Italy
Address (on letter): Rome


Language: English
Incipit: Boileau's Discord dwelt in a College of Monks. At present the Lady...
Mentioned: Boileau

Holding Institution

Private collection
Availability: The original letter is extant, but there is no further information about its availability; a photograph is at Pembroke College, Cambridge, GBR/1058/GRA/5/4; a MS transcript is at the British Library, Add. MSS 32562, ff. 128-134; a photostat is in MS. Toynbee c.2, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Print Versions

  • Gray and his Friends: Letters and Relics, in great part hitherto unpublished. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1890, section I, letter no. 6, 49-54
  • 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, postscript, letter no. XXXVII, vol. i, 63-65
  • 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. 117, vol. i, 293-297
  • 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, 214-218
  • 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. 85, vol. i, 152-155