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Richard West to Thomas Gray, [16 June 1740]

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I lived at the Temple till I was sick of it: I have just left it, and find myself as much a lawyer as I was when I was in it. It is certain, at least, I may study the law here as well as I could there. My being in chambers did not signify to me a pinch of snuff. They tell me my father was a lawyer, and, as you know, eminent in the profession; and such a circumstance must be of advantage to me. My uncle too makes some figure in West-minster hall; and there's another advantage: Then my grandfather's name would get me many friends. Is it not strange that a young fellow, that might enter the world with so many advantages, will not know his own interest? &c. &c.–What shall I say in answer to all this? For money, I neither dote upon it nor despise it; it is a necessary stuff enough. For ambition, I do not want that neither; but it is not to sit upon a bench. In short, is it not a disagreeable thing to force one's inclination, especially when one's young? not to mention that one ought to have the strength of a Hercules to go through our common law; which, I am afraid, I have not. Well! but then, say they, if one profession does not suit you, you may choose another more to your inclination. Now I protest I do not yet know my own inclination, and I believe, if that was to be my direction, I should never fix at all: There is no going by a weathercock.–I could say much more upon this subject; but there is no talking tête-à-tête cross the Alps. O the folly of young men, that never know their own interest! they never grow wise till they are ruined! and then nobody pities them, nor helps them.–Dear Gray! consider me in the condition of one that has lived these two years without any person that he can speak freely to. I know it is very seldom that people trouble themselves with the sentiments of those they converse with; so they can chat about trifles, they never care whether your heart aches or no. Are you one of these? I think not. But what right have I to ask you this question? Have we known one another enough, that I should expect or demand sincerity from you? Yes, Gray, I hope we have; and I have not quite such a mean opinion of myself, as to think I do not deserve it.–But, Signor, is it not time for me to ask something about your further intentions abroad? Where do you propose going next? an in Apuliam? nam illò si adveneris, tanquam Ulysses, cognosces tuorum neminem. Vale. So Cicero prophesies in the end of one of his letters–and there I end.

Yours, &c.
Letter ID: letters.0101 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: West, Richard, 1716-1742
Writer's age: 24[?]
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 23


Date of composition: [16 June 1740]
Date (on letter): [June 5, 1740]
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: [London, United Kingdom]
Address (on letter): [Bond-street]


Language: English
Incipit: I lived at the Temple till I was sick of it: I have just left it,...
Mentioned: Burnet, Gilbert
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

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Availability: The original letter is unlocated, a copy, transcription, or published version survives

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 xxiv, section ii, 97-99
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section II, letter XXIV, vol. i, 220-221
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section II, letter XXVI, vol. ii, 100-101
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter XLII, vol. i, 92-93
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section II, letter XXVI, vol. ii, 119-121
  • Gray and his Friends: Letters and Relics, in great part hitherto unpublished. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1890, section II, letter no. 29, 142-144
  • 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. 121, vol. i, 311-313
  • 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. 89, vol. i, 164-165