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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [19 August 1748]

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Dr Thomas Wharton, at
22 AV

My Dear Wharton

After having made my Compliments to the Godmothers of the little Doctress, who are to promise & vow for her that she shall understand, & be grateful some twelve or fifteen Years hence I congratulate Mrs Wharton & your family on this Occasion, & doubtless desire nothing more than to see you all the next Summer, tho' as to Promises, I dare not; lest some unlucky Event again come across, & put the Performance out of my Power. I am not certain whether I shall be obliged to have recourse to your Assistance or no about Christmas: but if I am, I will be sure to give you Notice in due Time.

I am glad you have had any Pleasure in Gresset: he seems to me a truly elegant & charming Writer. the Mechant is the best Comedy I ever read. Edward I could scarce get thro': it is puerile; tho' there are good Lines; such as this, for Example

Le jour d'un nouveau regne est le jour des ingrats.

but good Lines will make any thing rather than a good Play. however you are to consider, this is a Collection made by the Dutch Booksellers. many Things unfinish'd or wrote in his Youth, or design'd not for the World, but to make a few Friends laugh, as the Lutrin vivant, &c: there are two noble Verses, wch as they are in the middle of an Ode to the King, may perhaps have escaped you.

Le Cri d'un peuple heureux est la seule Eloquence,
Qui sçait parler des Rois.

wch is very true, & should have been a Hint to himself not to write Odes to the King at all.

My Squabble with the Professor I did not think worth mentioning to you. my Letter was by no means intended as a Composition, & only design'd to be shew'd to some, who were Witnesses to the Impertinence, that gave Occasion for it: but he was Fool enough by Way of Revenge to make it mighty publick.

I don't wonder your Mr Bolby disapproves Mr [ ] Conduct at Rome: it was indeed very unlike his own. but when every body there of our Nation was base enough either to enter into an actual Correspondence with a certain most serene Person, or at least to talk carelessly & doubtfully on what was then transacting at home, sure it was the Part of a Man of Spirit to declare his Sentiments publickly & warmly. he was so far from making a Party, that he & Mr ... were the only Persons, that were of that Party. as to his Ends in it; from his first Return to England he has always frequented the Pr–ces Court, & been the open Friend of Mr. H: W: wch could certainly be no Way to recommend himself to the Ministry: unless you suppose his Views were very distant indeed.

I should wish to know (when you can find Time for a Letter) what you think of my young Friend, St:r & what Company he is fall'n into in the North. I fill up with the Beginning of a Sort of Essay. what Name to give it I know not, but the Subject is, the Alliance of Education & Government; I mean to shew that they must necessarily concur to produce great & useful Men.

As sickly Plants betray a niggard Earth,
Whose flinty Bosom starves her generous Birth,
Nor genial Warmth, nor genial Juice retains
Their Roots to feed, & fill their verdant Veins.
And as in Climes, where Winter holds his Reign,
The Soil, tho' fertile, will not teem in vain,
Forbids her Gems to swell, her Shades to rise,
Nor trusts her Blossoms to the churlish Skies.
So draw Mankind in vain the vital Airs,
Unform'd, unfriended, by those kindly Cares,
That Health & Vigour to the Soul impart,
Spread the young Thought, & warm the opening Heart.
So fond Instruction on the growing Powers
Of Nature idly lavishes her Stores:
If equal Justice with unclouded Face
Smile not indulgent on the rising Race,
And scatter with a free, tho' frugal, Hand
Light golden Showers of Plenty o'er the Land.
But gloomy Sway have fix'd her Empire there
To check their tender Hopes with chilling Fear,
And blast the vernal Promise of the Year.
This spacious animated Scene survey
From where the rowling Orb, that gives the Day,
His sable Sons with nearer Course surrounds
To either Pole, and Life's remotest Bounds:
How rude soe'er th'exteriour Form we find,
Howe'er Opinion tinge the varied Mind;
Alike to all the Kind impartial Heav'n
The Sparks of Truth & Happiness has given.
With Sense to feel, with Mem'ry to retain,
They follow Pleasure, & they fly from Pain.
Their Judgement mends the Plan their Fancy draws,
Th' Event presages, & explores the Cause.
The soft Returns of Gratitude they know,
By Fraud elude, by Force repell the Foe,
While mutual Wishes, mutual Woes endear
The social Smile & sympathetic Tear.
Say then, thro' Ages by what Fate confined
To different Climes seem diff'rent Souls assign'd?
Here measured Laws & philosophic Ease
Fix & improve the polish'd Arts of Peace:
There Industry & Gain their Vigils keep,
Command the Winds, & tame th'unwilling Deep,
Here Force & hardy Deeds of Blood prevail:
There languid Pleasure sighs in every Gale.
Oft o'er the trembling Nations from afar
Has Scythia breath'd the living Cloud of War:
And where the Deluge burst, with sweepy Sway
Their Arms, their Kings, their gods were roll'd away,
As oft have issued, Host impelling Host,
The blue-eyed Myriads from the Baltic Coast,
The prostrate South to the Destroyer yields
Her boasted Titles & her golden Fields;
With grim Delight the Brood of Winter view
A brighter Day & Skies of azure Hue
Catch the new Fragrance of the breathing Rose,
And quaff the pendent Vintage, as it grows.

I desire your Judgement upon so far, before I proceed any farther.

Adieu! I am,
Ever Yours

Pray shew it to no one (as it is a Fragment) except it be St:r who has seen most of it already, I think.

Letter ID: letters.0165 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 31
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 31[?]


Date of composition: [19 August 1748]
Date (on letter): Aug: 19
Calendar: Julian


Place of composition: Stoke Poges, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Stoke
Place of addressee: Durham, United Kingdom

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages, 236 mm x 180 mm
Addressed: To / Dr Thomas Wharton, at / Durham (postmark: 22 AV)


Languages: English, French
Incipit: After having made my Compliments to the Godmothers of the little...
Mentioned: [The Alliance of Education and Government. A Fragment]
Gresset, Jean Baptiste Louis de
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Whalley, John, 1698 or 9-1748

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 29-30, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, 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 viii, section iv, 191
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter VIII, vol. i, 304-305
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XVII, vol. ii, 190-192
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXVIII, vol. i, 150-151
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XXIV, vol. iii, 55-57
  • 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. LXXXV, vol. i, 190-192
  • Essays and Criticisms by Thomas Gray. Ed. with Introduction and Notes by Clark Sutherland Northup. Boston and London: D. C. Heath & Co., 1911, letter excerpt, 156-157
  • 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. 146, vol. i, 308-312