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Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [19 December 1752]

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Dr Wharton M:D: at

[ ] oming. I am sorry to tell you a sad story of our friend over the way. young V: who is now Chaplain to your new Bishop, & has had the promise of it for some time, applied to his little red Ldship, as a friend to him & to his family, to put him into orders. he begun by a direct Lie, & told him, he knew the B:p was absolutely engaged to two People of Oxford, whom he named. then he drill'd him on with various trifling pretences, & at last went to town without ordaining him, or appointing any time, when he would. in the mean time V: being press'd by Letters from home, went to town & was immediately ordain'd by the A:p of York, & soon after appointed Chaplain. he was inform'd from a very sure hand, that all this time his friend of Ch:r had been making interest for R–ss against him, & particularly had said, that V: could not have it, for he was a young man, not in Orders yet: I assure you, they are very angry (& with reason), at R: Castle; [ ] Birch, [ ] between great Fact [ ] of none: however it is to be read. [I am reading Mad:] de Maintenon's Letters; they are undoubtedly genuine. they begin very early in her Life, before she married Scarron; & continue after the King's Death to within a little while of her own. they bear all the Marks of a noble Spirit, (in her adversity particularly) of Virtue, & unaffected Devotion, insomuch that I am almost persuaded she indulged Lewis the 14th in no Liberties, till he actually married her, & this not out of Policy & Ambition, but Conscience; for she was what we should call a Bigot, yet with great good-sense. in short she was too good for a Court; Misfortunes in the beginning of her Life had form'd her Mind (naturally lively & impatient) to reflexion, & a habit of piety; she was always miserable, while she had the care of Mad: de Montespan's children; timid & very cautious of making Use of that unlimited Power she rose to afterwards for fear of trespassing on the King's Friendship for her; & after his death, not at all afraid of meeting her own. I don't know what to say to you with regard to Racine: it sounds to me as if any body should fall upon Shakespear, who indeed lies infinitely more open to Criticism of all kinds, but I should not care to be the person that undertook it. if you don't like Athaliah, or Britannicus, there is no more to be said. I have done.

Ross bears, or dissembles his disappointment better, than I expected of him: perhaps indeed it may not turn out to his disadvantage at the end. he is in London about something. have you seen Bishop Hall's Satires, call'd Virgidemiæ, republish'd lately. they are full of spirit & poetry; as much of the first, as Dr Donne, & far more of the latter. they were wrote at this University, when he was about 23 years old, in Q: Elizabeth's time.

Adieu [ Brown & Tuthill] send their best Compliments, with mine, to you & Mrs Wharton. I am ever
Very sincerely yours,
T G:
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Letter ID: letters.0197 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 36
Addressee: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Addressee's age: 35[?]


Date of composition: [19 December 1752]
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages, 202 mm x 163 mm
Addressed: To / Dr Wharton M:D: at / Durham (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: I am sorry to tell you a sad story of our friend over the way....
Mentioned: Donne, John
Hall, Joseph
Maintenon, Mme de
Raby Castle
Scarron, Paul
Shakespeare, William

Holding Institution

Egerton MS 2400, ff. 49-50, 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 xvi, section iv, 223-224
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XVI, vol. i, 333-334
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XXXV, vol. ii, 231-233
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXXXIV, vol. i, 177-179
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XLII, vol. iii, 102-105
  • 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. C, vol. i, 224-227
  • 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, 174-175
  • 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. 171, vol. i, 367-370