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Thomas Gray to Richard Stonhewer, [21 August 1755]

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I thank you for your intelligence about Herculaneum, which was the first news I received of it. I have since turned over Monsignor Baiardi's book, where I have learned how many grains of modern wheat the Roman Congius, in the Capitol, holds, and how many thousandth parts of an inch the Greek foot consisted of more (or less, for I forget which) than our own. He proves also by many affecting examples, that an Antiquary may be mistaken: That, for any thing any body knows, this place under ground might be some other place, and not Herculaneum; but nevertheless, that he can shew for certain, that it was this place and no other place; that it is hard to say which of the several Hercules's was the founder; therefore (in the third volume) he promises to give us the memoirs of them all; and after that, if we do not know what to think of the matter, he will tell us. There is a great deal of wit too, and satire and verses, in the book, which is intended chiefly for the information of the French King, who will be greatly edified without doubt.

I am much obliged to you also for Voltaire's performance; it is very unequal, as he is apt to be in all but his dramas, and looks like the work of a man that will admire his retreat and his Leman-Lake no longer than till he finds an opportunity to leave it: However, though there be many parts which I do not like, yet it is in several places excellent, and every where above mediocrity. As you have the politeness to pretend impatience, and desire I would communicate, and all that, I annex a piece of the Prophecy; which must be true at least, as it was wrote so many hundred years after the events.

Letter ID: letters.0235 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 38
Addressee: Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Addressee's age: 27[?]


Date of composition: [21 August 1755]
Date (on letter): [August 21, 1755]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Stoke Poges, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I thank you for your intelligence about Herculaneum, which was the first...
Mentioned: Baiardi, Ottavio Antonio
The Bard. A Pindaric Ode
Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794

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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 xxi, section iv, 240-241
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XXI, vol. i, 349-350
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XLIX, vol. ii, 263-264
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXXXIX, vol. ii, 6-8
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter LVII, vol. iii, 139-141
  • 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. CXXII, vol. i, 270-271
  • 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, 178-179
  • 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. 204, vol. i, 432-433