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Thomas Gray to James Brown, 9 February 1761

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To The Revd Mr Brown M:A: President of Pembroke Hall Cambridge
10 FE

Dear Sr

If I have not sooner made answer to your kind enquiries, it has been owing to the uncertainty I was under as to my own motions. now at last I perceive I must stay here till March & part of April are over, so I have accommodated myself to it, & perhaps it may be better to come, when your Codlin-Hedge is in bloom than at this dull season. my cold, wch Mr Bickham told you of, kept me at home above three weeks, being at first accompanied with a slight fever: but at present I am marvellous: not a word of the Gout yet, but don't say a word; if you do, it will come. a fortnight ago I had two sheets from Mr Pitt, dated Genoa, Dec: 23; he had been 30 days in going from Barcelona thither, a passage often made in four; he spends the winter with Sr Rich: Lyttelton, & hopes to pass the end of the Carnaval at Milan with Ld Strathmore, who has been ill at Turin, but is now quite recover'd. he does not speak with transport of Andalusia, (I mean of the Country, for he describes only that in generall, & refers for particulars to our meeting) it wants verdure, & wood, & hands to cultivate it: but Valencia & Murcia (he says) are one continued garden, a shady scene of cultivated lands interspersed with cottages of reed, & water'd by a thousand artificial rills. a like spirit of industry appears in Catalonia. he has written to Pa: also, I suppose, to the same purpose.

The only remarkable thing I have to tell you is old Wortley's Will, & that perhaps you know already. he died worth 600,000£. this is the least I have heard, & perhaps the truest; but Ld J: & Mr Montagu tell me to day, it is above a Million, & that he had near 800,000£ in Mortgages only. he gives to his Son (who is 50,000£ in debt) 1000£ a year for life only. to his Wife, Lady Mary, (if she does not claim her dower) 1200£ a-year: otherwise this too to his Son for life, & after him to Lady Bute, his Daughter. to all Lady Bute's Children, wch are eleven, 2000£ a-piece. to Lady Bute for her life all the remainder (no notice of my Lord) & after her to her second Son, who takes the name of Wortley, & so to all the Sons, & (I believe) Daughters too in their order, & if they all die without issue, to Ld Sandwich, to whom at present he gives some old Manuscripts about the Montagu family.

And now I must tell you a little story about Lady Mary, wch I heard lately. upon her travels (to save charges) she got a passage in the Mediterranean on board a Man of War, I think it was Commodore Barnet. when he had landed her safe she told him, she knew she was not to offer him money, but intreated him to accept of a ring in memory of her, wch (as she press'd him) he accepted: it was a very large emerald. some time after a Friend of his taking notice of its beauty, he told him, how he came by it: the Man smiled, & desired him to shew it to a Jeweller. he did so; it was unset before him, & proved a Paste worth 40 Shillings.

And now I am telling stories, I will tell you another nothing at all to the purpose, nor relating to any body I have been talking of.

In the year 1688 my Ld Peterborough had a great mind to be well with Lady Sandwich (Mrs Bonfoy's old Friend). there was a Woman, who kept a great Coffee-house in Pallmall, & she had a miraculous Canary-Bird, that piped twenty tunes. Lady S: was fond of such things, had heard of, & seen the bird. Ld P: came to the Woman, & offer'd her a large sum of money for it; but she was rich, & proud of it, & would not part with it for love or money. however he watch'd the bird narrowly, observed all its marks & features, went & bought just such another, saun[ter']d into the Coffee-room, took his opportunity [when] no one was by, slip'd the wrong bird into [the c]age, & the right into his pocket, & went o[ff.] [und]iscover'd to make my Ly Sandwich happy. this was just about the time of the Revolution; & a good while after, going into the same Coffee-house again he saw his bird there, & said, well, I reckon, you would give your ears now, that you had taken my money. money! (says the Woman) no, nor ten times that money now; dear little Creature! for, if your Lp will believe me (as I am a Christian it is true) it has moped & moped, & never once open'd its pretty lips, since the day that the poor King went away!

Adieu, old Pa: (spite of his misfortunes) talks of coming to Town this spring: could not you come too? my service to Mr Lyon.
Letter ID: letters.0382 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 44
Addressee: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Addressee's age: 52[?]


Date of composition: 9 February 1761
Date (on letter): Feb: 9. 1761
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): London
Place of addressee: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 3 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Brown M:A: President of Pembroke Hall Cambridge (postmark: 10 FE)


Language: English
Incipit: If I have not sooner made answer to your kind enquiries, it has been owing...
Mentioned: Andalusia
Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley
Palgrave, William, 1735-1799

Holding Institution

College Library, Eton College , Windsor, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes; bound into a copy of Mathias's Works of Thomas Gray (London, 1814), vol. II, part 2

Print Versions

  • The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, with Letters to the Rev. James Brown, D.D. Ed. by the Rev. John Mitford. London: Richard Bentley, 1853, letter LXV, 254-259
  • 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. CCXIX, vol. ii, 209-212
  • 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. 332, vol. ii, 733-735