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Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole, [c. 5 January 1763]

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To the Honble Horace Walpole in Arlington Street

Commanding Beauty smooth'd by chearful grace
Sat on each open feature of his face.
Bold was his language, rapid, glowing, strong,
And science flow'd spontaneous from his tongue:
A Genius big with system, slighting rules!
Gall he had none, but boundless scorn of Fools.
Ambition lent her flambeau to his hand,
And Bacchus sprinkled fuel on the brand.
His wish to counsel Monarchs or controul;
His only means – the ardour of his soul!
Down came at once the fabrick of his pride,
Yet slightly-built diffused no ruin wide;
+Unhurt, undaunted, undisturb'd, he fell
+Could laugh the same, & the same stories tell:
Tho' headlong from his airy scaffold hurl'd,
He held his bottle fast, & drop'd the World.

I make no excuses for the four lines I have omitted. there are two more I could not find in my heart to omitt (good reason why!) & yet think it would be better, if they were not there.

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Letter ID: letters.0404 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 46
Addressee: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Addressee's age: 45


Date of composition: [c. 5 January 1763]
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Addressed: To the Honble Horace Walpole in Arlington Street


Language: English
Incipit: I make no excuses for the four lines I have omitted. there are two more...
Mentioned: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

Holding Institution

GBR/1058/GRA/3/4/87, College Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge , Cambridge, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • 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. 221, vol. ii, 213-215
  • The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence. Ed. by W. S. Lewis. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP; London: Oxford UP, 1937-83, vols. 13/14: Horace Walpole's Correspondence with Thomas Gray, Richard West and Thomas Ashton i, 1734-42, Horace Walpole's Correspondence with Thomas Gray ii, 1745-71, ed. by W. S. Lewis, George L. Lam and Charles H. Bennett, 1948, vol. ii, 124-125
  • 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. 351**, vol. ii, 767-768