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Thomas Gray to William Taylor How, [after 8 November 1763]

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A Monsr
Monsieur Taylor-How, Gentilhomme Anglois a


I am ashamed of my own indolence in not answering your former letter: a second, wch I have since received, adds to my shame, & quickens my motions. I can see no manner of objection to your design of publishing C: A:s works compleat in your own country. it will be an evidence of your regard for him, that can not but be very acceptable to him. the Glasgow-Press, or that of Baskervile, have given specimens of their art equal (at least) in beauty to any thing, that Europe can produce. the expence you will not much regard on such an occasion, & (if you suffer them to be sold) that would be great diminish'd, and most probably reimbursed. as to notes (and I think, some will be necessary) I easily believe you will not overload the text with them, & besides every thing of that kind will be concerted between you. if you propose any Vignettes or other matters of ornament, it would be well they were design'd in Italy, & the gravings executed either there, or in France, for in this country they are woeful & beyond measure dear. the revising of the Press must be your own labour, as tedious as it is inglorious: but to this you must submit. as we improve in our types, &c: we grow daily more negligent in point of correctness, & this even in our own tongue. what will it be in the Italian?

I did not mean, you should have told C: A: my objection, at least not as from me, who have no pretence to take such a liberty with him: but I am glad, he has alter'd the passage. he can not wonder, if I wish'd to save to our nation the only honour it has in matters of Taste, & no small one, since neither Italy nor France have ever had the least notion of it, nor yet do at all comprehend it, when they see it. Mr Mason has received the books in question from an unknown hand, wch I take to be Mr Holles, from whom I too have received a beautiful set of Engravings, as a present; I know not why, unless as a Friend of yours. I saw & read the beginning of this year the Congresso di Citéra, & was excessively pleased in spite of prejudice, for I am naturally no friend to allegory, nor to poetical prose. entre nous what gives me the least pleasure of any of his writings, that I have seen, is the Newtonianism. it is so direct an imitation of Fontenelle, a Writer not easy to imitate, & least of all in the Italian tongue, whose character & graces are of a higher style & never adapt themselves easily to the elegant badinage and legereté of conversation, that sets so well on the French: but this is a secret between us.

I am glad to hear, he thinks of revisiting England tho' I am a little ashamed of my country at this present. our late-acquired glory does not set becomingly upon us; & even the Author of it, that Restitutor d'Inghilterra, is doing God knows what! if he should deign to follow the track of vulgar Ministers, & regain his power by ways injurious to his fame, whom can we trust hereafter?

M: de Nivernois on his return to France, says (I hear) of England, Quel Roy, quel Peuple, quelle Societé! & so say I.

Adieu, Sr, I am
Your most humble Servant
T. G:
Letter ID: letters.0435 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 46
Addressee: How, William Taylor, d. 1777
Addressee's age: [u


Date of composition: [after 8 November 1763]
Date (on letter): Nov: 1763
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): London
Place of addressee: Brussels, Belgium

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 2 pages, 233 mm x 194 mm
Addressed: A Monsr / Monsieur Taylor-How, Gentilhomme Anglois a / Bruxelles


Language: English
Incipit: I am ashamed of my own indolence in not answering your former letter:...
Mentioned: Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de

Holding Institution

Add. MSS 26889, ff. 52-53, 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 v, 386-387
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXII, vol. ii, 427-429
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXXIII, vol. iv, 26-28
  • 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. CCLVII, vol. iii, 29-31
  • 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, 268
  • 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. 382, vol. ii, 827-828