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James Beattie to Thomas Gray, 30 August 1765

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If I thought it necessary to offer an apology for venturing to address you in this abrupt manner, I should be very much at a loss how to begin. I might plead my admiration of your genius, and my attachment to your character; but who is he, that could not, with truth, urge the same excuse for intruding on your retirement? I might plead my earnest desire to be personally acquainted with a man whom I have so long and so passionately admired in his writings; but thousands, of greater consequence than I, are ambitious of the same honour. I, indeed, must either flatter myself that no apology is necessary, or otherwise, I must despair of obtaining what has long been the object of my most ardent wishes; I must for ever forfeit all hopes of seeing you, and conversing with you.

It was yesterday I received the agreeable news of your being in Scotland, and of your intending to visit some parts of it. Will you permit us to hope, that we shall have an opportunity, at Aberdeen, of thanking you in person, for the honour you have done to Britain, and to the poetic art, by your inestimable compositions, and of offering you all that we have that deserves your acceptance, namely, hearts full of esteem, respect, and affection? If you cannot come so far northward, let me at least be acquainted with the place of your residence, and permitted to wait on you. Forgive, sir, this request; forgive me if I urge it with earnestness, for indeed it concerns me nearly;

and do me the justice to believe, that I am, with the most sincere attachment, and most respectful esteem, &c. &c. &c.

P.S. Dr Carlisle of Musselburgh, and Dr Wight of Glasgow, acquainted me of your being in Scotland. It was from them I learned that my name was not wholly unknown to you.

Letter ID: letters.0464 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Beattie, James, 1735-1803
Writer's age: 29
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 48


Date of composition: 30 August 1765
Date (on letter): 30th August, 1765
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Marischal College of Aberdeen


Language: English
Incipit: If I thought it necessary to offer an apology for venturing to address you...
Mentioned: Beattie, James, 1735-1803

Holding Institution

Availability: The original letter is unlocated, a copy, transcription, or published version survives

Print Versions

  • An Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, including many of his original letters, 2 vols. Ed. by Sir William Forbes. Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1806, vol. i, 71-72
  • 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. 410, vol. ii, 885-886