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Horace Walpole to Thomas Gray, [26 February 1768]

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I plague you to death, but I must reply a few more words. I shall be very glad to see in print, and to have those that are worthy see your ancient odes; but I was in hopes there were some pieces too that I had not seen. I am sorry there are not.

I troubled you about Perkin's proclamation, because Mr. Hume lays great stress upon it, and insists, that if Perkin affirmed his brother was killed, it must have been true, if he was true duke of York. Mr. Hume would have persuaded me that the proclamation is in Stowe, but I can find no such thing there; nor, what is more, in Casley's catalogue, which I have twice looked over carefully. I wrote to sir David Dalrymple in Scotland, to enquire after it, because I would produce it if I could, though it should make against me: but he, I believe, thinking I enquired with the contrary view, replied very drily, that it was published at York, and was not to be found in Scotland. Whether he is displeased that I have plucked a hair from the tresses of their great historian; or whether, as I suspect, he is offended for king William; this reply was all the notice he took of my letter and book. I only smiled, as I must do when I find one party is angry with me on king William's, and the other on lord Clarendon's account.

The answer advertised is Guthrie's, who is furious that I have taken no notice of his History. I shall take as little of his pamphlet; but his end will be answered, if he sells that and one or two copies of his History. Mr. Hume, I am told, has drawn up an answer too, which I shall see, and, if I can, will get him to publish; for, if I should ever choose to say any thing more on this subject, I had rather reply to him than to hackney-writers: –to the latter, indeed, I never will reply. A few notes I have to add that will be very material; and I wish to get some account of a book that was once sold at Osborn's, that exists perhaps at Cambridge, and of which I found a memorandum t'other day in my note-book. It is called A paradox, or apology for Richard III. by sir William Cornwallis. If you could discover it, I should be much obliged to you.

Lord Sandwich, with whom I have not exchanged a syllable since the general warrants, very obligingly sent me an account of the roll at Kimbolton; and has since, at my desire, borrowed it for me and sent it to town. It is as long as my lord Lyttelton's History; but by what I can read of it (for it is both ill-written and much decayed), it is not a roll of kings, but of all that have been possessed of, or been earls of Warwick: or have not–for one of the first earls is Æneas. How, or wherefore, I do not know, but amongst the first is Richard III. in whose reign it was finished, and with whom it concludes. He is there again with his wife and son, and Edward IV. and Clarence and his wife, and Edward their son (who unluckily is a little old man), and Margaret countess of Salisbury, their daughter–But why do I say with these? There is every body else too–and what is most meritorious, the habits of all the times are admirably well observed from the most savage ages. Each figure is tricked with a pen, well drawn, but neither coloured nor shaded. Richard is straight, but thinner than my print; his hair short, and exactly curled in the same manner; not so handsome as mine, but what one might really believe intended for the same countenance, as drawn by a different painter, especially when so small; for the figures in general are not so long as one's finger. His queen is ugly, and with just such a square forehead as in my print, but I cannot say like it. Nor, indeed, where forty-five figures out of fifty (I have not counted the number) must have been imaginary, can one lay great stress on the five. I shall, however, have these figures copied, especially as I know of no other image of the son. Mr. Astle is to come to me to-morrow morning to explain the writing.

I wish you had told me in what age your Franciscan friars lived; and what the passage in Comines is. I am very ready to make amende honorable.

Thank you for the notes on the Noble Authors. They shall be inserted when I make a new edition, for the sake of the trouble the person has taken, though they are of little consequence. Dodsley has asked me for a new edition; but I have had little heart to undertake such work, no more than to mend my old linen. It is pity one cannot be born an ancient, and have commentators to do such jobs for one!

Yours ever,

On reading over your letter again this morning, I do find the age in which the friars lived–I read and write in such a hurry, that I think I neither know what I read or say.

Letter ID: letters.0528 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Writer's age: 50
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 51


Date of composition: [26 February 1768]
Date (on letter): Friday night, February 26
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Arlington-street


Language: English
Incipit: I plague you to death, but I must reply a few more words....
Mentioned: Catalogue of the MSS. of the King's Library
Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of
Commynes, Philip de
Cornwallis, Sir William
Dodsley, James, 1724-1797
Guthrie, William
Hume, David
Kimbolton Castle
Lyttelton, George Lyttelton, 1st Lord
Stow, John
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797

Holding Institution

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

Print Versions

  • The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, 5 vols. London: G. G. and J. Robinson and J. Edwards, 1798, vol. v, 376-378
  • 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. 241, vol. ii, 281-285
  • 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, 175-178
  • 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. 472, vol. iii, 1021-1023