1757 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

Thomas Gray to Richard Hurd, 25 August 1757; Poems of Mr. Gray, ed. Mason (1775) 249-50.



I do not know why you should thank me for what you had a right and title to [The Bard and The Progress of Poesy]; but attribute it to the excess of your politeness; and the more so, because almost no one else has made me the same compliment. As your acquaintance in the University (you say) do me the honour to admire, it would be ungenerous in me not to give them notice that they are doing a very unfashionable thing; for all People of Condition are agreed not to admire, nor even to understand. One very great Man, writing to an acquaintance of his and mine, says that he had read them seven or eight times; and that now, when he next sees him, he shall not have above thirty questions to ask. Another (a Peer) believes that the last Stanza of the second Ode relates to King Charles the First and Oliver Cromwell. Even my friends tell me they do not succeed, and write me moving topics of consolation on that head. In short, I have heard of no body but an Actor and a Doctor of Divinity that profess their esteem for them. Oh yes, a Lady of quality, (a friend of Mason's) who is a great reader. She knew there was a compliment to Dryden, but never suspected there was anything said about Shakespear or Milton, till it was explained to her; and wishes that there had been titles prefixed to tell what they were about.