GRAY (THOMAS) Fine Autograph letter signed, announcing the death of King George II, 1760
Lot 77
GRAY (THOMAS) Fine Autograph letter signed, announcing the death of King George II, 1760
Sold for £4,375 (US$ 7,353) inc. premium
Lot Details
Fine Autograph letter signed ("TG:"), to his friend James Brown ("Dear Sr"), Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, announcing the death of King George II: "The King is dead. He rose this morning about six (his usual early hour) in perfect health, & had his chocolate . . between seven & eight an unaccountable noise was heard in his chamber: they ran in, & found him lying on the floor; he was directly bloodied, & a few drops came from him, but he instantly expired. This event happens at an unlucky time, but (I should think) will make little alteration in publick measures"; Gray also mentions an "alteration with regard to Chambers" which pleases him (apparently a new and more agreeable tenant had moved into the ground-floor rooms of Gray's Pembroke building) and concludes by sending his regards to William Palgrave, a Pembroke colleague and close friend, who had recently been making a tour in Shropshire ("...My Service to Pa:; I will write to him soon, & long to see his Manuscripts, & blew books, & precipices..."), one page, autograph address-leaf ("To The Revd Mr Brown, President of Pembroke-Hall, Cambridge"), seal-tear neatly repaired, minor dust-staining but overall in very good and attractive condition, small 4to, London, 25 October 1760


  • 'THE KING IS DEAD': GRAY'S ELEGY ON GEORGE II; one which, for all the King's boast of heraldry and pomp of power, stands in pungent contrast to the respect Gray accorded the rural poor; Gray here contenting himself with the terse observation that "This event happens at an unlucky time, but (I should think) will make little alteration in publick measures".

    This letter was written at the period in Gray's life when his attention had turned from literary studies to the study of mediaeval architecture, especially England's Gothic cathedrals, and concomitantly to English history and the archival sources on which it should be based; in part under the influence of his friend Horace Walpole: 'In July 1759 Gray took up residence in London, in lodgings formerly occupied by his friend Wharton in Southampton Row. For the next two years his principal occupation was historical research in the manuscript holdings of the recently opened British Museum, some of it by way of assisting Walpole in his historical projects. In November 1761, having read enough at the museum, Gray returned to his rooms at Pembroke' (John D. Bair, ODNB).

    James Brown, recipient of this letter, was described by Gray as wanting 'nothing, but a Foot in height and his own Hair, to make him a little old Roman'. A loyal friend and admirer, the two probably met as undergraduates; and Brown was later to attend Gray's funeral in the country churchyard at Stoke Poges and to act as joint-executor to his will. While in London Gray kept his friend supplied with news. George II had died suddenly of a ruptured aortic aneurysm on the morning of October 25. Horace Walpole, who was not a great admirer, exclaimed: 'What an enviable death! In the greatest period of the glory of this country, and of his reign, in perfect tranquillity at home, at seventy-seven, growing blind and deaf, to die without a pang'.

    This letter is published in the Correspondence of Thomas Gray, edited by Paget Toynbee, Leonard Whibley, H. W. Starr (1971), ii, 708.
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