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"[Tophet]"

"[Tophet]"


Inscription on a portrait.

1 Such Tophet was; so looked the grinning fiend
2 Whom many a frighted prelate called his friend;
3 I saw them bow and, while they wished him dead,
4 With servile simper nod the mitred head.
5 Our Mother-Church with half-averted sight
6 Blushed as she blessed her grisly proselyte:
7 Hosannahs rung through Hell's tremendous borders,
8 And Satan's self had thoughts of taking orders.

Expanding the poem lines shows notes and queries taken from various critical editions of Gray's works, as well as those contributed by users of the Archive. There are 2 textual and 2 explanatory notes/queries.

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0 "[Tophet]" 2 Explanatory, 1 Textual

Title/Paratext] "The person satirized in these [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"The person satirized in these lines was the Rev. Henry Etough, rector of Therfield, Herts, and Colmnorth, Bedfordshire. He was a converted Jew, and the allusion in the second line is to the fact that he "kept the conscience" of Sir R. Walpole, who was his patron. The epigram was first printed in the "Gentleman's Magazine," May, 1785, where it is stated that he was principally remarkable for the intimate knowledge he had obtained of the private and domestic history of all the great families in the kingdom, which made him, in spite of outward civilities, an object of secret dislike.
    Further particulars about him may be found in the Cole MSS., in Coxe's Life of Sir R. Walpole, and in Nichols' "Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century." In the latter is given the epitaph from his monument in the church at Therfield, which concludes thus:—"With a robust constitution, through a singular habit of body, he lived many years without the use of animal food, or of any fermented liquid; and died suddenly, Aug. 10, 1757, in the 70th year of his age.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 271.

Title/Paratext] "Previous to Mr. Gosse's "Gray" [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Previous to Mr. Gosse's "Gray" in "English Men of Letters," only six lines of this epigram had been printed,—lines 5 and 6 being omitted. In the Pembroke MSS. the lines are in Stonhewer's hand, with the heading "Inscription on a Portrait," and the first two lines are—

"Such Tophet was, so looked the grinning Fiend,
Whom many a frighted Prelate called his friend."
    A note indicates that lines 3 and 4 are an "addition in the first copy.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 271-272.

Title/Paratext] "Regarding the portrait of Etough [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Regarding the portrait of Etough and the occasion of Gray's writing these lines, Nichols writes:—"Mr. Tyson, of Bene't College, who, amongst other various and better attainments, successfully cultivated a taste for drawing, made an etching of him, a small whole-length figure, and presented it to Mr. Gray; who wrote underneath it the following epigram." (Here follow the lines.)
    An engraving from Tyson's drawing was first published in Stephen Jones' edition, who states that he was indebted for the sketch of the portrait to John Nichols, Esq. There is a pen-and-ink sketch in the Cole MSS., and of this the outline here given, first published in the Aldine edition, appears to be a copy."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 273.

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Inscription on a portrait.

1 Such Tophet was; so looked the grinning fiend 1 Textual

1.2 Tophet] "Etough. This is a misprint [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Etough. This is a misprint for "Tophet," Mr. Gosse's incorrect text having been inadvertently followed."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 273.

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2 Whom many a frighted prelate called his friend;
3 I saw them bow and, while they wished him dead,
4 With servile simper nod the mitred head.
5 Our Mother-Church with half-averted sight
6 Blushed as she blessed her grisly proselyte:
7 Hosannahs rung through Hell's tremendous borders,
8 And Satan's self had thoughts of taking orders.

Works cited

  • The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891.

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Spelling has been modernized throughout, except in case of conscious archaisms. Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Obvious errors have been silently corrected, punctuation has been supplied. The editor would like to express his gratitude to the library staff of the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB Göttingen) for their invaluable assistance.
Except for the Commonplace Book text used here, the poem was written below a caricature of the Rev. Henry Etough.