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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 14 September 1770

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To The Revd Mr Nicholls, at William Turner's Esq at Richmond Surrey
15 SE

Dear Sr

Venga, venga, V: S: si serva! I shall be proud to see you both. the lodgings over the way will be empty, but such an entry, such a staircase! how will Mrs N: be able to crowd thro' it? with what grace, when she gets out of her chair, can she conduct her hoop-petticoat thro' this augre-hole, and up the dark windings of the grand escalier, that leads to her chamber? it is past my finding out. so I delay, till I hear from you again, before I engage them. I believe, there may be a bed for you, but is there room for Mrs Kipiffe, Mamma's Maid? I am sure, I know not.

I was very ill, when I received your letter, with a feverish disorder; but have cured it merely by dint of sage-tea, the beverage of life. it is a polydynamious plant, take my word: tho' your Linnæus would persuade us, it is merely diandrious. I applaud your industry; it will do you a power of good one way or another, only don't mistake a Carabus for an Orchis, nor a Lepisma for an Adenanthera. here is Mr Foljambe has got a Flying Hobgoblin from the E: Indies, & a power of rarities; & then he has given me such a Phalæna with looking-glasses in its wings; & a Queen of the White Ants, whose belly alone is as big as many hundred of her subjects, I do not mean their bellies only, but their whole persons: and yet her head & her tetons & her legs are no bigger than other people's. oh, she is a jewel of a pismire!

I hear the triumphs & see the illuminations of Alloa hither, but did Mrs E: lie a night at Edinburgh in her way thither? does she meet with no signs of mortality about her castle? are her subjects all civet-cats & musk-deer?

My respects to your Mother. Adieu! I have had an infinite letter from Bonst:n, he goes in October to Rocheguion on the Loire, with the Dutchess d'Enville. the people in several provinces are starving to death on the highways. the King (in spite to his parliaments & nation) it is thought, will make the Duke d'Aiguillon his chief Minister.

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Letter ID: letters.0612 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 53
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 28[?]


Date of composition: 14 September 1770
Date (on letter): Sept: 14. 1770
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: [Richmond, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.; 2 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Nicholls, at William Turner's Esq at Richmond Surrey (postmark: 15 SE)


Language: English
Incipit: Venga, venga, V: S: si serva! I shall be proud to see you both....
Mentioned: Alloa
Bonstetten, Charles Victor de, 1745-1832

Holding Institution

College Library, Eton College , Windsor, UK <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes; bound into a copy of Mathias's Works of Thomas Gray (London, 1814), vol. II, part 2; a photocopy is at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, OSB MSS c 467, box 1, folder 100

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XXXI, vol. v, 112-113
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, including the correspondence of Gray and Mason, 3 vols. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. London: George Bell and Sons, 1900-12, letter no. CCCLXXII, vol. iii, 293-294
  • 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. 533, vol. iii, 1146-1147