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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 26 August 1766

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To Norton Nicholls Esq at Charles Floyers Esq of Hollinclose near Rippon Yorkshire

Dear Sr

It is long since that I heard you were gone in hast into Yorkshire on account of your Mother's illness, & the same letter inform'd me, that she was recover'd. otherwise I had then wrote to you only to beg you would take care of her, & to inform you, that I had discover'd a thing very little known, wch is, that in one's whole life one never can have any more than a single Mother. you may think this is obvious, & (what you call) a trite observation. you are a green Gossling! I was at the same age (very near) as wise as you, & yet I never discover'd this (with full evidence & conviction, I mean) till it was too late. it is 13 years ago, & seems but yesterday, & every day I live it sinks deeper into my heart. many a corollary could I draw from this axiom for your use (not for my own) but I will leave you the merit of doing it yourself. pray, tell me how your own health is. I conclude it perfect, as I hear you offer'd yourself for a guide to Mr Palgrave into the Sierra-Morena of Yorkshire. for me I pass'd the end of May & all June in Kent not disagreeably. the country is all a garden, gay, rich, & fruitfull, & (from the rainy season) had preserved, till I left it, all that emerald verdure, wch commonly one only sees for the first fortnight of the spring. in the west part of it from every eminence the eye catches some long winding reach of the Thames or Medway with all their navigation. in the east the sea breaks in upon you, & mixes its white transient sails & glittering blew expanse with the deeper & brighter greens of the woods & corn. this last sentence is so fine I am quite ashamed. but no matter! you must translate it into prose. Palgrave, if he heard it, would cover his face with his pudding-sleeve. I went to Margate for a day: one would think, it was Bartholomew Fair that had flown down: From Smithfield to Kent in the London machine like my Lady Stuffdamask (to be sure you have read the New Bath Guide, the most fashionable of books) so then I did not go to Kingsgate, because it belong'd to my Ld Holland: but to Ramsgate I did, & so to Sandwich & Deal & Dover & Folkstone & Hithe all along the coast very delightful. I do not tell you of the great & small beasts & creeping things innumerable that I met with, because you do not suspect, that this world is inhabited by any thing but Men & Women, & Clergy, & such two-legged cattle. now I am here again very disconsolate & all alone: even Mr Brown is gone, & the cares of this world are coming thick upon me, I do not mean Children. you I hope are better off, riding & walking with Mr Aislaby, singing Duets with my Cousin Fanny, improving with Mr Weddell, conversing with Mr Harry Duncomb. I must not wish for you here: besides I am going to Town at Michaelmas, by no means for amusement. do you remember, how we are to go into Wales next year? well!–Adieu, I am

Sincerely Yours,
T G:

Pray how does poor Temple find himself in his new situation? is Ld L: as good as his letters were? what is come of the Father & Brother? Have you seen Mason?

Letter ID: letters.0477 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 49
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 24[?]


Date of composition: 26 August 1766
Date (on letter): Aug: 26. 1766
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Pemb: Hall
Place of addressee: [Ripon, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages
Addressed: To Norton Nicholls Esq at Charles Floyers Esq of Hollinclose near Rippon Yorkshire


Language: English
Incipit: It is long since that I heard you were gone in hast into Yorkshire...
Mentioned: Anstey, Christopher, 1724-1805
Gray, Mrs. (Dorothy), 1685-1753
Medway, River
Palgrave, William, 1735-1799
Thames, River

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 51

Print Versions

  • The Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York: printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley, London; and J. Todd, York, 1775, letter x, section v, 391-392
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section V, letter X, vol. i, 482-483
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CXXIII, vol. ii, 460-461
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXXIX, vol. ii, 105-106
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXXXIV, vol. iv, 65-67
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter II, vol. v, 60-62
  • 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. CCLXXXIII, vol. iii, 109-112
  • 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. 422, vol. iii, 926-929