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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 31 December 1767

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To The Revd Mr Nicholls

Dear Nicholls

Write by all means forthwith to Ld L:, give a little into his way of thinking, seem to fear you have gone a little too far in communicating so much of T:s letter, wch was not intended for his eye; but say you thought, you saw at bottom so much of respect & affection for him, that you had the less scruple to lay open the weaknesses & little suspicions of a Friend, that (you know beyond a doubt) very gratefully & sincerely loves him. remind him eloquently (that is, from your heart, & in such expressions as that will furnish) how many idle suspicions a sensible mind, naturally disposed to melancholy, & depress'd by misfortune, is capable of entertaining, especially if it meets with but a shadow of neglect or contempt from the very (perhaps the only) person, in whose kindness it had taken refuge. remind him of his former goodness frankly & generously shewn to T:, & beg him not to destroy the natural effects of it by any appearance of pique or resentment, for that even the fancies & chimæras of a worthy heart deserve a little management & even respect. assure him, as I believe, you safely may, that a few kind words, the slightest testimony of his esteem will brush away all T:s suspicions & gloomy thoughts & that there will need after this no constraint on his own behaviour (no, not so much as to ring a bell) for, when one is secure of people's intentions, all the rest passes for nothing.

To this purpose (but in my own way) would I write, & mighty respectfully withall. it will come well from you, & you can say without consequence what in T: himself it would be mean to say. Ld L: is rather more piqued than needs, methinks. the truth is, the causes of this quarrel on paper do appear puerile, as to the matter; but the manner is all, & that we do not see. I rather stick by my Ld still, & am set against Madam Minx: yet (as I told you before) the house lies hard at my stomach.

There are many letters & things, that I never saw, as that strange one in Wales, & that to Lady Lisb:, now without these how can I judge? you have seen more of the matter, & perhaps may be right: but as yet I do not believe it. what can that firm & spirited letter be? I fear it will make matters worse, & yet it was sent away before he had seen T:s letter to you. if he had, it would have made it worse still.

You ask, if you should copy Ld L:s, and send it to T:. I think, rather not. he has now had one from him himself. if you are obliged to do so, it should be only the sense of it, & that abated & mollified, especially all that tastes of contempt.

Adieu! bless your stars, that you are snug in fat-goose living, without a Minx, & without a Lord.

I am faithfully
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0516 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 51
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 25[?]


Date of composition: 31 December 1767
Date (on letter): Dec: 31. 1767
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Nicholls


Language: English
Incipit: Write by all means forthwith to Ld L:, give a little into his way...

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 69

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section V, letter IV, vol. iv, 136
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter VII, vol. v, 69-71
  • 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. CCCXVI, vol. iii, 168-170
  • 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. 460, vol. iii, 991-992