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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 3 February 1768

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To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Augustus Floyer's Esq in Thrift-Street, Soho London

Dear Sr

I intend to return you the letters by tomorrow's Fly, if nothing hinders. I am never the wiser, nor the more able to account for T:s letter to Lady L: (wch gave occasion to all the rest) it still looks like the suggestion of his Wife working upon his own natural irritability, & the sort of request made in it for the Berwick-living (at so improper a time) is not any other way to be accounted for. the sensible & manly answer to it (I must own) I can not easily digest, especially the end of it: it is plain, as he wrote on, he work'd his temper into a ferment, till at last it absolutely turn'd sower. I can not help his temper, but his heart may (for all that) be right. in the second letter he is conscious, he had gone too far in his expressions, & tries to give them a sense they will not bear: but I allow he is throughout too angry & too contemptuous. your last letter to him (tho' I never saw it) I conclude has done no hurt, perhaps has softened him a little. every thing depends upon the manner of their meeting in Devonshire, wch by this time you probably know. I do not yet see, why all this passion, why all this trouble of justifying himself to a Man, for whom he never had any kindness or regard, & who can be of little use to him in point of interest. Temp: is too precipitate, too rough too in his expressions, too much the aggressor, if he thinks Ld L: really his Friend; and if he does not, how in the midst of his resentment can he bring himself to shew a desire of accepting farther favours from him? I yet have some little hope, that all may come right again, at least right enough for our purpose; for I am more convinced of T:s contempt & want of esteem for L:, than I am of L:s aversion, or neglect of T:.

Mason is here with us, & will stay (I should hope) some time: he is even going to hire a small house opposite to Peter-house, wch he can not inhabit till next winter. Mr. Hutton being dead, he has now a landed estate, the income of which in a few years will be considerable.

old Smith of Trinity is dead, & Dr Hinchliffe will probably succeed him, tho' Dr Ross & Brocket are also Competitors for it. are your India-paper, your Axminster-carpets, your Sofas & Pech├ęs-mortels, in great forwardness? have you read Mr. Anstey, & the Historical doubts?

Adieu! I am sincerely
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0523 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 51
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 26[?]


Date of composition: 3 February 1768
Date (on letter): Wednesday. 3 Feb: 1768
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 2 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Augustus Floyer's Esq in Thrift-Street, Soho London (postmark: CAMBRIDGE 4 FE)


Language: English
Incipit: I intend to return you the letters by tomorrow's Fly, if nothing hinders....
Mentioned: Anstey, Christopher, 1724-1805
Mason, William, 1724-1797

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 71

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter IX, vol. v, 73-74
  • 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. CCCXXII, vol. iii, 179-180
  • 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. 467, vol. iii, 1005-1006