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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 3 May 1771

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To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff Suffolk by London.

Dear Sr

I can not tell you, what I do not know myself; nor did I know, you staid for my determination to answer B:s letter. I am glad to hear you say, you shall go at all events, because then it is sure, I shall not disappoint you; & if (wch I surely wish) I should be able to accompany you, perhaps I may prevail upon you to stay a week or fortnight for me: if I find it will not do, you certainly shall know it.

Three days ago I had so strange a letter from B: I hardly know how to give you any account of it, & desire you would not speak of it to any body. that he has been le plus malheureux des hommes, that he is decidé à quitter son pays, that is, to pass the next winter in England: that he can not bear la morgue de l'aristocratie, & l'orgueil armé des loix, in short, strong expressions of uneasiness & confusion of mind, so much as to talk of un pistolet & du courage, & all without the shadow of a reason assign'd, & so he leaves me. he is either disorder'd in his intellect (wch is too possible) or has done some strange thing, that has exasperated his whole family & friends at home, wch (I'm afraid) is at least equally possible. I am quite at a loss about it. you will see & know more: but by all means curb these vagaries & wandering imaginations, if there be any room for counsels.

You aggravate my misfortunes by twitting me with Temple, as if a pack of names of books & editions were any cure for his uneasiness, & that I witheld it from him. I have had neither health nor spirits all the winter, & never knew or cared, what weather it was, before. the Spring is begun here, Swallows were seen 23 April, the Redstart, on ye 26th, the Nightingale was heard on ye 29th, & the Cuckow, on 1st of May. methinks I could wish, that Wheeler went with you, whether I do or not!

Adieu! I am
Truly Yours
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0633 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 54
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 29[?]


Date of composition: 3 May 1771
Date (on letter): 3d May. 1771
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 2 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff Suffolk by London. (postmark: CAMBRIDGE 3 MA)


Language: English
Incipit: I can not tell you, what I do not know myself; nor did I know, you staid...
Mentioned: 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 107

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XXXIX, vol. v, 136-137
  • 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. CCCLXXXII, vol. iii, 317-318
  • 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. 550, vol. iii, 1184-1185