Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 23 September 1766
To Norton Nicholls Esq at Hollin-close Hall near Rippon Yorkshire
SAFFRON WALDEN 24 SE
I was absent in Suffolk, & did not receive your melancholy letter till my return hither yesterday: so you must not attribute this delay to me, but to accident. to sympathize with you in such a loss is an easy task for me: but to comfort you not so easy. can I wish to see you unaffected with the sad scene now before your eyes, or with the loss of a person, that thro' a great part of your life has proved himself so kind a Friend to you? he who best knows our nature (for he made us, what we are) by such afflictions recalls us from our wandering thoughts & idle merriment, from the insolence of youth & prosperity, to serious reflection, to our duty & to himself: nor need we hasten to get rid of these impressions; Time (by appointment of the same Power) will cure the smart, & in some hearts soon blot out all the traces of sorrow: but such as preserve them longest (for it is left partly in our own power) do perhaps best acquiesce in the will of the Chastiser.
For the consequences of this sudden loss I see them well, & (I think) in a like situation could fortify my mind so as to support them with chearfulness & good hopes, tho' not naturally inclined to see things in their best aspect. your Cousins seem naturally kind & well-disposed worthy young People: your Mother & they will assist one another. you too (when you have time to turn you round) must think seriously of your profession. you know I would have wish'd to see you wear the livery of it long ago. but I will not dwell on this subject at present. to be obliged to those we love & esteem is a pleasure: but to serve & to oblige them is a still greater, & this with independence (no vulgar blessings) are what a Profession at your age may reasonably promise. without it they are hardly attainable. remember, I speak from experience!
Poor Mr. W: is struck with a paralytick disorder. I know it only from the papers, but think it very likely. he may live in this state, incapable of assisting himself, in the hands of servants or relations, that only gape after his spoils, perhaps for years to come. think, how many things may befall a man far worse than death.
P:S: I must go soon to London: but if you direct to me here, I shall have your letters. let me know soon, how you go on.
College Library, Eton College , Windsor, UK <http://www.etoncollege.com/collegelibrary.aspx>
- 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 i, section v, 343-345
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section V, letter I, vol. i, 441-443
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section V, letter II, vol. ii, 511-512
- The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXLI, vol. ii, 129-131
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section V, letter II, vol. iv, 130-132
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter III, vol. v, 63-64
- 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. CCLXXXVI, vol. iii, 119-120
- 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. 425, vol. iii, 935-936