Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 31 December 1767
To The Revd Mr 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.
College Library, Eton College , Windsor, UK <http://www.etoncollege.com/collegelibrary.aspx>
- 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