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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 4 April 1770

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To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff Suffolk By Yarmouth

At length, my dear Sr, we have lost our poor de B:n I pack'd him up with my own hands in the Dover-machine at 4 o'clock in the morning on Friday, 23 March, the next day at 7 he sail'd & reach'd Calais by noon, & Boulogne at night. the next night he reach'd Abbeville, where he had letters to Mad: Vanrobais, to whom belongs the famous manufacture of cloth there. from thence he wrote to me, & here am I again to pass my solitary evenings, wch hung much lighter on my hands, before I knew him. this is your fault! pray let the next you send me, be halt & blind, dull, unapprehensive & wrong-headed. for this (as Lady Constance says) Was never such a gracious Creature born! & yet–but no matter! burn my letter that I wrote you, for I am very much out of humour with myself & will not believe a word of it. you will think, I have caught madness from him (for he is certainly mad) & perhaps you will be right. oh! what things are Fathers & Mothers! I thought they were to be found only in England, but you see.

Where is Capt: Clarke's Translation? where is your journal? do you still haggle for me to save sixpence, you Niggard? why now I have been in Town & brought no franks with me yet. the translation of Gruner can not be had this month or six weeks, so I am destitute of all things. this place never appear'd so horrible to me, as it does now. could not you come for a week or fortnight? it would be sunshine to me in a dark night! even Dr Hallifax wishes, you would come. at least write to me out of hand, for I am truly & faithfully

T G:

'Vous ne voyez plus que de la misere & de la gayeté. les villages sont plus rares, plus petits: le silence dans ces deserts annonce par tout un Maitre. il me sembloit, que je devois demander a ces hommes en guenilles, qui leur avoit pris leurs habits, leurs maisons; quelle peste avoit ravagé la nation. mais ils ont le bonheur de ne penser point, & de jouer jusqu'au moment qu'on les egorge.

'Mais gardons notre indignation pour çeux qui sont si stupides, qu'ils prennent de pareilles mœurs pour modeles.'

Letter ID: letters.0588 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 53
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 28[?]


Date of composition: 4 April 1770
Date (on letter): 4 April. 1770
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): P: Hall:
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 Yarmouth (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: At length, my dear Sr, we have lost our poor de B:n I pack'd him up with...
Mentioned: Abbéville
Bonstetten, Charles Victor de, 1745-1832
Clark, John
Gruner, Gottlieb Sigmund
Shakespeare, William

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 94

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XXVI, vol. v, 104-106
  • 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. CCCLVIII, vol. iii, 269-270
  • 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. 514, vol. iii, 1115-1116