Norton Nicholls to Thomas Gray, [14 May 1771]
I have just received the enclosed from my poor unfortunate Temple; it is a matter too nice for me to meddle with without your advice; you directed my interposition between the same persons before, and with good success; pity I am sure will plead more strongly with you now, because the case is more important. I cannot bear to see such a sacrifice to filial piety in the person of one whom I esteem for that and a thousand valuable qualities, and whom his misfortunes have made me love; his mind and constitution too are too feeble for such struggles. I cannot bear to see him absolutely ruined, he is now nearer than ever, and cannot be saved but by the help of Lord Lisburne, or some one else who is able to help him; if I could be the means of awakening Lord Lisburne's humanity, it would be the action of my life I should reflect on with most pleasure. But it is too delicate a matter for me to undertake unassisted, when I may hope to have the benefit of your wise and friendly counsels; let me entreat you to send them speedily, he is waiting in an anxious suspense, which, if it last long, may too easily change to despair; I own I dread some desperate event; the silence with which he reproaches me was only occasioned by my waiting daily for an answer from you; this is a matter of so much greater consequence, and any little delay, any suspicion of neglect in me may work such fatal effects in a mind subdued by distress and on the brink already of despair, that I hope you will answer this directly, for I shall not write to him till I receive your answer.
I have writ to De Bonstetten to say I shall certainly be at Berne this summer, and that I am not without hopes of having your company thither; that, if I arrive not by the end of June, and he hear not again, he may conclude that I have waited for you, and that you come too. I have received a very civil invitation from Dr. Hallifax to pass some time at Trinity Hall; if (as I suspect) it is a civility which I owe entirely to you, I am very much obliged to you for it, but it will not be in my power to comply with the invitation, because I must go to town the other road and pass a week with my uncle in Essex, whose son is now visiting me on that condition. I know nothing of Wheeler, nor in what corner of the globe he hides himself, he was to have been here this spring, but he neither writes nor comes, so I am not to blame.
Adieu! my heart is really full of poor Temple: you are too good to keep either him or me in suspense longer than is necessary.
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XL, vol. v, 137-139
- 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. 551, vol. iii, 1185-1186