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Charles Victor de Bonstetten/Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 6 January 1770

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

Hence vain deluding Joys is our motto hier, written on every feature, and ourly spoken by every solitary Chapel bel; So that decently you cant expect no other but a very grave letter. I realy beg you pardon to wrap up my thoughts in so smart a dress as an in quarto sheet. I know they should apear in a folio leave, but the Ideas themselves shall look so solemn as to belie their dress.–Tho' I wear not yet the black gown, and am only an inferior Priest in the temple of Meditation, yet my countenance is already consecrated. I never walk but with even steps and musing gate, and looks comercing with the skyes; and unfold my wrinkles only when I see mr. Gray, or think of you. Then nothwithstanding all your learnings and knowledge, I feel in such occasions that I have a heart, which you know is as some others a quite prophane thing to carry under a black gown.

I am in a hurry from morning till evening. At 8 o Clock I am roused by a young square Cap, with whom I follow Satan through Chaos and night. He explaind me in Greek and latin, the sweet reluctant amorous Delays of our Grandmother Eve. We finish our travels in a copious breakfeast of muffins and tea. Then apears Shakespair and old Lineus strugling together as two ghost would do for a damned Soul. Sometimes the one get the better sometimes the other. Mr Gray, whose acquaintance is my greatest debt to you, is so good as to shew me Macbeth, and all witches Beldams, Ghost and Spirits, whose language I never could have understood without his Interpretation. I am now endeavouring to dress all those people in a french dress, which is a very hard labour.

I am afraid to take a room, which Mr. Gray shall keep still much better. So I stop hier my everrambling pen. My respectful Compliments to Md. Nichole. Only remember that you have no where a better or more grateful friend than your de Bonstetten. –I loosd Mr. Wheeler letter and his direction.

I never saw such a boy: our breed is not made on this model. he is busy from morn[ing] to night, has no other amusement, than tha[t] of changing one study for another, like[s] nobody, that he sees here, & yet wishes to stay longer, tho' he has pass'd a whole fortnight with us already. his letter has had no correction whatever, & is prettier by half than English.

Would not you hazard your journal: I want to see, what you have done this summer tho' it would be safer & better to bring it yourself, methinks!

Complimens respectueux à Mad: Nichole, & à notre aimable Cousine, la Sposa.

Letter ID: letters.0574 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writers: Bonstetten, Charles Victor de, 1745-1832 and
Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writers's age: 24 and 53
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 28[?]


Date of composition: 6 January 1770
Date (on letter): the 6. Jan. 1770
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

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


Language: English
Incipit: Hence vain deluding Joys is our motto hier, written on every feature,...
Mentioned: Cambridge
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

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XXIV, vol. v, 101-103
  • 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. CCCLVI, vol. iii, 266-267
  • 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. 512, vol. iii, 1110-1112