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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 19 January 1767

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To Norton Nicholls Esq at Hollinclose near Rippon Yorkshire

Dear Sr

Do not think, I forget you all this time: nothing less! I have daily thought on you, tho' to little purpose. perhaps the sense of my own inutility has been the reason of my silence, it is certain I have been well enough, & enough alone for the 7 or 8 weeks that I have pass'd here, the last three of them indeed (during this dreadful weather) I have been nursing Mr Brown, who has been under the Surgeon's hands, & now just begins to go across the room. the moral of this is, that when you break your shin, you should not put the black sticking-plaister to it, wch has been the cause of our sufferings; & thus at other people's expence we become wise, & thank heaven, that it is not at our own.

I have often wish'd to talk to Dr H: about you, but have been restrain'd by the fear, that my interposition, like your friend Dr M:s, might do more hurt than good. in the mean time I do suspect a little, that our acquaintance at Nice is by no means so near his end, as all good Christians might wish. my reasons are twofold. First, because I do not remember ever to have read in any news-paper that Lady Betty Beelzebub or Master Moloch, or even old Sr Satan himself, or any of the good family, were dead: therefore I may be allow'd to doubt a little of their mortality. Secondly, is it not very possible, that he may think, his Substitute here will not so readily go on without rising in his terms; nor do his drudgery so patiently, unless he thought him likely soon to return? and as he has no such intention, what else can he do, but make himself worse than he is, & order his Nurse to write melancholy accounts of him to her friends here?

Had it not been for this ill-contrived notion of mine, I should have been glad to hear my Uncles were off their bargain. it is sure, that the situation you mention is reckon'd as good as any part of the county. I, who lately was in the county, know, that this is not saying a vast deal. but however now I wish it had succeeded. this at least we seem to learn from it, that they are in earnest, wch is the great point: and I hope you have not been wanting in acknowledgements, nor shew'd the least sulkiness at seeing the negotiation drop, because the purchase was dear. I desire, you would give yourself no airs!

The letter to your Father was the very thing I meant to write to you about. if he is really dead, or dead to shame or humanity, it is no matter: a few words are lost. if he lives, who knows what may be the consequence? why are you not in orders yet, pray! how have you pass'd this frightful piece of a winter? better I dare say, & more comfortably than I. I have many desagrémens, that surround me: they have not dignity enough to be called misfortunes: but they feel heavy on my mind.

Adieu! I wish you all happiness, & am
Sincerely Yours
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0488 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 50
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 25[?]


Date of composition: 19 January 1767
Date (on letter): Jan: 19. 1767
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Pemb: C:
Place of addressee: [Ripon, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages
Addressed: To Norton Nicholls Esq at Hollinclose near Rippon Yorkshire (postmark: [illeg.])


Language: English
Incipit: Do not think, I forget you all this time: nothing less!...
Mentioned: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Mason, William, 1724-1797

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 58

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter V, vol. v, 67-69
  • 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. CCXCII, vol. iii, 130-132
  • 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. 432, vol. iii, 946-948