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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, [17 December 1767]

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To the Revd Mr Nicholls at Richmond in Surrey

You have indeed brought yourself into a little scrape. I would, if it were my own case, say to Ld L: (supposing you were pressed by him) that I had not received yet any letter from T:; in the mean time I would write instantly to him in Devonshire, tell him my difficulty, & how I got into it, & desire his consent to shew Ld L: so much of his letter, as might be proper. I would then (supposing him not averse) have a cold or the tooth-ach, & be detain'd at Richmond, from whence I would (transcribing so much of this very letter as may be fit for his Ldp to see) send it to him in Town, as the substance of what I had just then received in answer to my own. he will have suspicions (you will say) from my not shewing him the original. no matter! you are nothing to Ld L:; perhaps you had written to T: about other affairs, that you can not shew him; he will not be so uncivil as to ask for it; in short let him suspect, what he pleases: any thing is better, than to shew it him. and yet I would omitt nothing in my copy but what relates to Berwick and to the addition that he should have made to the parsonage-house. the kindness express'd for him toward the latter part of the letter will (if he cares for T:) make up for all the rest.

By the way T: does himself much credit with me by this letter, & I did not (begging his pardon) suspect him of writing so well. but yet I must stand up a little for Ld L:. what occasion pray for so many cordial letters (wch, if he were good for nothing at bottom, must have cost him some pains of head) & for the bribe of a living, only to gain T:s vote & interest, wch as a Relation & Friend he would have had for nothing at all. is not the date he sets to the beginning of Ld L:s coldness to him carried a little too far back? did it not really begin a little later, when he had brought his wife to Mamhead, & they did not much like her? these indeed are only conjectures, but they may be true. I have to be sure a little prejudice to Madam; but yet I must be candid enough to own that the parsonage-house sticks a little in my stomach.

My best remembrances to Temple, & tell him, I wish, he would not give too much way to his own sensibilities; & still less (in this case) to the sensibilities of other People. it is always time enough to quarrel with one's Friends.

T G:

It was Mr Bentley indeed.

Letter ID: letters.0512 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 51
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 25[?]


Date of composition: [17 December 1767]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: [Richmond, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 2 pages
Addressed: To the Revd Mr Nicholls at Richmond in Surrey (postmark: SAFFRON WALDEN 18 D[E])


Language: English
Incipit: You have indeed brought yourself into a little scrape....
Mentioned: Mamhead

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 76

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XV, vol. v, 83-85
  • 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. CCCXXXIX, vol. iii, 214-215
  • 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. 456, vol. iii, 980-981