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Norton Nicholls to Thomas Gray, 6 August 1768

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My dear Mr. Professor of history and modern languages,

accept my sincerest congratulations; your letter and the St. James's Chronicle brought me the welcome news by the same post yesterday. I read of Brockett's death before, and thought of you the instant, but feared because I wished it of all things, and have been very anxious for information. I am pleased that you have an honourable and profitable office, but more pleased a thousand times that you have it in so honourable a way. The king and his cabinet council are grown into great favour with me, and I believe if I was in parliament I should vote with them right or wrong all the next session. But come and let me tell you how glad I am better than I can write it; you said you would, but now you are grown rich, God knows how you may be altered. I should have written before to invite you, only that I knew not where to direct. Mr. Professor of Arabic has honoured me with his company already for two days in his way to a rich pupil, the son of a Norwich alderman; he says it is vastly pretty to have a garden of one's own, with gooseberries and currants, and a field, and a horse, and a cow; in short, he will not be at peace till he has bought a wife and an estate, and then I fear least of all; Lord Fitzwilliam says it will kill him.

And now for Mr. Barrett, to whom I am much obliged, and certainly do not like him the worse for thinking me agreeable; but how I might like him after I had been shut up in a chaise with him for a thousand miles, I know not, especially as I should only be one remove above the valet de chambre with double wages. Besides, I am just settled here at a great expense; and then to desert my cure of souls when I have hardly given them their first dressing, would not be the part of a good physician. Add to this, that my uncles might not be pleased, and that my mother would be left alone in the land of strangers, and I think I have reason sufficient to write him a very civil refusal, which I mean to do if you have no objection. Nevertheless, I burn with desire to see Italy, and would give a limb to be in danger of breaking my neck among the Alps, or being buried alive in everlasting snow; but all this I hope to be able to do in my own way, and at my own time. I have just had a letter from Claxton (that man of rueful countenance, whom you, that are without prejudices, cannot bear for that reason) from among the glaciers, which inflames me more than ever. Shall I then ever see a valley of ice which was formed at the creation, or only a day or two afterwards at farthest? mountains of ice that will never melt till the earth dissolves? and crevices through which one might descend to the nursery of earthquakes and volcanoes? not with Mr. Barrett, I believe. At present I live in a country where nature dare not exert herself in this bold way, and thinks she has done very handsomely for me in giving me wood, a pretty lake bordered with it, a hanging meadow on which the house stands, and a dry soil; indeed, two miles from me there is the sea, which does not break into the hollows of rocks, but looks vast, and blue, and beautiful, and roars as it does in other places; I bathe in it, you may admire it, and catch strange fishes, and call them by strange names, and tell me their history and adventures. Then my own lake produces tench, and pike, and eels in abundance. We have no neighbourhood, which you will say (I hear you say it) is a blessing; but it is a reason de plus why you (if riches have not extinguished every spark of charity in you) should come and comfort our solitude. My mother says you have forgot her, but is enough of a Christian to send you her compliments and congratulations.

N. N.
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Letter ID: letters.0540 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Writer's age: 26[?]
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 51


Date of composition: 6 August 1768
Date (on letter): Aug. 6, 1768
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: My dear Mr. Professor of history and modern languages, accept my sincerest...
Mentioned: St. James's Chronicle
Brockett, Lawrence, 1724-1768

Holding Institution

Availability: The original letter is unlocated, a copy, transcription, or published version survives

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XII, vol. v, 77-79
  • 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. 483, vol. iii, 1041-1042