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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 24 June 1769

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To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff, Suffolk By Norwich

And so you have a garden of your own, & you plant & transplant & are dirty & amused! are not you ashamed of yourself? why, I have no so such thing, you monster; nor ever shall be either dirty or amused as long as I live! my gardens are in the window, like those of a Lodger up three pair of stairs in Petticoat-lane or Camomile-street, & they go to bed regularly under the same roof that I do. dear, how charming it must be to walk out in one's own garding, & sit on a bench in the open air with a fountain, & a leaden statue, & a rolling stone, & an arbour! have a care of sore-throats tho', & the agoe.

Odicle has been rehearsed again & again, & the boys have got scraps by heart: I expect to see it torn piece-meal in the North-Briton, before it is born. the musick is as good as the words: the former might be taken for mine, & the latter for Dr. Randal's. if you will come, you shall see it & sing in it with Mr Norris, & Mr Clerke, the Clergyman, and Mr Reinholt, & Miss Thomas, great names at Salisbury & Gloster musick-meeting, and well-versed in Judas-Maccabæus. Dr Marriott is to have Ld Sandwich & the Attorney-General at his Lodge, not to mention foreign Ministers, who are to lie with Dr Hallifax, or in the stables. Ld North is at King's, Ld Weymouth at Mrs Arbuthnot's, they talk of the D: of Bedford, who (I suppose), has a bed in King's-Chappel. the Archbishop is to be at Christ's, Bps of London at Clare-Hall, of Lincoln at Dr Gordon's, of Chester at Peter-House, of Norwich at Jesus, of St David's at Caius, of Bangor, at the Dog & Porridge-pot, Marq: of Granby at Woodyer's. the Yorkes & Townshends will not come. Soulsby the Taylor lets his room for 11 guineas the 3 days, Woodyer aforesaid for 15. Brotherton asks 20. I have a bed over the way offer'd me at 3 half-crowns a night, but it may be gone, before you come. I believe, all that are unlett will be cheap, as the time approaches. I wish it were once over, & immediately I go for a few days to London, & so (with Mr Brown) to Aston, tho' I fear it will rain the whole summer, & Skiddaw will be invisible & inaccessible to mortals. I forgot to tell you, that on the Monday (after his Grace has breakfasted on a Divinity-act) twelve Noblemen & Fellow-commoners are to settle his stomach with verses made & repeated by themselves. Saturday next (you know) is the great day, & he goes away on Monday after this repast.

I have got De la Lande's Voyage thro' Italy in 8 vol:s. he is a Member of the Acad: of Sciences, & pretty good to read. I have read an 8vo volume of Shenstone's letters. poor Man! he was always wishing for money, for fame, & other distinctions, & his whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, & in a place, wch his taste had adorn'd; but wch he only enjoy'd, when People of note came to see & commend it. his correspondence is about nothing else but this place & his own writings with two or three neighbouring Clergymen, who wrote verses too.

I will send the Wilton-book directed to Payne for you, tho' I know it will be lost, & then you will say, it was not worth above a shilling, wch is a great comfort to me. I have just found the beginning of a letter, wch somebody had drop'd: I should rather call it first thoughts for the beginning of a letter, for there are many scratches & corrections. as I can not use it myself (having got a beginning already of my own) I send it for your use upon some great occasion.

Dear Sr

After so long silence the hopes of pardon & prospect of forgiveness might seem entirely extinct or at least very remote, was I not truly sensible of your goodness & candour, wch is the only Asylum that my negligence can fly to: since every apology would prove insufficient to counterballance it, or alleviate my fault. how then shall my deficiency presume to make so bold an attempt, or be able to suffer the hardships of so rough a campaign? &c: &c: &c:

And am, Dear Sr
Kindly Yours
T: G:

[My] respects to Mrs Nicholls.

I do not publish at all, but Alma Mater prints 5 or 600 for the company.

I have nothing more to add about Southampton, than what you have transcribed already in your map-book.

Letter ID: letters.0558 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 52
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 27[?]


Date of composition: 24 June 1769
Date (on letter): 24 June. 1769
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 4 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff, Suffolk By Norwich (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: And so you have a garden of your own, & you plant & transplant & are dirty...
Mentioned: North Briton
Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Duke of, 1735-1811
Kennedy, James
Lalande, Joseph de
Ode for Music
Shenstone, 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 Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York: printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley, London; and J. Todd, York, 1775, letter ii, section v, 346-348
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section V, letter II, vol. i, 443-445
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section V, letter III, vol. ii, 513-515
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXLII, vol. ii, 131-133
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section V, letter III, vol. iv, 133-136
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XX, vol. v, 91-94
  • 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. CCCXLVII, vol. iii, 225-228
  • 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. 499, vol. iii, 1065-1068