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Norton Nicholls to Thomas Gray, 3 July 1769

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All, alas! is over, and I have been compelled by cruel necessity to figure to myself all the splendours and glories; how the Ode was sung, and played, and applauded (all but) as it deserves (the first glimpse I shall see of it will be I suppose in the critical review ). How thoroughly sensible of the honour the duke was. How he was pressed to death by people who never saw a duke before; and thought themselves in heaven if a chance word dropped on them in the crowd. How Dr. Gordon clapped with both his hands, and grinned with all his teeth when his Grace but looked as if he would speak, and bowed lower than even clergymen are used to bow. I should have been glad to have heard the Ode, and very glad to have seen you; but I suspect that I shall like it as well without Dr. Randal's music. And as for you, you would have been so beset with ministers of state that I should have seen nothing of you; so I thought it best to remain in quiet here, rather than to put myself to a great deal of inconvenience, expense, and trouble, to get into the midst of a bustle which I hate, and be disappointed at last.

We shall depart, I suppose, the middle of this month, so, if after that time you direct to me at Augustus Floyer's, Esq. at Upwey, near Dorchester, Dorsetshire, I shall be very glad to hear news from Yorkshire, or Cumberland, or Westmoreland, or no news at all provided I hear.

Many thanks for the Wilton book!

I have read the first volume of Robertson. It may be all vastly right, but it certainly is a little tiresome to have five hundred pages of disquisitions on feudal tenures, &c. such a pile of gothic learning in your way, when you are all impatience to begin an interesting history; and surely, it is not good policy in the author to tire you to death in order to interest you the more. All that I know is, that it is not at all like Mémoires de Sully. But then Robertson is a grave historian, and the other only a writer of memoirs. Why then a writer of memoirs is a better thing than an historian.

And so my mother waits to carry my letter to the post, and desires her compliments.

I am at the moment inebriated with gales of mignonette of my own sowing. 'Oh the pleasures of the plain', &c. For God's sake leave Pembroke (at least when there are leaves on the trees) and get a house in Wales, and let me come and pass a summer with you. Adieu! do not despise me when you come among the mountains.

Yours most sincerely,
N. N.

P.S. My service to creeping Gain, (I do not mean Mr Gould) I hope it has conceived vast hopes from the smiles of his Grace.

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Letter ID: letters.0559 (Source: TEI/XML)


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


Date of composition: 3 July 1769
Date (on letter): Monday, July 3, 1769
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: All, alas! is over, and I have been compelled by cruel necessity to figure...
Mentioned: Critical Review
Grafton, Augustus Henry Fitzroy, Duke of, 1735-1811
Granger, James
Ode for Music
Robertson, Dr. William
Sully, Duc de

Holding Institution

Availability: The original letter is unlocated, a copy, transcription, or published version survives; a photocopy is at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, OSB MSS c 467, box 1, folder 84

Print Versions

  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XXII, vol. v, 95-97
  • 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. 500, vol. iii, 1068-1069