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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 14 April 1770

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To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff Suffolk By Yarmouth

I thought my mysteries were but too easy to explain, however you must have a little patience, for I can hazard only word of mouth. what you say of poor B: is so true, & (let me add) expresses so well my own feelings, that I shall transcribe your words, & send them to him: were I in his place, I should be grateful for them! by this time I should think, you may have received a letter from him yourself, for in that I received from Abbeville, 31 March, he spoke of his intention to write to you. I wrote to you myself as soon as I return'd from London, the 1st (I think) of April.

I am coming to see you, my good Friend, that is, on Monday se'nnight I mean to call on Palgrave for a few days in my way to Blundeston. as to Wales you may do with me, what you please, I care not. there is this inconvenience in our way, that I must call on Mason at Aston (& so may you too) for a little while, the last week in May: from thence we strike across to Chester, & enter Wales. for the summer of next year (tho' I shall be dead first) I am your Man, only I desire it may be a secret between ourselves, till the time comes, as you love your life.

I rejoice to see, you are so great a Gardiner & Botanist: my instructions will be very poor: De B: with five lessons from Miller (before he departed for Sumatra) & his own matchless industry, could have told you much more than I can. it would be strange if I should blame you for reading Isocrates. I did so myself 20 years ago, & in an edition at least as bad as yours. the Panegyrick, the De Pace, Areopagitic, & Advice to Philip, are by far the noblest remains we have of this Writer, & equal to most things extant in the Greek tongue: but it depends on your judgement to distinguish between his real & occasional opinion of things, as he directly contradicts in one place what he has advanced in another, for example in the Panathenaic & the De Pace, &c: on the naval power of Athens: the latter of the two is undoubtedly his own undisguised sentiment.

Talk your fill to me, & spare not. it would perhaps be more flattering, if you lived in the midst of an agreable society: but even as it is, I take it in good part, & heartily thank you, for you have given me a late instance of your partiality & kindness, that I shall ever remember.

I received on ye 10th of this month a long letter from Paris lively & sensible as usual: but you will see it, & I shall hope for a sight of such as you have got by you. there are two different directions. A Mons: M:r B: a l'hotel de Luxembourg, rue des Petits Augustins, Fauxbourg St Germain, Paris. the other, to the same, chez Messrs Lullin, Freres, & Rittiel, rue Thevenot, Paris. the latter seems the safer, but then I am uncertain, whether I read it right. what shall I do? I have tried both ways, but do not know yet with what success.

Adieu, Dear Sr, I am very faithfully
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0595 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 53
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 28[?]


Date of composition: 14 April 1770
Date (on letter): 14 Apr: 1770
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff Suffolk By Yarmouth (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: I thought my mysteries were but too easy to explain, however you must have...
Mentioned: Abbéville
Bonstetten, Charles Victor de, 1745-1832
Palgrave, William, 1735-1799

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 95

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 xi, section v, 393
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XXVII, vol. v, 106-108
  • 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. CCCLXI, vol. iii, 274-276
  • Essays and Criticisms by Thomas Gray. Ed. with Introduction and Notes by Clark Sutherland Northup. Boston and London: D. C. Heath & Co., 1911, letter excerpt, 299
  • 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. 517, vol. iii, 1121-1122