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Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 26 January 1771

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

Dear Sr

I want to know a hundred things about you. are you fix'd in your house, for I hear many vague reports of Miss A:s inclination to part with the estate, & that the Loves are desirous of the purchase, & would bid high? what part of the mansion (where I used to tremble at a breath of air) was blown down in the high wind? did not you bless your stars for that dreary flat, that lay between you & Corton, & bar'd all sight of the sea in its fury, & of the numberless wrecks, that strew'd all your coast? as to our little & unpicturesque events you know them, I find, & have congratulated Mr Presendent, who is now our Master, in due form: but you do not know, that it never rains but it pours: he goes to Town on Monday for institution to the Living of Streatham in the Isle of Ely worth from two to three hundred pound a-year & given him by the King's Majesty. the detail is infinite, the attacks, the defences, the evasions, the circumventions, the sacrifices, the perjuries, are only to be told by word of mouth: suffice it to say, that it is carried swimmingly & triumphantly against two Lords temporal & one spiritual, who sollicited for their several Protegés in vain: so our good Uncle Toby will have about 400£ a-year, no uncomfortable pittance! I have had several capricious letters from Berne. he has sent me some pretty views of his native country, & its inhabitants. the portrait too is arrived done at Paris, but no more like than I to Hercules: you would think, it was intended for his Father, so grave & so composed: doubtless he meant to look, like an Englishman or an owl. pray send me the letter, & do not suppose I grudge postage.

I rejoice you have met with Froissart: he is the Herodotus of a barbarous age. had he but had the luck of writing in as good a language, he might have been immortal! his locomotive disposition (for then there was no other way of learning things) his simple curiosity, his religious credulity, were much like those of the old Grecian. our Ancestors used to read the Mort d'Arthur, Amadis de Gaul, & Froissart, all alike, that is, they no more suspected the good faith of the former than they did of the latter, but took it all for history. when you have tant chevauché as to get to the end of him, there is Monstrelet waits to take you up, & will set you down at Philip de Comines. but previous to all these you should have read Villehardouin, & Joinville. I do not think myself bound to defend the character of even the best of Kings. pray slash them, & spare not. my best compliments to Mrs Nicholls.

I am very sincerely,
T G:

Your friend Mr Crofts has just left me. he is a candidate for the University & will succeed in the room of De Grey, now Chief-Justice of ye Common-Pleas.

Letter ID: letters.0619 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 54
Addressee: Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Addressee's age: 29[?]


Date of composition: 26 January 1771
Date (on letter): 26 Jan: 1771
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.; 3 pages
Addressed: To The Revd Mr Nicholls at Blundeston near Leostoff Suffolk By Norwich (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: I want to know a hundred things about you. are you fix'd in your...
Mentioned: Amadis de Gaul
Bonstetten, Charles Victor de, 1745-1832
Brown, James, 1709-1784
Commynes, Philip de
Froissart, John
Joinville, Jean de
Malory, Sir Thomas
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Monstrelet, Enguerrand de
Villehardouin, Geoffroi de

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 104

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, 392-393
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section V, letter XI, vol. i, 483-484
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section V, letter XVI, vol. ii, 562-563
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXLVIII, vol. ii, 173-174
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section V, letter XVII, vol. iv, 194-196
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XXXIV, vol. v, 119-121
  • 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. CCCLXXVI, vol. iii, 299-300
  • 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, 302-303
  • 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. 540, vol. iii, 1156-1158