Skip main navigation

Thomas Gray to Norton Nicholls, 20 May 1771

Back to Letters page

I received your letter inclosing that of poor T: the night before I set out for London. I would by all means wish you to comply with his request. you may say many things to Ld L: with a better grace, than he can. I trust to the cause, & to the warmth of your own kindness, for inspiration: there is little of management required, nothing to conceal, but the full persuasion (I trust) we both have, that Ld L: knows the distress of his circumstances at least as well as we do. this doubtless must be kept out of sight, lest it carry too keen a reproach with it. in all the rest you are at full liberty to expatiate on his good qualities, the friendship you have long had for him, the pious imprudence, that has produced his present uneasy situation, & above all your profound respect for Lord L:s character & sensibility of heart.

who knows what may be the consequence? Men sometimes catch that feeling from a Stranger, wch should have originally sprung from their own heart. as to the means of helping him, his own schemes are perhaps too wild for you to mention them to Ld L: & (if they are to separate him from his Wife & family) what is to come of them in the mean time? I have a notion that the Chaplainship at Leghorn is still vacant by the death of a young Mr Byrom. at least I have never heard it was fill'd up. it depends on recommendation to the principal Italian Merchants, wch seems much in Ld L:s power. The Bp of Derry (I apprehend) is at Nice, or somewhere in Italy, for his health: it is true he has a great patronage in Ireland, & sometimes (from vanity) may do a right thing. the other projects do not strike me as any thing, but (if Ld L: can be brought to mean him well) many different means will occur, by wch he may serve him.

I shall pass a fortnight here, & perhaps within that time may see you in Town, at least I would wish so to do. I am but indifferently well, & think, all things consider'd, it is best not to keep you in suspense about my journey. the sense of my own duty, which I do not perform, my own low spirits (to which this consideration not a little contributes) & (added to these) a bodily indisposition make it necessary for me to deny myself that pleasure, which perhaps I have kept too long in view. I shall see however with your eyes, & accompany you at least in idea. write or come, or both soon.

I am ever yours sincerely,
T G:

My respects to Mrs Nicholls. Clarke (I hear) is in town at Claxton's.

Letter ID: letters.0635 (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: 20 May 1771
Date (on letter): 20 May. 1771
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): London. at Frisby's, Jermyn-Street

Physical description

Form/Extent: A.L.S.; 3 pages; two thirds of the letter are missing including the address on the envelope


Language: English
Incipit: I received your letter inclosing that of poor T: the night before I set...
Mentioned: Clark, John

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 108

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, 393-394
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, letter XLI, vol. v, 139-141
  • 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. CCCLXXXIII, vol. iii, 318-319
  • 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. 552, vol. iii, 1186-1188