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William Mason to Thomas Gray, 26 November 1755

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Dear Mr Gray

It is not true that I again make interest to be transported into Ireland; and yet I beleive too it will be my fate. I am totally passive in the whole affair, and shall remain so, the only step I ever took, wch could be calld active, was to write a Letter to Mr Bonfoy, simply to enquire whether it was true that the Marquiss intended to take me next; wch he has now answerd in the affirmative; but as Louth is still to continue first Chaplain, the time when is uncertain, & cannot be these two years, in wch space you know a Man may die or do a hundred pretty things. – But I hear, since I came into these parts, that Seward the Critic is very anxious about taking my Place, & has made offers of making over to me a great living in the Peak, if he may go in my stead. Here too I preserve my Passivity. It being totally indifferent to me whether they thrust me into the Devil's A–e, or an Irish Bog.

Yet, tho I say I am indifferent to both these, I will in my present circumstances embrace either. The world has nothing to give me that I really care for, therefore Whatever she gives me, or however she gives it, does not matter a rush. And yet I own I would have some thing more of her too, merely because I have not Philosophy, or a better thing Œconomy, to make what I have a Competency.

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Whitehead has sent me some Verses from Vienna, treating of my Indolence, & other weighty matters, & exhorting me not to detach myself too much from the World. The Verses are really very easy, & natural, & I would transcribe them for you if it was not too much trouble. & yet you would not like them, if I did; because of some Words, wch I know would not digest upon your Stomach; neither do they on mine; for I dont know how it is, but the slops you have given me have made my Digestive facultys so weak, that several things of that sort, wch were once as easy to me as hasty pudding, never get thro the first concoction, & lay as heavy in the prima Via as toasted Cheese. All wch I impute to your Nursery, where you would never let one eat any thing that was solid, as I did at St Johns.

"Write (you say) something stately at Aston." I writ nothing there but Sermons, & those I only transcribd. Write yourself if you please, at least finish your Welch Ode & send it me to Hull, for there is an Alderman there, that I want to give his opinion about it.

But pray Why Mr Gray! must I write & you Not? Upon my word Sr! I really dont mean it as a flattery or any thing of that sort, no Sr I detest the insinuation. but, Blast my Laurells Sr if I dont think you write vastly better than I do. I swear by Apollo (my dear Sr) That I would give all my Elfrida (Odes included) to be the Author of that pretty Elegy, that Miss Plumbtree can say off book. And I protest to you, that my Ode on Memory after it has gone through all the Limæ Labor that our friend Horace prescribes, Nay Si prematur Nonum in Annum (above half of wch time it has already I assure you been conceald Malgre my Partiality to it), I say that that very Ode is not, nor ever will be, half so terse, & complete as the fragment of your Welch Ode; wch is as one may say now just warm from your Brain, & one would expect as callow as a newhatchd Chicken (pardon the barndoor Simile) but all your productions are of a different sort, they come from you Armd Capapee at all points, as Minerva is said to have issued from the Head of Jupiter. I have thus said enough to shew you that however I may have laid aside the practical part of poetry I retain all that internal force, that Ignea vis, wch inspires evry true Son of parnassus with all wch I am fervently yours


Pray give my best Compliments to Dr Wharton & his Lady & the ejected Statesman, and if youll write to me immediatly to Hull, Ill tell you when Ill meet you at Cambridge. Do you know what Whiteheads place is worth?–

Letter ID: letters.0240 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Writer's age: 31
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 38


Date of composition: 26 November 1755
Date (on letter): Nov: 26th 55
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: It is not true that I again make interest to be transported into Ireland;...
Mentioned: Aston
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Lowth, Robert
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Seward, Thomas
The Bard. A Pindaric Ode
Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794
Whitehead, William

Holding Institution

Henry W. And Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, New York Public Library , New York, NY, USA <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, with Letters to the Rev. James Brown, D.D. Ed. by the Rev. John Mitford. London: Richard Bentley, 1853, letter XI, 37-41
  • 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. CXXVI, vol. i, 281-284
  • 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. 209, vol. i, 443-446