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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 7 September 1757

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The Revd Mr Mason

Dear Mason

You are welcome to the land of the Living, to the sunshine of a Court, to the dirt of a Chaplain's table, to the society of Dr Squire, & Dr Chapman. have you set out, as Dr Cobden ended, with a sermon against adultery? or do you, with deep mortification & a christian sense of your own nothingness, read prayers to Pr:ss Em:y while she is putting on her smock? pray, acquaint me with the whole ceremonial, & how your first preachment succeeded; whether you have heard of any body, that renounced their election, or made restitution to the Exchequer; whether you saw any Woman trample her Pompons under foot, or spit upon her handkerchief to wipe off the Rouge.

I would not have put another note to save the souls of all the Owls in London. it is extremely well, as it is. nobody understands me, & I am perfectly satisfied. even the Critical Review (Mr. Franklyn, I am told) that is rapt, & surprised, & shudders at me; yet mistakes the Æolian Lyre for the Harp of Æolus, wch indeed, as he observes, is a very bad instrument to dance to. if you hear any thing (tho' it is not very likely, for I know, my day is over) you will tell me. Ld Lyttelton & Mr Shenstone admire me, but wish I had been a little clearer. Mr (Palmyra) Wood owns himself disappointed in his expectations. your Enemy, Dr Brown, says I am the best thing in the language. Mr F:x, supposing the Bard sung his song but once over, does not wonder, if Edward the 1st did not understand him. this last criticism is rather unhappy, for tho' it had been sung a hundred times under his window, it was absolutely impossible, Kg Edward should understand him: but that is no reason for Mr Fox, who lives almost 500 years after him. 'tis very well: the next thing I print shall be in Welch. that's all.

I delight in your Epigram, but dare not show it any body for your sake. but I more delight to hear from Mr H:d, that Caractacus advances. am I not to see Mador's Song? could not we meet some day, at Hounslow for example, after your waiting is over. do tell me time & place.

I am most truly

If you write to Ld J: commend me to him. I was so civil to send a book to Ld N:, but hear nothing of him. where is St:r? I am grown a Stranger to him.

You will oblige me by sending to Dodsley's to say, I wonder the 3d & 4th Vol:s of the Encyclopedie are not come. if you chance to call yourself, you might enquire, if many of my 2000 remain upon his hands. he told me a fortnight ago about 12 or 1300 were gone.

You talk of writing a comment. I do not desire, you should be employ'd in any such office, but what if Dp (inspired by a little of your intelligence) should do such a matter. it will get him a shilling; but it must bear no name, nor must he know, I mention'd it.

Letter ID: letters.0283 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 40
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 33


Date of composition: 7 September 1757
Date (on letter): Sept: 7. 1757
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Stoke Poges, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: The Revd Mr Mason


Language: English
Incipit: You are welcome to the land of the Living, to the sunshine...
Mentioned: Odes by Mr. Gray (1757)
Critical Review
Delap, John
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Lyttelton, George Lyttelton, 1st Lord
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Shenstone, William
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809

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 XXIV, 97-101
  • 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. CXLVIII, vol. i, 348-350
  • 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. 248, vol. ii, 522-524