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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 11 August 1758

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Dear Mason I was just leaving Cambridge at the time, when I received your last letter, & have been unfix'd & flitting about almost eversince, or you had heard of me sooner. you do not think I could stay to receive Fobus. no more did Mr. H: he was gone into Leicestershire long before; as to Uncle B: pray do him justice. he stay'd indeed to preach the Commencement-Sermon, but he assured me (in secret) it was an old one, & had not one word in it to the purpose. the very next morning he set out for Winchester, & I do really think him much improved since he had his residence there, freer & more open, & his heart less set upon the Mammon of unrighteousness. a-propos, would you think it, Fobus has wit. he told Y: (who was invited to supper at Dr L:s, & made all the company wait for him), 'Why, Y:e, you make but an aukward figure, now you are a Bp; this time last year you would have been the first man here.'

I can not brag of my spirits, my situation, my employments, or my fertility. the days & the nights pass, & I am never the nearer to any thing but that one, to wch we are all tending. yet I love People, that leave some traces of their journey behind them, & have strength enough to advise you to do so, while you can. I expect to see Caractacus compleated, not so much from the opinion I entertain of your industry, as from the consideration that another winter approaches, which is the season of harvest to an Author; but I will conceal the secret of your motives, & join in the common applause. the books you enquire after are not worth your knowledge. Parnell is the dunghill of Irish-Grubstreet. I did hear, who L:t Temple was, but have really forgot: I know, I thought it was Mr Greville. Avon is nothing but a Type. the Dss of Queensberry's Advertisement has moved my impatience, yet after all perhaps she may curl her grey hair with her Grandfather's golden periods. another object of my wishes is the K: of Prussia's Account of the Campaign, wch Niphausen talk'd of 6 weeks ago, as just coming over, but it is not come: perhaps he waits for a better Catastrophe. the Twickenham-Press is in labour of two or three works (not of the Printer's own) one of them is an Account of Russia by a Lord Whitworth, who (I think) was Minister there from King William.

I seem to have told you all I know, wch you will think very little, but a nihilo nil fit. if I were to coin my whole mind into phrases, they would profit you nothing, nor fill a moderate page: compassionate my poverty, shew yourself noble in giving me better than I bring, & ever believe me

Most sincerely Yours,

I find you miss'd of St: by going to Sr C: D'arcy's. can you tell me, if he is still at Harrowgate, for I do not know how to direct to him there.

Letter ID: letters.0318 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 41
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 34


Date of composition: 11 August 1758
Date (on letter): Aug: 11. 1758
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: I was just leaving Cambridge at the time, when I received your last letter,...
Mentioned: Armstrong, John
Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of
Frederick the Great
Greville, Fulke
Huckell, John
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Parnell, Thomas
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Whitworth, Lord

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 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, section iv, 257
  • 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 XXXVI, 151-157
  • 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. CLXX, vol. ii, 36-40
  • 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. 275, vol. ii, 579-581