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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 9 November 1758

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To The Revd Mr Mason, Rector of Aston, at Sheffield in Yorkshire

Dear Mason

I should have told you, that Caradoc came safe to hand, but my critical faculties have been so taken up in dividing nothing with the Dragon of Wantley's Dam, that they are not yet composed enough for a better & more tranquil employment: shortly however I will make them obey me; but am I to send this copy to Mr Hurd, or return it to you? methinks I do not love this travelling to & again of manuscripts by the Post. while I am writing, your second packet is just arrived. I can only tell you in gross, that there seem to me certain passages alter'd wch might as well have been let alone; & that I shall not be easily reconciled to Mador's own song. I must not have my fancy raised to that agreeable pitch of heathenism, & wild magical enthusiasm, & then have you let me drop into moral philosophy, & cold good sense. I remember you insulted me, when I saw you last, & affected to call, that wch delighted my imagination, Nonsense: now I insist, that Sense is nothing in poetry, but according to the dress she wears, & the scene she appears in. if you should lead me into a superb Gothic building with a thousand cluster'd pillars, each of them half a mile high, the walls all cover'd with fretwork, & the windows full of red & blue Saints, that had neither head, nor tail; and I should find the Venus of Medici in person perk'd up in a long nich over the high altar, as naked as ever she was born, do you think it would raise, or damp my devotions? I say, that Mador must be entirely a Briton, & that his preeminence among his companions must be shewn by superior wildness, more barbaric fancy, & a more striking & deeper harmony both of words & numbers. if British antiquity be too narrow, this is the place for Invention, & if it be pure invention, so much the clearer must the expression be, & so much the stronger & richer the imagery. there's for you now.

I am sorry to hear you complain of your eyes. have a care of candle-light, & rather play at hot-cockles with the children, than either read or write.

Adieu, I am truly & ever
Letter ID: letters.0326 (Source: TEI/XML)


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


Date of composition: 9 November 1758
Date (on letter): Nov: 9. 1758
Calendar: Gregorian


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

Physical description

Addressed: To The Revd Mr Mason, Rector of Aston, at Sheffield in Yorkshire


Language: English
Incipit: I should have told you, that Caradoc came safe to hand, but my critical...
Mentioned: Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Mason, William, 1724-1797

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, letter xxxiv, section iv, 273-274
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XXXIV, vol. i, 378-379
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LXXX, vol. ii, 325-326
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CV, vol. ii, 43-44
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter LXXXVIII, vol. iii, 210-211
  • 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 XXXIX, 163-164
  • 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. CLXXVIII, vol. ii, 61-62
  • 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, 212-214
  • 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. 283, vol. ii, 593-594