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William Mason to Thomas Gray, [after 9 November 1758]

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Dear Mr Gray

I recd your last. but as I had before sent you my 2d Ode I was in hopes to have heard again, with your particular remarks on that. Observe the 2d Stanza, that is the 1st Antistrophe, I intend to alter on acct of the sameness of imagery with one in Melancholly, but I hope the rest will stand some words excepted, I will attempt a new Madors song to please you. but in my own mind, I would not have him sing there at all, on account of the toute ensemble for he sings all the 2d Ode & also all the fourth. so Im afraid he'll be hoarse. I like the Idea of my fourth Ode much & the preparation to it. tis the speech of an armed Death to the Britons. Who Mador is supposd to see & hear just at the onset of the Battle.



— but why is this
Why doth our Brother Mador snatch his Harp
From yonder Bough? Why this way bend his steps


He looks entranced. The Fillet bursts that bound
His liberal locks. His snowy vestments fall
In ampler folds, & all his floating form
Doth seem to glisten with Divinity.
Yet is he speechless. Say thou chief of bards
What is there in this airy Vacancy
That thou with fiery & irregular glance
Should scan thus wildly? Wherefore heaves thy Breast?
Why starts—


Hark! heard ye not yon footstep dread,
That shook the Earth with Thundring tread?
Twas Death. in Haste
The Warrior past,
High towerd his Helmed head.
I markt his mail, I markd his Shield,
I spyd the spar[k]ling of his spear,
I saw his giant Arm the Falcion wield
Courage was in his van & conquest in his rear.

and so it goes on but without a word of Odin & Valhalla. yet the general Celtic principle of the happiness of dying in Battle is touchd upon wch I hope is not in itself too Scaldic.

I send you with this another pacquet & I have another ready to follow it then I get to my third Ode & when that is done I shall have little more than transcription. When you have all the MS. I would have you keep it, till I write about sending it to Mr Hurd. probably we may contrive it without posting. Do excuse all this Caractication I am seriously desirous of getting quit of him & therefore must trouble you till I do.

Mr Brown has writ me a long Letter about keeping my Divinity act, wch he says I must do next March. Do you say so too? if you do I will incontinently drown myself. till when

I remain, sincerely yours

My Eyes by Blistering are well again.

Letter ID: letters.0328 (Source: TEI/XML)


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


Date of composition: [after 9 November 1758]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Aston, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I recd your last. but as I had before sent you my 2d Ode I was in hopes...
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 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 XL, 165-167
  • 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. CLXXIX, vol. ii, 62-64
  • 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. 284, vol. ii, 595-597