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William Mason to Thomas Gray, [22 January 1759]

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Dear Mr Gray

I cannot help sending you a line to desire that if you can spare a moment from buying & selling of South sea annuities, taking inventorys of Old China jars & three legd stools with black feet & grass-green velvit bottoms, you would write me word how you do. I ask not criticisms, nor hints, nor emendations these at your leisure, for my tythes are come in, I live within tolerable compass & therefore I care not a fig whether Caractacus goes forth or no, evn tho he should bring me as much as Cleone did to my Printer they both begin with a C wch is a good omen.

Since your last I writ as you bid me (or to speak more gramatically) bad me to Mr. H & recd his answer he says, "I coud not but smile at Dr Whartons petition. As what I had to say of that wretch was no extraordinary pass of pate I may the easier be inducd to make a sacrifice of it to Humanity. Yet I promise nothing. there will be time enough to think of this for the publication is necessarily delayd by the late accident for sometime."

This accident was no less than the [loss of the] MS. of his last dialogue on the Constitution, by the carelessness of a Leicester bookseller, & he is afraid wont be recoverd if so hell have it all to compose afresh from some loose notes. This youll say is a warning for Caractacus, & indeed it does not suit his dignity to ride Post, like a lad newly elected at Whites He shall therefore stay with you; for Hurd is returning to Thurcaston & I fancy will come to see me, if not Ill go to see him with my own Copy, before I think of publishing. I send you at the Bottom a peice of a new stanza for the 2d Ode. I know not if you will not think the rhymes too antiquated, or whether it is not a sort of Beauty in the place –

most sincerely yours.

I. 2

Evry Heath & Mountain rude
Was mute till then, save from the den
Where watchd some Giant proud,
The Heifer, cag'd in craggy pen,
Lifted her lowings loud;
While her fair firstlings streaming gore
Distaind the bone-besprinkled floor.
Dismal notes! & answered soon.

Letter ID: letters.0332 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Writer's age: 34
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 42


Date of composition: [22 January 1759]
Date (on letter): Jan: 22d - 58
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: I cannot help sending you a line to desire that if you can spare a moment...
Mentioned: Akenside, Dr. Mark
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794

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 XXXIII, 141-143
  • 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. CLXXXIII, vol. ii, 72-74
  • 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. 287, vol. ii, 610-611