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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 8 February 1763

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Doctissime Domine

Anne tibi arrident Complimenta? if so, I hope your vanity is tickled with the verghe d'oro of Count Algarotti, & the intended translation of Sign: Agostino Paradisi: for my part I am ravish'd (for I too have my share), & moreover astonish'd to find myself the particular Friend of a Person so celebrated for his politezza, e dottrina, as my Cousin Taylor Howe. are you upon the road to see all these wonders, & snuff up the incense of Pisa, or has Mr Brown abated your ardour by sending you the originals? I am waiting with impatience for you & Mr Hurd, tho (as the Bp of Gloucester has broke his arm) I can not expect him to stay here, whatever you may do.

I am obliged to you for your Drawing, & very learned dissertation annex'd. you have made out your point with a great degree of probability (for tho' the nimis adhæsit might startle one, yet the sale of the tythes and chappel to Webster seems to set all right again) & I do believe the building in question was the Chappel of St Sepulchre. but then, that the ruin now standing was the individual chappel as erected by Archb:p Roger I can by no means think: I found myself merely on the style & taste of architecture. the vaults under the Choir are still in being, & were undoubtedly built by this very Archbishop: they are truly Saxon, only that the arches are pointed, tho' very obtusely. it is the South-Transept (not the North) that is the oldest part of the Minster now above ground: it is said to have been begun by Geffrey Plantagenet, who died about 30 years after Roger, & left it unfinish'd. his Successor Walter Grey compleated it, so we do not exactly know, to wch of these two Prelates we are to ascribe any certain part of it. Grey lived a long time, & was Archb:p from 1216 to 1255 (39no Henr: 3); & in this reign it was, that the beauty of the Gothic Architecture began to appear. the Chapter-House is in all probability his work, & (I should suppose) built in his latter days, whereas what he did of the South-Transept might be perform'd soon after his accession. it is in the second Order of this building, that the round arches appear including a row of pointed ones (wch you mention, & wch I also observed) similar to those in St Sepulchre's Chappel, tho' far inferior in the proportions & neatness of workmanship. the same thing is repeated in the North-transept, but this is only an imitation of the other, done for the sake of regularity, for this part of the building is no older than Archb:p Romaine, who came to the See in 1285, & died 1295.

All the buildings of Henry the 2ds time (under whom Roger lived & died, 1185) are of a clumsey & heavy proportion, with a few rude & awkward ornaments, & this style continues to the beginning of Henry 3d's reign, tho' with a little improvement, as in the Nave of Fountain's-Abbey, &c: then all at once come in the tall piqued arches, the light clusterd columns, the capitals of curling foliage, the fretted tabernacles & vaultings, & a profusion of statues, &c: that constitute the good Gothic style, together with decreasing & flying buttresses, & pinnacles, on the outside. nor must you conclude any thing from Roger's own tomb, wch has (I remember) a wide surbased arch with scallop'd ornaments, &c: for this can be no older than the Nave itself, wch was built by A:p Melton after the year 1315, 130 years after our Roger's death.

I have [ ] pray come & tell me your mind, tho' I know you will be as weary of me as a dog, because I can't play upon the glasses, nor work Joyner's work, nor draw my own picture.

Adieu, I am ever Yours.

Why did not you send me the Capital in the corner of ye Choir?

Letter ID: letters.0419 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 46
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 39


Date of composition: 8 February 1763
Date (on letter): Feb: 8. 1763
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]


Languages: English, Latin
Incipit: Anne tibi arrident Complimenta? if so, I hope your vanity is tickled...
Mentioned: Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
Algarotti, Francesco, Conte, 1712-1764
Fountains Abbey
How, William Taylor, d. 1777
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Paradisi, Agostino
Warburton, William
York Minster

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 xliv, section iv, 294-296
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XLIV, vol. i, 396-401
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter CV, vol. ii, 403-409
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter CXVI, vol. ii, 65-73
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter CXV, vol. iii, 302-311
  • 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 LXXX, 301-306
  • 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. CCXLVIII, vol. iii, 4-7
  • 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, 255-257
  • 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. 366, vol. ii, 794-796