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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [c. 26 August 1766]

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Dear Mason

I rejoice to find you are both in health, & that one or other of you at least can have your teeming-time. you are wise as a serpent, but the devil of a dove, in timing both your satire, & your compliment. when a Man stands on the very verge of Legislation with all his unblushing honours thick upon him; when the Gout has nip'd him in the bud, & blasted all his hopes at least for one winter: then come you buzzing about his nose, & strike your sting deep into the reddest angriest part of his toe, wch will surely mortify. when another has been weak enough in the plenitude of power to disarm himself of his popularity; & to conciliate a Court, that naturally hates him, submits to be deck'd in their trappings, & fondle their lap-dogs: then come you to lull him with your gentlest hum, recalling his good deeds, & hoping what I (with all my old partialities) scarce should dare to hope, if I had but any one else to put my trust in. let you alone, where Spite & Interest are in view!–ay, ay, Mrs M: (I see) will be a Bishopess.

Well, I transcribed your wickedness in a print-hand & sent it by last Sunday's post to Dr G: with your orders about it, for I had heard St: say, that he hoped for a month's respite to go into the North, & did not know, but he might be gone. G: was to send me word, he had received it, but has not yet done so, and (Lord bless me!) who knows, but he may be gone into Derbyshire, & the Ode gone after him! if so, mind, I am innocent, & meant for the best. I liked it vastly, & thought it very well-turn'd & easy, especially the diabolical part of it: I fear, it will not keep, & would have wish'd the Publick might have eat it fresh: but if any untoward accident should delay it, it will be still better than most things, that appear at their table.

I shall finish, where you begun, with my apology. you say you have neglected me, & (to make it relish the better) with many others. for my part I have not neglected you: but I have always consider'd the Happy, that is, new-married People, as too sacred, or too profane, a thing to be approach'd by me: when the year is over, I have no longer any respect or aversion for them.

Adieu! I am in no spirits, & perplex'd besides with many little cares, but always sincerely
T G:

P:S: My best respects to Madam in her grogram gown. I have long since heard, that you were out of pain with regard to her health. Mr Brown is gone to see his Brother near Margate.

Letter ID: letters.0479 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 49
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 42


Date of composition: [c. 26 August 1766]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I rejoice to find you are both in health, & that one or other of you...
Mentioned: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809

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 XCVI, 353-355
  • 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. CCLXXXV, vol. iii, 117-118
  • 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. 424, vol. iii, 933-935