Thomas Gray to Thomas Wharton, [9 March 1749]
Shall I be expeditious enough to bring you the News of the Peace, before you meet with it in the Papers? not the Peace of Aix la Chapelle, Mother of Proclamations & of Fireworks, that lowers the Price of Oranges & Malaga-Sack, & enhaunces that of Poor-Jack and barrel'd Cod: no, nor the Peace between Adil-Shah & the Great Mogol; but the Peace of Pembroke sign'd between the high & mighty Prince Roger, surnamed the Long, Lord of the great Zodiack, the Glass Uranium, & the Chariot that goes without Horses, on the one Part; & the most noble James Brown, the most serene Theophilus Peele, and the most profound Nehemiah May, &c: on the other.
In short without farther Preliminaries Knowles, Mason, & Tuthill are elected, and the last of them is actually here on the Spot, as you will shortly hear from himself. the Negotiations, that preceded this wonderful Event, are inexplicable. the Success of the Affair was extremely uncertain but the very Night before it, & had come to nothing, if Browne fixed & obstinate as a little Rock had not resisted the Sollicitations of Smith, & Smart, almost quarrel'd with Peele and May, & given up, as in a Huff, the Liveing of Tylney, to wch he had that Morning been presented. I say, this seem'd to them to be done in a Huff, but was in reality a Thing he had determined to do, be the Event of the Election what it would. they were desirous of electing two, as the Master proposed, Knowles & Mason, or Mason & Gaskarth, for they were sure he would never admit Tuthill, as he had so often declared it. however, I say, Brown continued stedfast, that all three should come in, or none at all; & when they met next day, he begun by resigning Tylney, & then desired the Master would either put an End to their long Disputes himself, as they intreated him; or else they would refer the whole to a Visitor, & did conjure him to call one in, as soon as possible. the rest did not contradict him, tho' the Proposal was much against their real Inclinations. so Roger believing them unanimous (after some few Pribbles & Prabbles) said, well then, if it be for ye Good of ye College – but you intend Knowles shall be Senior? – To be sure, Master – Well then – & so they proceeded to Election & all was over in a few Minutes. I do believe, that Roger despairing now of a Visitor to his Mind, & advised by all his Acquaintance (among whom I reckon Keene, whose Acquaintance I have cultivated with the same Views you mention'd in your Letter to Brown) to finish the Matter, had been for some Months determined to do so, but not till he made a last Effort. he made it indeed, but not having Sagacity enough to find out, how near carrying his Point he was; being ignorant of the Weakness of a Part of his College, & they not cunning, or perhaps not dishonest enough, to discover it to him, he thought he had miss'd his Aim, & so gave it up without farther Struggling. I hope you will be glad to see so good an End of an Affair you give Birth to: Brown is quite happy, & we vastly glad to be obliged to the only Man left among them, that one would care to be obliged to. there are two more Fellowships remain to be filled up at the Commencement. by the Way Tuthill has been just holding a Candle – not to the Devil, but to the Master, as he was reading some Papers in Hall; and the Boys peep'd in at the Screens to see it, & to laugh.
Keene is most sadly implicated in the beginning of his Reign about an Election, & I am of his Cabinet-Council, hitherto for the Reasons you wot of, & now because I can't help it. but I am rather tired of College-Details (as I doubt not, you are) & so I leave this Story to be recorded by the Annalists of Peterhouse; & let Historians of equal Dignity tell of the Triumphs of Chappy, the Installations, the Visitations, & other memorable Events, that distinguish & adorn his glorious Reign.
You ask for some Account of Books. the principal I can tell you of is a Work of the Presid:t Montesquieu's, the Labour of 20 Years. it is call'd, L'Esprit des Loix, 2 V: 4to, printed at Geneva. he lays down the Principles on wch are founded the three Sorts of Government, Despotism, the limited Monarchic, & the Republican, & shews how from thence are deduced the Laws & Customs, by wch they are guided & maintained; the Education proper to each Form, the influences of Climate, Situation, Religion, &c: on the Minds of particular Nations, & on their Policy. the Subject (you see) is as extensive as Mankind; the Thoughts perfectly new, generally admirable, as they are just, sometimes a little too refined: in short there are Faults, but such as an ordinary Man could never have committed: the Style very lively & concise (consequently sometimes obscure) it is the Gravity of Tacitus (whom he admires) temper'd with the Gayety & Fire of a Frenchman.
The Time of Night will not suffer me to go on, but I will write again in a Week. my best Compliments to Mrs Wharton, & your Family. I am ever
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Egerton MS 2400, ff. 33-34, Manuscripts collection, British Library , London, UK <http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/bldept/manuscr/>
- 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 ix, section iv, 201-203
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter IX, vol. i, 314-316
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter XVIII, vol. ii, 192-195
- The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter LXIX, vol. i, 151
- The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XXV, vol. iii, 58-61
- 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. LXXXVI, vol. i, 192-196
- 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, 157-158
- 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. 148, vol. i, 314-317