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William Mason to Thomas Gray, 10 September 1755

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Dear Mr Gray

I promisd to write to you from Tunbridge And now I perform it. You can't imagine how much people lye with one another here. I had the narrowest escape in the world. The Countess of Schoonfeld lay with evry body and she was but just gone when I came hither. However since I came We have sent Miss Ash to Town with Child some people say twas Count Bryll that did it But I say nothing, I had been here two days before she went; thats all. Lady Caroline who corresponds with her evry post, tells it publickly on the pantiles, then Ladies are surprizd. & She crys out "Lord how can ye I wonder she is not with Child evry year." Heres a Mons de St Simon here, much laid with also. but The property of one Lady only who as Sr John Falstaffe says makes him "her Philosophers two stones". You cant conceive how she pillages him. Sometimes they take their pastime in the midst of a Curricle sometimes in a feild sometimes at his Lodgings & where not? Lady Rotchfort has been here three Days with Lady H A delightful Character! so full of the Rheumatics and Achs & Pains all over and then so Genède you know & so detesting of Public places, because People dont dress so strangely as they did four year ago, and are not frightful enough to make one Laugh.–I was told yesterday by Lady H that it was her Birthday and she wondered I had not writ her some Verses. so I did, & here they are.

Had R–d bad my muse essay
To hail her, on her natal day
I soon had Ransackd Natures bowers
For Blushing fruit & fragrant flowrs
And sworn till Fops believd it true
That all their sweetness all their hue
Were nought to what her cheekes advance
Adornd tout alamode de France

Or had gay Lady C***
Been bent on such an odd design,
And deignd my verses to receive,
(For Verse is all I have to give)
It soon had been my tuneful prayr
To beg propitious Fate to spare
The Bliss she has, & alway lend
An easy Lord and genrous friend.

But how to suit my song to you
Is mighty hard, for entre nous
You're most unfashionably fair,
Content with your own face & air,
And more unfashionably true,
A Husband bounds your utmost view.

This then the Case, my Rhymes I'll close,
And wish in verse as plain as prose,
That Tunbridge from her springs may grant
The little added health you want;
And that for many a happy year
You need not to her fount repair,
Unless to see as now you see
Each varied form of vanity,
And candid laugh, as now you do,
At all the fools her walks can shew.

Yet one wish more – May Fortune kind
Soon briskly blow a North-east wind;
And then some few days past & gone
Youll scarce pull Coifs for St Simon.

You must observe this is not the St Simon mentioned in a Book you have formerly read calld the Testament, But another quite of a different family and whose name is pronounced Sĕnsĭmmong like a Dactyle. Well, how do you like my Verses? Whether shall I call them, To Lady H on her Birthday; or a Lampoon on Lady R & Lady C? one talks of nothing but Lampoons here, pray unde derivatur Lampoon? You have a pretty knack at an oldfashioned Welch Ode, but you are nothing like me at an Impromptu. If you write to me Direct to The young Man that my Aunt Dent had like to have ravishd. Axton writ to me yesterday about his fellowship. twas rather a sesquipedalian Letter; however I answerd it today, & hopd he would behave gratefully to Mr Brown who I sayd was much his friend, & would secure him his fellowship.

and so having concluded my Paper I am yours
Letter ID: letters.0237 (Source: TEI/XML)

Correspondents

Writer: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Writer's age: 31
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 38

Dates

Date of composition: 10 September 1755
Date (on letter): Sept 10th 55
Calendar: Gregorian

Places

Place of composition: Royal Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Tunbridge

Content

Language: English
Incipit: I promisd to write to you from Tunbridge And now I perform it....
Mentioned: Mason, William
Tunbridge

Holding Institution

Location:
(confirmed)
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 <https://www.nypl.org/about/divisions/berg-collection-english-and-american-literature>
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 X, 35-37
  • 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. CXXIV, vol. i, 276-279
  • 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. 206, vol. i, 438-440