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William Mason to Thomas Gray, 5 January 1758

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Dear Mr Gray.

I send you with your anonymous Criticisms The produce of Xtmas. but first as to the Criticisms I think just as you do about them, yet I have so much good nature even for a Critic that I think I would write to him, tho on second thoughts it scarce signifys when one reflects what he has said about the famishd Eagle.

Now be it known unto you, I send you two Odes. One so very antient, that all the Æolian Lyres that ever sounded are mere things of Yesterday in comparison. If you have a mind to trace my imagery, you'll find it all huddled together by Keysler, in his Antiquitates Selectæ Septentrionales & Celticæ. the Book I dont doubt is to be met with at Cambridge, & if you have not seen it, you need only read his 2d Chapter. But tell me, may this sort of imagery be employd? Will its being Celtic make it Druidical? if it wont, burn it; if it will, why scratch it ad libitum, & send it me back as soon as possible.

The other Ode is as Modern as can be wishd & is that upon wch I trust all my future Fame will be founded. While Lord Bolinbroke stands upon the Same Shelf with Malbranch & Locke I have no fear but I shall squeeze myself between Soame Jennyns & Lord Chesterfield, & I swear I wont give the pas to Sr Charles Hanbury. Well but who is this Mr Joliffe? & how came you acquainted with him? Lord! you are not one of us, you know nothing of Life. Why Mr Joliffe is a Booksellers Son, in St James's Street who takes Profiles with a Candle better than any body. All Whites have sat to him not to mention Prince Edward. at first his price was only half a Crown, but it is now raisd to a Crown and he has litterally got above a hundred Pounds by it. Return it with the other Ode. & besure let no body see it except Mr Brown.

I can't finish my Letter without telling you an excellent Story of Fobus. On the death of the Laureat, Lord Barrington told him, he was very glad to find that I was not to succeed because it would be a shame to employ me in writing such stuff as Birthday Odes. Fobus said he did not know me. Lord B stard, & told him he wonderd at that, "for that He of all People ought to know me." Still Fobus was ignorant; in Short Lord B was obligd to rattle the installation Ode in his Ears before Fobus would own to the least Bit of remembrance. Pray tell this story to evry body, tis matter of fact & I think to both our Credits.

Adieu, I woud give all Im worth that is to say Caractacus & my Ode to Mr. Jolliffe to see an Ode to the King of Prussia by YOUR Hand, he has certainly taken Breslau & in it 14 General Officers & 10,000 Prisoners

yours sincerely
Letter ID: letters.0300 (Source: TEI/XML)

Correspondents

Writer: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Writer's age: 33
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 41

Dates

Date of composition: 5 January 1758
Date (on letter): Jan: 5 - 58
Calendar: Gregorian

Places

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

Content

Language: English
Incipit: I send you with your anonymous Criticisms The produce of Xtmas....
Contents: [Endorsed (by Mason): "To Mr Gray Jan: 5th 1758 with my Ode to Mr Joliffe"]
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], vol. ii, 548.
Mentioned: Bolingbroke, Henry St. John, 1st Viscount
Butler, J., Mr
Jenyns, Soame
Keysller, J. G.
Locke, John
London
Malebranche, Nicholas
Mason, William

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 XXIX, 119-124
  • 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. CLIX, vol. ii, 5-11
  • 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. 261, vol. ii, 546-548