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William Mason to Thomas Gray, 16 January 1758

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Dear Sr

I beleive you are quite right, as you always are in these matters. But it is a little hard upon my no-reading, to beleive I have not read Keisler. I have I assure you, and he led me into the mistake. He has a Chapter on the notions the northern nations had of a future state. first of all he talks of the Metempsichosis wch every body allows Druidical (except Pelloutier.) & then says 'Hi qui sine animarum transmigratione aliam post obitum vitam superesse statuebant, duplices primo animarum sedes faciebant. Alius enim status erat earum ante CREPUSCULUM DEORUM alius post illud.' & then goes on to describe His Hell & his Valhalla. But Sr W. Temple set me right about the low date of these Ideas before I recd yours. I have therefore laid aside the Ode, & shall make no use of it at all, except perhaps the Image of the Armed Death wch is my own, & neither Scaldic nor runic. & as to this nasty German Keisler who led me to take all this trouble, Ill never open him again. The fool was a fellow of the Royal Society what could one expect better from him.

But after all, I do wish indeed that these Odes were all of them finishd, & yet by what you talk of Measure & Rhythm & expression I think I shall never be able to finish them, never certainly at all if Im not to throw out my Ideas at large. So whether I am right or wrong I must have my way in that, Therefore talk no more about it. – Well you like my other Ode however – So Ill turn Wit, tho that, according to Popes gradation to plain fool, should have come before Poetry. However as times go, tis well, it comes any how. But hold, I cannot part with Poetry till it has servd me a few friendly turns, & when it has done that it may go to Fobus if it pleases, or to the Devil. One of these friendly turns it has done already & you will have it enclosed if my excellent Fraser transcribes it in Time. Let me have your Strictures speedily, because I want to send it to Wood. take notice the lines descriptive of his Garden are strictly peculiar, & Whitehead who has seen the place tells me they are the very thing, nothing can be conceivd so flowry so fragrant & so Shady as the foreground nothing more extensive & riant than the Offskip.

Yet I can't let this elegy come to you without begging that as you are stout you will be merciful to it, for I feel for it somehow as if it was a favrite Child, and I will give you a Hundred Druidical Odes, to burn in your Critical Colossus, if youll let it live. Lord! I know nothing of Dupps being made Chancellor of the exchequer unless its a thing of course after hes made recorder of Cambridge, sure you had your intelligence from Mr Alderman Marshall. Dont beleive a Word what the papers tell you, that the Childs name was Mary, twas Concubinage, & Dr Shebbeare is to teach it its Catechize.

Pray Mr Gray! why wont you make your Muse do now and then a friendly turn? An Idle Slut as she is! If she was to throw out her Ideas never so carelessly it would satisfy some folks that I know, but I wont name names, & therefore I wont sign all the nonsence I have written.

Do you know if Pelloutier ever publishd a third volume of His Histoire des Celtes. Dr W has only sent me two, & I find the third was to contain their ceremonials wch is all I want.

Pray direct me to the passage, I have seen somewhere, like this Est Genus Hominum tam Umbratile, &c. I fancy it would make a good motto, If not Locus est et pluribus Umbris is no bad one.

Letter ID: letters.0302 (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: 16 January 1758
Date (on letter): Jan: 16 - 58
Calendar: Gregorian

Places

Place of composition: [Syon Hill, United Kingdom]

Content

Language: English
Incipit: I beleive you are quite right, as you always are in these matters....
Mentioned: Keysller, J. G.
Mason, William
Pelloutier, Simon
Temple, Sir William
Warburton, William
Whitehead, 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 XXXI, 130-134
  • 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. CLXI, vol. ii, 16-19
  • 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. 263, vol. ii, 553-555