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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 17 March 1762

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Dear Doctor

I send your Reverence the lesson, wch is pure good-nature on my part, knowing already as I do, that you don't like it. no sooner do people feel their income increase than they want amusement! why what need have you of any other, than to sit like a Japonese Divinity with your hands folded on your fat belly wrap'd & (as it were) annihilated in the contemplation of your own corpses and revenues? the Pentagrapher is gone to Town, so you have nothing to do but to go & multiply in your own vulgar way: only don't fall to work, & forget to say grace.

The Laureat has honour'd me, (as a Friend of yours, for I know no other reason) with his new Play & his Charge to the Poets, the first very middleing; the second I am pleased with, chiefly with the sense, & sometimes with the verse & expression: and yet the best thing he ever wrote was that Elegy against Friendship you once shew'd me, where the sense was detestable; so that you see it is not at all necessary a Poet should be a good sort of Man, no, not even in his writings. Bob Lloyd has publish'd his works in a just quarto volume, containing among other things a Latin Translation of my Elegy; an Epistle in wch is a very serious compliment to me by name, particularly on my Pindaric accomplishments; & the very two Odes you saw before, in which we were abused; & a note to say, they were written in concert with his Friend Mr Coleman: so little value have poets for themselves, especially when they would make up a just volume. Mr Delap is here & has brought his cub to Trinity. he has pick'd up again purely since his misfortune, & is fat & well, all but a few bowels. he says, Mrs Pritchard spoilt his Hecuba with sobbing so much; & that she was really so moved, that she fell in fits behind the scenes. I much like Dr Lowth's Grammar: it is concise, clear, & elegant. he has selected his Solecisms from all the best Writers of our Tongue. I hear Mr Hurd is seriously writing against Fingal by the instigation of the Devil & the B:p. can it be true? I have exhausted all my litterary news, & I have no other.

Adieu, I am truly
Yours
T G:

Mr Brown has got a cap, & hopes for a suitable hood. you must write a line to tell him how to send them. I go to Town on Monday, but direct to me here.

Letter ID: letters.0410 (Source: TEI/XML)

Correspondents

Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 45
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 38

Dates

Date of composition: 17 March 1762
Date (on letter): March 17. 1762
Calendar: Gregorian

Places

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

Content

Language: English
Incipit: I send your Reverence the lesson, wch is pure good-nature on my part...
Mentioned: Odes by Mr. Gray (1757)
Delap, John
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Lloyd, Robert
Lowth, Robert
Macpherson, James
Macpherson, James, 1736-1796
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 LXXV, 285-288
  • 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. CCXL, vol. ii, 255-258
  • 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, 249-250
  • 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. 357, vol. ii, 776-778