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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [8 June 1756]

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Dear Skroddles

If all the Greek you transcribed for me were Poetry already I would bestir myself to oblige you & Mr Rivett, but as it is no more than measured Prose, & as unfortunately (in English verse) a Tripod with two ears, or more, has no more dignity than a Chamber-pot with one, I do not see, why you would have me Dress it up with any florid additions, wch it must have, if it would appear in rhyme; nor why it will not prove its point as well in a plain prose translation, as in the best numbers of Dryden. if you think otherwise, why don't you do it yourself, & consult me, if you think fit. I rejoice to hear the Prints succeed so well, & am impatient for the work, but do not approve the fine Lady part of it. what business have such people with Athens? I applaud your scheme for Gaskarth, & wish it could have succeeded. he bears his disappointment like a Philosopher, but his health is very bad. I have had the honour myself of some little grumblings of the Gout for this fortnight, & yesterday it would not let me put on a shoe to hear the Frasi in, so you may imagine I am in a sweet amiable humour. nevertheless I think of being in Town (perhaps I may not be able to stir) the middle of next week with Montagu. you are so cross-grain'd as to go to Tunbridge just before I come, but I will give you the trouble to enquire about my old quarters at Roberts's, if I can probably have a lodging at that time. if not there; may be I can be in the Oven, wch will do well enough for a Sinner. be so good to give me notice, & the sooner the better. I shall not stay above a week, & then go to Stoke. I rejoice to know, that the genial influences of the Spring, wch produce nothing but the Gout in me, have hatched high & unimaginable fantasies in you. I see methinks (as I sit on Snowden) some Glimpse of Mona, & her haunted shades & hopes we shall be very good Neighbours. any Druidical Anecdotes that I can meet with, I will be sure to send you. I am of your opinion, that the Ghosts will spoil the Picture, unless they are thrown at a huge distance, & extremely kept down.

The British Flag (I fear) has behaved itself like a Train'd-band Pair of Colours in Bunhill-fields. I think every day of going to Switzerland. will you be of the party, or stay & sing Mass at Aston?

Adieu, I am stupid, & in some pain, but ever
Very sincerely Yours
Letter ID: letters.0247 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 39
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 32


Date of composition: [8 June 1756]
Date (on letter): Tuesday 1756
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: If all the Greek you transcribed for me were Poetry already I would bestir myself...
Mentioned: Aston
Dryden, John
Mason, William
Stoke Poges
Stuart, James

Holding Institution

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 <>
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 XIII, 46-48
  • 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. CXXX, vol. i, 298-300
  • 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. 216, vol. ii, 463-465