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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 1 December 1759

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Dear Mason

I am extremely obliged to you [for the] kind attention you bestow on me & my affairs. I have not been a sufferer by this calamity: it was on the other side of the street, & did not reach so far as the houses opposite to mine: but there was an Attorney, who had writings belonging to me in his hands, that had his house burnt down among the first: yet he has had the good fortune to save all his papers. the fire is said to have begun in the chamber of that poor Glass-Organist who lodged at a Coffee-house in Swithin's-Alley, & perish'd in the flames. two other Persons were destroy'd (in the charitable office of assisting their friends) by the fall of some buildings. last night there was another fire in Lincolns Inn Fields, that burnt the Sardinian Ambassador's Chappel & Stables with some adjacent houses. 'tis strange, that we all of us (here in Town) lay ourselves down every night on our Funeral Pile ready made, & compose ourselves to rest; while every drunken Footman, & drowsy Old-Woman, has a candle ready to light it before the morning.

You will have heard of Hawke's Victory before this can reach you (perhaps by an Express). [the Soleil Royal], Monsr de Conflans own Ship of [80 guns, & the Hero of] 74, were driven on Shore & [subsequently burnt], two sunk (capital Ships) with [all their crews, fo]r it blew a storm during the whole [day, so that none] could be saved out of them. eight [after throwin]g over their cannon were able to run [into th]e mouth of a shallow river (where, if the [wi]nd will permit, it is probable, they may be set on fire) & eight ran away, & are supposed to have got into Rochefort. two of Hawke's Fleet (of 70 & 60 guns) out of eagerness ran aground, & are lost, but most of the Men preserved, & brought off. there is an end of the invasion, unless you are afraid of Thurot, who is hovering off Scotland. it is an odd contemplation, that somebody should have lived long enough to grow a great & glorious Monarch. as to the Nation, I fear, it will not know how to behave itself, being just in the circumstances of a Chambermaid, that has got the 20,000£ Prize in the Lottery.

You mistake me; I was always a Friend to Employment, & no Foe to Money: but they are no friends to each other. promise me to be always busy, & I will allow you to be rich.

I am Dear Mason, in all situations truly

I received your letter, Nov: 29, the day on wch it is dated. a wonderful instance of expedition in the Post.

Letter ID: letters.0354 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 43
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 35


Date of composition: 1 December 1759
Date (on letter): Dec: 1. 1759
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): At Mr. Jauncey's, in Southampton-Row


Language: English
Incipit: I am extremely obliged to you [for the] kind attention you bestow...
Mentioned: London

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 L, 198-200
  • 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. CXCVI, vol. ii, 114-117
  • 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. 307, vol. ii, 653-655