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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 10 December 1760

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Dear Mason

It is not good to give copies of a thing, before you have given it the last hand. if you would send it to Ld H:, you might have spared that to Lady M: C:; they have both shew'd it to particular friends, & so it is half-publish'd before it is finish'd. I begin again from the beginning

Ah mark) is rather languid. I would read Heard ye?

V: 3.) I read: and now with rising knell. to avoid two the's.

V: 10.) I read, – since now that bloom &c:

V: 11, 12.) Are alter'd for the better, & so are the following, but for Liquid Light'ning, Ld J: C: says, there is a Dram, wch goes by that name; & T: G: adds, that the words are stolen from a Sonnet of the late Prince of Wales's. what if we read liquid radiance, & change the word radiant soon after?

V: 18. Read, That o'er her form &c:

V: 23. Cease, cease, Luxuriant Muse; tho' mended, it is still weakly. I do not much care for any Muse at all here.

V: 26. Mould'ring is better than clay-cold. somewhat else might be better perhaps than either.

V: 35. Whirl you in her wild career. this image does not come in so well here between two real happinesses. the word lead before it, as there is no epithet left to purple, is a little faint.

Of her choicest stores an ampler share, seems to me prosaick.

Zenith-height is harsh to the ear, & too scientific.

I take it the interrogation-point comes after fresh delight, & there the sense ends. if so, the Question is too long in asking, & leaves a sort of obscurity.

V: 46. I understand, but can not read this line. does tho' soon belong to lead her hence, or to, the Steps were slow? I take it, to the latter; & if so, it is hardly Grammar. if to the former, the end of the line appears very naked without it.

V: 55. Rouse then – his voice pursue. I do not like this broken line.

V: 74. Firm as the Sons – that is, as firmly as. the adjective used for the adverb here gives it some obscurity, & has the appearance of a contradiction.

V: 76. A less metaphorical line would become this place better.

V: 80. This, tho' a good line, would be better too, if it were more simple, for the same figure is amplified in the following Stanza, & there is no occasion for anticipating it here.

V: 85. And why – I do not understand. you mean, I imagine, that the Warrior must not expect to establish his fame, as a Heroe, while he is yet alive. but how does living Fame signify this? the construction too is not good, if you mean, with regard to Fame, while he yet lives, Fate denies him that. the next line is a bold expression of Shakespear. the 3d, E'er from her trump–heav'n breath'd–is not good.

V: 89. Is it the grasp – You will call me a Coxcomb, if I remind you, that this stanza in the turn of it is too like a stanza of another body's.

V: 98. Truth ne'er can sanctify – is an indifferent line. both Mr Brown & I have some doubt about the justness of this sentiment. a Kingdom is purchased (we think) too dear with the life of any Man; & this no less, if there be a life hereafter, than if there be none.

V: 102. We say, the juice of the grape mantles, but not the grape.

V: 107. By earth's poor pittance–will not do. the end is very well, but the whole is rather too long, & I would wish it reduced a little in the latter part.

I am sorry you went so soon out of Town, because you lost your share in his Majesty's reproof to his Chaplains. 'I desire, those Gentlemen may be told, that I come here to praise God, & not to hear my own praises.' Kitt Wilson was (I think) the Person, that had been preaching. this, & another thing I have been told, give me great hopes of the young Man. Fobus was asking him, what Sum it was his pleasure should be laid out on the next Election? Nothing, my Lord (the Duke stared, & said, Sr!) Nothing, I say, my Ld: I desire to be tried by my Country.

There has been as great confusion this week, as if the French were landed. you see, the Heads of the Tories are invited into the bed-chamber, & Mr P: avows it to be his advice, not as to the particular Men, but the measure. Fobus knew nothing of it, till it was done, & has talked loudly for two days of resigning; Ld H:k & his People say, they will support the whig-interest, as if all was going to ruin, & they hoped to raise a party. what will come of it, is doubtful; but I fancy, they will acquiesce, & stay in as long as they can. great confusion in the army too about Ld Fitzmaurice, who is put over the head of Ld G: Lenox, Mr Fitzroy, & also of almost all the American Officers.

I have seen Mr Southwell, & approve him much. he has got many new tastes & knowledges, & is no more a cockscomb than when he went from hence. I am glad to hear you bode so well of Ponsonby & his Tutor. here is a delightful new Woman in the Burlettas, the rest is all Bartholomew & his Fair. Elisi has been ill eversince he came, & has not sung yet.

Adieu, I am truly
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Letter ID: letters.0377 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 44
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 36


Date of composition: 10 December 1760
Date (on letter): Dec: 10. 1760
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): London, at Mr Jauncy's, not Jenours


Language: English
Incipit: It is not good to give copies of a thing, before you have given it...
Mentioned: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Shakespeare, William

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 LXI, 232-240
  • 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. CCXIV, vol. ii, 178-186
  • 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, 241-244
  • 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. 327, vol. ii, 713-717