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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [8 November 1765]

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To The Revd Mr Mason in the Minster Yard York Free R. Stonhewer
9 NO

Dear Mason

Res est sacra miser (says the Poet) but I say, it is the happy Man, that is the sacred thing; & therefore let the Profane keep their distance: he is one of Lucretius' Gods, supremely blest in the contemplation of his own felicity, & what has he to do with Worshippers? this (mind) is the first reason, why I did not come to York. the second is, that I do not love confinement, & probably by next summer may be permitted to touch whom & where & with what I think fit without giving you any offence. the third & last, & not the least perhaps, is, that the finances were at so low an ebb, that I could not exactly do what I wish'd, but was obliged to come the shortest road to Town & recruit them. I do not justly know what your taste in reasons may be, since you alter'd your condition; but there is the ingenious, the petulant, & the dull, for you. any one would have done, for in my conscience I do not believe you care a half-penny for reasons at present. so God bless ye both, & give ye all ye wish, when ye are restored to the use of your wishes!

I am return'd from Scotland charm'd with my expedition: it is of the Highlands I speak: the Lowlands are worth seeing once, but the Mountains are extatic, & ought to be visited in pilgrimage once a year. none but those monstrous creatures of God know how to join so much beauty with so much horror. a fig for your Poets, Painters, Gardiners, & Clergymen, that have not been among them: their imagination can be made up of nothing but bowling-greens, flowering shrubs, horse-ponds, Fleet-ditches, shell-grottoes, & Chinée-rails. then I had so beautiful an autumn: Italy could hardly produce a nobler scene, or a finer season. and this so sweetly contrasted with that perfection of nastiness, & total want of accommodation, that Scotland only can supply. oh! you would have bless'd yourself. I shall certainly go again. what a pity 'tis I can't draw, nor describe, nor ride on horseback!

St:r is the busiest creature upon earth, except Mr Fraser: they stand pretty tight for all his Royal Highness. have you read (oh no! I had forgot) Dr Lowth's pamphlet against your Uncle the Bishop? oh how he works him! I hear he will soon be on the same bench. today Mr Hurd came to see me, but we had not a word of that matter: he is grown pure & plump, just of the proper breadth for a celebrated Town-Preacher. there was Dr Balguy too: he says, Mrs Mason is very handsome; so you are his Friend for ever. Ld Newnham (I hear) has ill health of late: it is a nervous case. & have a care! how do your eyes do? the hereditary Prince the morning after he was married, I remember, said to somebody, Sauf le respect que je dois a son Altesse Royale, jamais Princesse n'a eté mieux f—e. can you in conscience mutatis mutandis say the same? I know any body can & will say the same: but can you say it verbo Sacerdotis? Adieu! my respects to the Bride. I would kiss her, but you stand by & pretend, it is not the fashion: tho' I know, they do so at Hull.

I am
Ever Yours
T G:
Letter ID: letters.0469 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 48
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 41


Date of composition: [8 November 1765]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [London, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: York, United Kingdom

Physical description

Addressed: To The Revd Mr Mason in the Minster Yard York Free R. Stonhewer (postmark: 9 NO)


Language: English
Incipit: Res est sacra miser (says the Poet) but I say, it is the happy Man,...
Mentioned: Brown, James, 1709-1784
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Lowth, Robert
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
Warburton, 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 XCIV, 348-351
  • 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. CCLXXIX, vol. iii, 95-96
  • 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. 415, vol. ii, 898-900