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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [26 September 1753]

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My dear Mason,

I have just received your Letter, & am both surprized, & angry (if you will suffer me to say so) at the weakness of your father. perhaps I ought not to use such words to a person, whose affliction for him is perhaps heighthen'd by that very weakness, for I know, it is possible to feel an additional sorrow for the faults of those we have loved, even where that fault has been greatly injurious to ourselves. this is certain, he has been (whether from his illness, or some other cause) at least guilty of a great weakness; & it is as sure, that there must have been a great fault somewhere, probably in the Person who took advantage of his weakness, upon whom your care & kindness is very ill-bestow'd. tho' you do not at present shew any resentment, nor perhaps ever will; at least let me desire you not to expose yourself to any farther danger in the midst of that scene of sickness & death, but withdraw as soon as possible to some place at a little distance in the country, for I do not at all like the place you are in. I do not attempt to console you on the situation your fortune is left in. if it were far worse; the good opinion I have of you tells me, you will never the sooner do anything mean or unworthy of yourself, & consequently I can not pity you on this account. but I sincerely do so on the new loss you have had of a good & friendly Man, whose Memory I honour. may I remind you, how, like a Simpleton, I used to talk about him? it is foolish to mention it; but it feels I don't know how like a sort of guilt in me: tho' I believe you knew, I could not mean any thing by it. I have seen, what you describe, & know how dreadful it is; I know too, I am the better for it. we are all idle & thoughtless things, & have no sense, no use in the world any longer than that sad impression lasts, the deeper it is engraved, the better. I am forced to break off by the Post.

Adieu, my dear Sr, I am ever
T G:

P:S: I shall be at York on Sunday at the Place the Stage-Coach goes from, having a place taken for Monday. pray remember James's Powder; I have great faith in its efficacy, & should take it myself. here is a malignant Fever in the town.

Letter ID: letters.0211 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 36
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 29


Date of composition: [26 September 1753]
Date (on letter): Sept: 26
Calendar: Gregorian


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


Language: English
Incipit: I have just received your Letter, & am both surprized, & angry...
Mentioned: Wharton, Thomas, 1717-1794

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 Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York: printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley, London; and J. Todd, York, 1775, letter xviii, section iv, 229-230
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter XLIX, vol. iii, 116-118
  • 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 VI, 21-23
  • 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. CIX, vol. i, 239-240
  • 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. 182, vol. i, 383-385