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William Mason to Thomas Gray, 16 January 1758

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Dear Sr

I beleive you are quite right, as you always are in these matters. But it is a little hard upon my no-reading, to beleive I have not read Keisler. I have I assure you, and he led me into the mistake. He has a Chapter on the notions the northern nations had of a future state. first of all he talks of the Metempsichosis wch every body allows Druidical (except Pelloutier.) & then says 'Hi qui sine animarum transmigratione aliam post obitum vitam superesse statuebant, duplices primo animarum sedes faciebant. Alius enim status erat earum ante CREPUSCULUM DEORUM alius post illud.' & then goes on to describe His Hell & his Valhalla. But Sr W. Temple set me right about the low date of these Ideas before I recd yours. I have therefore laid aside the Ode, & shall make no use of it at all, except perhaps the Image of the Armed Death wch is my own, & neither Scaldic nor runic. & as to this nasty German Keisler who led me to take all this trouble, Ill never open him again. The fool was a fellow of the Royal Society what could one expect better from him.

But after all, I do wish indeed that these Odes were all of them finishd, & yet by what you talk of Measure & Rhythm & expression I think I shall never be able to finish them, never certainly at all if Im not to throw out my Ideas at large. So whether I am right or wrong I must have my way in that, Therefore talk no more about it. – Well you like my other Ode however – So Ill turn Wit, tho that, according to Popes gradation to plain fool, should have come before Poetry. However as times go, tis well, it comes any how. But hold, I cannot part with Poetry till it has servd me a few friendly turns, & when it has done that it may go to Fobus if it pleases, or to the Devil. One of these friendly turns it has done already & you will have it enclosed if my excellent Fraser transcribes it in Time. Let me have your Strictures speedily, because I want to send it to Wood. take notice the lines descriptive of his Garden are strictly peculiar, & Whitehead who has seen the place tells me they are the very thing, nothing can be conceivd so flowry so fragrant & so Shady as the foreground nothing more extensive & riant than the Offskip.

Yet I can't let this elegy come to you without begging that as you are stout you will be merciful to it, for I feel for it somehow as if it was a favrite Child, and I will give you a Hundred Druidical Odes, to burn in your Critical Colossus, if youll let it live. Lord! I know nothing of Dupps being made Chancellor of the exchequer unless its a thing of course after hes made recorder of Cambridge, sure you had your intelligence from Mr Alderman Marshall. Dont beleive a Word what the papers tell you, that the Childs name was Mary, twas Concubinage, & Dr Shebbeare is to teach it its Catechize.

Pray Mr Gray! why wont you make your Muse do now and then a friendly turn? An Idle Slut as she is! If she was to throw out her Ideas never so carelessly it would satisfy some folks that I know, but I wont name names, & therefore I wont sign all the nonsence I have written.

Do you know if Pelloutier ever publishd a third volume of His Histoire des Celtes. Dr W has only sent me two, & I find the third was to contain their ceremonials wch is all I want.

Pray direct me to the passage, I have seen somewhere, like this Est Genus Hominum tam Umbratile, &c. I fancy it would make a good motto, If not Locus est et pluribus Umbris is no bad one.

Letter ID: letters.0302 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Writer's age: 33
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 41


Date of composition: 16 January 1758
Date (on letter): Jan: 16 - 58
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Syon Hill, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I beleive you are quite right, as you always are in these matters....
Mentioned: Keysller, J. G.
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Pelloutier, Simon
Temple, Sir William
Warburton, William
Whitehead, 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 XXXI, 130-134
  • 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. CLXI, vol. ii, 16-19
  • 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. 263, vol. ii, 553-555