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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [22 January 1758]

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Dear Mason

I am almost blind with a great cold, & should not have wrote to you today, if you did not hurry me to send back this elegy. my advices are allways at your service to take or to refuse, therefore you should not call them severe. you know I do not love, much less pique myself on criticism, and think even a bad verse as good a thing or better, than the best observation, that ever was made upon it. I like greatly what you have now sent me, particularly the spirit & sentiment of it. the disposition of the whole too is natural & elegiac. as to the expression I would venture to say (did you not forbid me) that it is sometimes too easy. the last line I protest against. (this, you will say, is worse, than blotting out rhymes) the descriptive part is excellent, yet I am sorry for the name of Cutthorpe. I had rather Vertumnus & Flora did not appear in person. the word lopt sounds like a Farmer, or a Man of taste. a Mountain hoar, the savage &c: is a very good line, yet I allways doubt, if this ungrammatical construction be allowable. in common speech it is usual, but not in writing even prose; & I think, Milton (tho' hard-press'd by his short metre in the Penseroso) yet finds a way to bring in his thats, his whos, & his whiches. fair unfold The wide-spread &c: fair is weakly; wide-spread is contained in unfold. by amber mead I understand the yellow gleam of a meadow cover'd with marshmarygolds & butterflowers. is not it so? the two first lines (the 2d especially) I do not admire. I read Did Fancy wake not – refuse one votive strain. you will ask me, why? I do not know. as to votive it is like delegated, one of the words you love. I also read How well does Mem'ry &c: for the same no reason. Enough, it all was his &c: I like the sense, but it is not sufficiently clear. as to the versification, do not you perceive that you make the pause on the fourth syllable in almost every other line?

Now I desire, you would neither think me severe, nor at all regard what I say any farther, than it coincides with your own judgement: for the Child deserves your partiality, it is a healthy well-made boy with an ingenuous countenance, & promises to live long. I would only wash its face, dress it a little, make it walk upright & strong, & keep it from learning paw words.

I never saw more than two volumes of Pelloutier, & repent, that I ever read them. he is an idle Man of some learning, that would make all the world Celts, whether they will or no. Locus est & pluribus umbris is a very good Motto; you need look no farther: I can not find the other passage, nor look for it with these eyes.

Adieu, dear Mason, I am most sincerely yours

You won't find me a place, like Mr Wood's!

Letter ID: letters.0305 (Source: TEI/XML)


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


Date of composition: [22 January 1758]
Date (on letter): Sunday - 1758. Janr
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: I am almost blind with a great cold, & should not have wrote to you...
Mentioned: Huntingdonshire
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Milton, John
Pelloutier, Simon

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, section iv, 257-258
  • 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 XXXII, 135-137
  • 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. CLXII, vol. ii, 19-22
  • 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, 200-204
  • 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. 265, vol. ii, 556-558