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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 20 June 1758

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To The Revd Mr Mason, Rector of Aston near Sheffield Yorkshire

Dear Mason

I sympathize with your eyes, having been confined at Florence with the same complaint for three weeks, but (I hope) in a much worse degree, for besides not seeing, I could not sleep in the night for pain. have a care of old Women (who are all great Oculists) & do not let them trifle with so tender a part.

I have been exercising my eyes at Peterborough, Crowland, Thorney, Ely, &c: and am grown a great Fen-Antiquary; this was the reason I did not answer you directly, as your Letter came in my absence. I own, I have been all this while expecting Caractacus, or at least three Choruses, & now you do not so much as tell me, it is finish'd. sure your spiritual functions, & even your attentions to the Dutchess of Norfolk & Sir Coniers, might have allow'd you some little intervals for Poetry. if not, (now Queen Hecuba is gone) I utterly despair: for (say what you will) it was not retirement, it was not leisure, or the summer, or the country, that used to make you so voluminous: it was emulation, it was rivalry, it was the collision of tragedy against tragedy, that kindled your fires, & set old Mona in a blaze. you do not say, who succeeds her Trojan Majesty; it ought to be well consider'd: let me have none of your prosaic Curates. I shall have you write Sermons, & private Forms, & Heavens open to all Men.

That old fizzling Duke is coming here again (but I hope to be gone first) to hear speeches in his new Library with the Bp of Bristol to air his close-stool. they have fitted it up (not the close-stool, nor the Bp) but the Library with classes, that will hold any thing, but books: yet books they must hold, & all the bulky old Commentators, the Synopses, & Tractatus Tractatuums, are wash'd with white of eggs, gilt & letter'd, and drawn up in review before his Grace. your Uncle Balguy takes his Doctor's degree, & preaches ye Commencement-Sermon, at Dr Green's request.

Mr B:n sends his love, & bids me tell you that Dr W:n has sent you his new-Legation with its dedication to Ld Mansfield. would you have it sent you? Ld Strathmore goes tomorrow into the North to come of age. I keep an Owl in the Garden as like me, as it can stare; only I don't eat raw meat, nor bite people by the fingers. this is all the news of ye place. Adieu, dear M:n, & write to me directly, if it won't hurt you, or I shall think you worse, than you are.

I am ever
Letter ID: letters.0314 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 41
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 34


Date of composition: 20 June 1758
Date (on letter): June 20, 1758
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Cambridge, United Kingdom]
Place of addressee: [Aston, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: To The Revd Mr Mason, Rector of Aston near Sheffield Yorkshire (postmark: CAMBRIDGE)


Language: English
Incipit: I sympathize with your eyes, having been confined at Florence with the...
Mentioned: Cambridge
Crowland Abbey
Delap, John
Thorney Abbey

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 XXXV, 147-150
  • 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. CLXVIII, vol. ii, 33-35
  • 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. 272, vol. ii, 573-575