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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [c. 28 November 1758]

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Ode. P: 32

Whom Camber bore. I suppose you say whom, because the Harp is treated as a Person, but there is an ambiguity in it, & I should read that Camber bore. there's a Specimen of nice Criticism for you! I much approve the six last lines of this Stanza. it is a noble Image & well express'd to the fancy & to the ear.

I. 2.

A Rill has no tide of waters to tumble down amain. I am sorry to observe this just in a place, where I see the difficulty of rhiming. I object nothing to the symphony of Ring-doves & Poplars, but that it is an Idea borrow'd from yourself, & I would not have you seem to repeat your own inventions.

I conceive the four last lines to be allegorical, alluding to the brutal ferocity of the Natives, wch by the power of musick was soften'd into civility. it should not therefore be the Wolf-Dog, but the Wolf itself, that bays the trembling Moon: it is the Wolf, that thins the flocks, & not the Dog, who is their Guardian.

I. 3.

I read the Fairy, Fancy. I like all this extremely, & particularly the ample plumes of Inspiration, that

Beat on the breathless bosom of the air yet, if I were foolish, I could find fault with this verse, as others will do. but what I do not conceive is, how such wings as those of Inspiration should be mistaken for the wings of Sleep, who (as you yourself tell me presently) sinks softly down the skies. besides it is not her is false English: the nomin:ve Case is She.

II. 3.

Does the swart-star (that is, Sirius) shine from the North? I believe not, but Dr Long will tell you.

II. 1. & 2.

These are my favourite Stanzas. I am satisfied both mind & ear, & dare not murmur. if Mador would sing as well in the first Chorus, I should cease to plague you. only, Rise at her art's command is harsh, & says no more than

Arise at her command,


Are born at her command. II. 3.

I told you of ye swart Star before. at the end I read

Till Destiny prepare a shrine of purer clay.

Afterwards read resume no more thy strain. You will say I have no notion of Tout-ensembles, if I do not tell you that I like the scheme of this Ode at least as well as the execution.

And now I rejoice with you in the recovery of your eyes. pray, learn their value, & be sparing of them. I shall leave this place in about a fortnight, & within that time hope to dispatch you a packet with my criticalities entire: I send this bit first, because you desire it. Dr Wharton is in great hopes, Mr H: will not treat Dr Ak: so hardly as he intended & desires you would tell him so. as his request is founded on mere humanity (for he pretends no friendship, & has but a slight acquaintance with the Doctor) I present it to you, & wish you would acquaint Mr H: with it, the sooner the better.

I am well & stupid, but ever unalterably

I don't understand, if Fraser is recover'd. I wish, he was. Do you know any thing of Stonhewer?

Letter ID: letters.0329 (Source: TEI/XML)


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


Date of composition: [c. 28 November 1758]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Stoke Poges, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: Whom Camber bore. I suppose you say whom, because the Harp is...
Mentioned: Akenside, Dr. Mark
Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Stonhewer, Richard, 1728-1809
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 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, 61-66
  • 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, fragment, letter no. CLXXX, vol. ii, 65
  • 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, 214-215
  • 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. 284*, vol. ii, 597-599