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Thomas Gray to William Mason, 23 July 1759

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Dear Mason

I was alarmed to hear the condition you were in, when you left Cambridge, & tho' Mr Brown had a letter to tell him, you were mending apace, while I was there; yet it would give me great pleasure to hear more particularly from yourself, how you are. I am just settled in my new habitation in Southampton-Row, &, tho' a solitary & dispirited creature, not unquiet, nor wholly unpleasant to myself. the Musæum will be my chief amusement. I this day passed thro' the jaws of a great Leviathan, that lay in my way, into the belly of Dr Templeman, Super-Intendent of ye reading-room, who congratulated himself on the sight of so much good company. We were A Man, that writes for Ld Royston; A Man, that writes for Dr Burton of York; a third, that writes for the Emperour of Germany, or Dr Pocock, for he speaks the worst English I ever heard; Dr. Stukely, who writes for himself, the very worst Person he could write for; & I, who only read to know, if there were any thing worth writing, & that not without some difficulty. I find, that they printed 1000 copies of ye Harleian Catalogue, and have sold fourscore; that they have 900£ a year income, & spend 1300, & that they are building apartments for the Under-Keepers, so I expect in Winter to see the Collection advertised, & set to auction.

Have you read the Clarendon-book? do you remember Mr Cambridge's account of it, before it came out; how well he recollected all the faults, & how utterly he forgot all the beauties? surely the grossest Taste is better, than such a sort of Delicacy.

The Invasion goes on as quietly, as if we believed every Frenchman, that set his foot on English ground, would die on the spot, like a Toad in Ireland: no body, but I & Fobus, are in a fright about it. by the way he goes to Church (not for the invasion) but eversince his Sister Castle-comer died, who was the last of ye brood.

Moralize upon the death of my Lady Essex, & do write to me soon, for I am ever yours

At Mr. Jauncey's, Southampton-Row, Bloomsbury.

I have not a Frank in ye World, nor have I time to send to Mr Frazier.

Letter ID: letters.0342 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 42
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 35


Date of composition: 23 July 1759
Date (on letter): July 23: 1759
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: London, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): At Mr. Jauncey's, Southampton-Row, Bloomsbury


Language: English
Incipit: I was alarmed to hear the condition you were in, when you left...
Mentioned: Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of
Pococke, Dr. Richard
Stukeley, Dr. 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 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, 275-276
  • 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 XLV, 182-185
  • 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. CLXXXVIII, vol. ii, 90-93
  • 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. 297, vol. ii, 629-631