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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [c. September 1762]

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favor'd steps. useless epithet.
– write, choir. read rank'd & met.
Cull living garlands &c: too verbose. you love garlands.
Wch Pride nor gains – odd construction.
Genuine wreath.
– friendship twine. a little forced.
Shrink is usually a verb neuter. why not blight, or blast?
fervid, read fervent
When sad reflexion – read Till sad &c.
blest bower – call on, read, call we
In vain to thee – read, in vain to him. & his for thy.
oh, I did not see! what will become of thine.
Timid, read fearful.
        – discreter part – honest part just before.
        – explore.
vivid, read warmest.

There is too much of the Muse here. the Muse's genuine wreath, the Muse's Laurel, the Muse full oft, the Muse shall some, the Muse forbids. five times.

EL: 2.

Laurel-circled .. laurel-woven sounds better.
neglect the strings is somehow naked. perhaps
          That rules my lyre, neglect her wonted strings. read – reecho to my strain. His earliest blooms should be blossoms.
Then to thy sight – to the sight.
read, he pierced.
Modestly retire. I do not like.
Tufts sounds ill.
To moral excellence – a remnant of bad books you read at St John's. so is the dignity of Man.
Of genuine Man glowing – a bad line.
Dupe. I do not approve.
Taste too often repeated.
From that great Guide of truth – hard & prosaic.

EL: 3

attend the strain.
quick surprize. better than sweet
Luxuriant Fancy, pause

exulting leap


The wintry blast, that sweeps ye to the tomb.
Tho' soon–quære.

his patience stand. better before.

Read, That Mercy.
Trace then by reason's – blot it out.
Dear as the Sons – perhaps, Yet neither Sons &c.

They form the Phalanx &c: Is it for present fame? – from hence to peasant's life, the thought seems not just, because the questions are full as applicable to a Prince, who does believe the immortality of the soul, as to one, who does not; & it looks, as if an orthodox King had a right to sacrifice his myriads for his own ambition because they stand a chance of going to heaven, & he of going to Hell.

Indeed these four Stanzas may be spared without hurting the sense at all: after brave the Torrent's roar, it goes on very well, Go, wiser ye &c: & the whole was before rather spun out & weakly.

Letter ID: letters.0415 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 45
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 38


Date of composition: [c. September 1762]
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: [Durham, United Kingdom]


Language: English
Incipit: Indeed these four Stanzas may be spared without hurting the sense at all:...
Mentioned: Mason, William, 1724-1797

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, 137-140
  • 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, appendix IV, vol. iii, 344-348
  • 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. 362, vol. ii, 782-784