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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [17 January 1765]

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To The Revd Mr Mason Rector of Aston near Sheffield Yorkshire

Dear Mr Mason

As you are alone & not quite well, I do feel a little sort of (I am almost ashamed to speak it) tenderness for you: but then I comfort myself with the thought, that it does not proceed from any remnant of old inclination or kindness I have for you. that (you must allow) would be folly, as our places of abode are so distant, & our occupations & pursuits so different. but the true cause is, that I am pretty lonely too, & besides have a complaint in my eyes, that possibly may end in blindness. it consists in not being able to read at all with one eye, & having very often the Muscæ Volitantes before the other. I may be allow'd therefore to think a little of you (& Delaval) without any disparagement to my knowledge of Mankind & of human Nature.

The match you talk of is no more consummated than your own, & Kitty is still a Maid for the Doctor: so that he wants the requisite thing, & yet (I'll be sworn) his happiness is very little impair'd. I take broil'd Salmon to be a dish much more necessary at your table than his. I had heard in Town (as you have) that they were married; & long'd to go to Spilsby & make them a visit: but here I learn, it is not true yet, whatever it may be. I read & liked the Epigram as it was printed, & do insist, it is better without the last lines, not that the thought is amiss, but because the same rhyme is repeated, & the sting is not in the epigrammatic style: I mean, not easy & familiar. in a Satyr it might do very well. Mr Churchill is dead indeed, drown'd in a butt of claret, wch was tap'd on the meeting of the Friends at Boulogne: he made an excellent end, as his Executor Humphrey Cotes testifies. I did not write any of the elegies, being busy in writing the Temple of Tragedy. send for it forthwith, for you are highly interested in it. if I had not own'd the thing, perhaps you might have gone, & taken it for the Revd Mr Langhorne's. it is divine!

I have not read the Philosophic Dictionary. I can stay with great patience for any thing that comes from Voltaire: they tell me it is frippery & blasphemy & wit. I could have forgiven myself, if I had not read Rousseau's letters. always excepting the Contract Social, it is the dullest performance he ever publish'd. it is a weak attempt to separate the miracles from the morality of the Gospel: the latter (he would have you think) he believes, was sent from God, & the former he very explicitly takes for an imposture. this is in order to prove the cruelty & injustice of the State of Geneva in burning his Emile. the latter part of his book is to shew the abuses, that have crept into the constitution of his countrey, wch point (if you are concerned about it) he makes out very well: and his intention in this is plainly to raise a tumult in the City, & to be revenged on the Petit Conseil, who condemn'd his writings to the flames.

Cambridge itself is fruitful enough of events to furnish out many paragraphs in my Gazette. the most important is, that Frog Walker is dead: his last words were (as the Nurses sate by him & said, ah, poor Gentleman, he is going!) Going, going, where am I a-going? I'm sure, I know no more than the Man in the moon! Dr Ridlington has been given over with a dropsy these 10 weeks: he refused all tapping & scarifying, but obey'd other directions; till finding all was over, he prescribed to himself a boil'd chicken entire, & five quarts of small beer. after this he brought up great quantities of blood, the swelling & suffocation & all signs of water disappear'd, his spirits return'd, & (except extreme weakness) he is recover'd. every body has ceased to enquire after him, & as he would not die, when he should, they are resolved to proceed as if he were dead & buried. Dr Newcome is dead: for 6 weeks or more before his death he was distracted, not childish, but really raving. for the last 3 weeks he took no nourishment but by force. Miss Kirke & the younger Beadon are Executors & residuary Legatees: I believe he left about 10,000£, but there are many legacies. had I a pen of adamant, I could not describe the business, the agitation, the tempest, the University is in about the Margaret Professorship. only D:D:s & B:D:s have votes, so that there are acts upon acts: the bell is eternally tolling as in time of pestilence, & no body knows whose turn it may be next. the Candidates are Dr Law, & Z: Brooke & my Ld Sandwich. the day is Saturday next. but alas! what is this to the warm region of St John's? it is like Lisbon on the day of the earthquake! it is like the fire of London! I can hear & smell it hither. here too appears the furious Zachary, but his forces are but three or four men. here towers Dr Rutherforth, himself an Host, & he has about 3 champions. there Skinner with his powerful oratory, & the decent Mr Alvis, with their several invisible squadrons. Ogden & Gunning each fighting for himself & disdaining the assistance of others. but see, where Frampton rages with his 17 votes, & on his buckler glitters the formidable name of Sandwich, at wch Fiends tremble. last of all comes with his mines & counter-mines, & old Newcastle at his back, the irresistible force of Powell. 23 are a majority, & he has already 22 & 1/2. if it lapses to the Seniors, he has it. if it lapses to the Visitor, he has it. in short (as we all believe) he has it every way. I know you are overjoy'd, especially for that he has the Newcastle interest. I have had a very civil visit of two hours from [the] Archimage, busy as he is, for you know, I inherit all y[our] old acquaintance, as I do all Delaval's old distempers. I visited Dr Balguy the other day at Winchester, & he me at Southampton: we are as great as two pease. the day of election at St John's is Friday-se'nnight.

Mr Brown is well, & has forgot you. Mr Nicholls is profuse of his thanks to me for your civilities to him at York, of wch (God knows) I knew no more than the Man in the moon.

Letter ID: letters.0451 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 48
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 40


Date of composition: [17 January 1765]
Date (on letter): Thursday.
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Camb:
Place of addressee: [Aston, United Kingdom]

Physical description

Addressed: To The Revd Mr Mason Rector of Aston near Sheffield Yorkshire (postmark: SAFFRON WALDEN 18 1A)


Language: English
Incipit: As you are alone & not quite well, I do feel a little sort of (I am almost...
Mentioned: Temple of Tragedy
Churchill, Charles
Delap, John
Langhorne, John
Mason, William, 1724-1797
Nicholls, Norton, c. 1742-1809
Rousseau, Jean Jacques

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 LXXXIV, 315-323
  • 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. CCLXVI, vol. iii, 58-63
  • 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, 269-270
  • 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. 399, vol. ii, 857-862