1755 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

William Mason to Thomas Gray, 26 November 1755; Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason (1853) 40-41.



But pray why, Mr. Gray, must I write, and you not? Upon my word, Sir, I really do not mean it as a flattery or any thing of that sort; no, Sir, I detest the insinuation; but blast my laurels, Sir, if I do not think you write vastly better than I do. I swear by Apollo, my dear Sir, that I would give all my Elfrida (Odes included) to be the author of that Pretty Elegy that Miss Plumtree can say off book. And I protest to you that my Ode on Memory, after it has gone through all the "limae labor" that our friend Horace prescribes, nay, Sir, "premature nonum in annum" (above half of which time it has already, I assure you, been concealed "malgre" my partiality to it), — I say that very Ode is not, nor ever will be, half so terse and complete as the fragment of your Welsh Ode, which is, as one may say, now just warm from your brain, and one would expect as callow as a new-hatched chicken (pardon the barn-door simile). But all your productions are of a different sort; they come from you armed "cap-a-pie," at all points, as Minerva is said to have issued from the head of Jupiter. I have thus said enough to show you, that, however I may have laid aside the practical part of poetry, I retain all that internal force, that "ignea vis" which inspires every true true son of Parnassus; with all which I am fervently yours,

W. MASON.