Rev. William Mason

Ralph Straus, in Robert Dodsley, Poet, Publisher, and Playwright (1910) 114-15.

The previous year [1747] Dodsley had published Mason's Musaeus: a Monody to the Memory of Mr. Pope; in Imitation of Milton's Lycidas, a poem which had had no small success. On May 31st of this year, Mason had written to him from Hull, demanding to know its fate. "I fancy by this time," he says, "you can give me a full account of the fate of my Monody, and I wish much that you wou'd do so, for you know I told you how great a stress I shou'd lay upon your report because I believ'd it wou'd be a sincere one." Mason was then only twenty-two years of age, and desirous of editing the lesser poems of Milton. "I cou'd wish also," he continues, "to know whether Tonson or any other bookseller has a property in the 3rd vol. of Milton. I have often thought it a great pitty that many of the Beautiful Peices it contains shou'd be so little read as they certainly are, I fancy this has arisen from the bad thing they are tack'd to. I want vastly to have a seperate edition of the Tragedy, Mask, Lycidas & Lallegro, &c., but, if you think that it woud sell at present I wou'd willingly give you my assistance either for a preface or Notes or any thing that shou'd be thought necessary, & this merely for the sake of the incomparable Poet for whom I am not content with having considerd, & praised as the Author of Paradise Lost alone." However much Dodsley may have desired to print such an edition, Tonson held the copyright, and nothing could be done; for a time, however, it would seem that he had intended to produce such a book, for later in the year, when Mason was writing again, he says: "I shall not proceed in the Edition I mentioned to you till I see you in London & have your advice more fully about it, for I dont sufficiently understand your Properties &c. nor how you bargain in these cases." Other work, however, demanded Mason's attention, and in Feb. 1749 Dodsley published his Isis. His Monody had gone into a third edition; so likewise did Isis, and in a very short time. It was answered by Tom Warton, Joseph's younger brother. Later when Mason aspired to tragedy, his work still appeared from the Tully's Head, although after Robert Dodsley's death he quarrelled over a question of copyright with his brother.