1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Mason

Anonymous, in Lounger's Common-Place Book (1796) 2:29.



It is to be lamented, that the life of a man so deservedly eminent in the paths of literature, a friend to liberty so strenuous, and a clergyman so exemplary, should be consumed in adjusting the petty etiquette of vergers, vicars-choral, or squeaking chanters; and that his days should be embittered by frivolous altercations with booksellers, and the vexatious quarrels of a county hospital.

Petty contention and provincial strife,
Bestrew'd with thorns his private life,

says a late satirical writer, who has introduced him as an unsuccessful candidate for the laureat, and dismisses him, by saying, that lawn sleeves, mitres, and crosiers, not laurel, are his, and every churchman's dream; and I believe it generally to be understood, that this intelligent member of our established church has been disappointed in certain prospects of honor and preferment, towards which his merits, and indeed his hopes, had taught him to look.

This observation cannot be considered as any reflection upon Mr. Mason, when we see around us such numbers of clergymen, of high acquirement and pure character, neglected and unprovided for; I rather consider it as an actual proof of the superiority and eminence of his clerical claims, but of his ignorance in the arts of borough-jobbing, canvassing, and levee-hunting. I have mentioned his disputes concerning literary property, and agree with him, in his censures of certain arts practiced by the trade. With a few exceptions, how rarely are authors enabled to reap any benefit from the labours of their pens; they frequently are shivering in want, or pining in neglect, while the happy bookseller is feasting on the fourteenth edition.