1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Mason

J. K. to Richard Polwhele, 18 December 1798; Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 2:494-95.



London, Dec. 18, 1798.

MY DEAR SIR,

You will no doubt be surprised that I should be first brought to the recollection of myself in this place, and that the bustle of London should rouse me to the performance of my promise, though the quiet of College — that oblivious quiet has so long repressed it. You must not expect that I should explain metaphysically how or by what chain of thought things long forgotten make a sudden appearance in the mind, like ghosts through a trap door.

My visit to Yorkshire was very pleasant. You do not know how much your favourite Mason was beloved wherever his influence extended. The verger, who showed us the Minster at York, upon my inquiring of him concerning Mason, began an encomium upon him in an humble way indeed, but more honourable than all the factitious praises of learned ostentation; his countenance brightened up when I asked him the question; his very looks told me that Mason's charities did not evaporate in effusions of sensibility; I learned that he was humble, mild, and generous; the father of his family; the delight of all that came within the sphere of his notice. Then, he was so good in his parish. My soul contemplates, with fond exultation, the picture of a man, endowed with genius, wit, and every talent to please the great, but "sua se virtute involventem," resigning himself with complacency to the humble duties of a country pastor — turning select Psalms into verse to be sung in his church; simplifying and arranging, and directing to the purposes of devotion his church music; and performing his duties as a Minister with meekness, perseverance, and brotherly love. In one instance, at least, the pride of human learning has not been substituted for "the magnanimity of Christian humility;" duty has been preferred to show; solitude and philanthropy have kissed each other. What though the memory of Mason is not consecrated with merited applause in elegies and odes — what though no funeral oration exaggerate his virtues; he is remembered in the lesson which the poor cottager teaches his children, and immortalized in their prayers. But Phoebus twitches my ear, and tells me that I begin to be tedious. — I was surprised to find that the city of York, which I could have sworn was so called from King Eboracus, takes its name from the river Ure. Near the Hambledown hills there is a very curious lake called Kal-mere, on the top of a conical hill of considerable height, which is of the same appearance as if the vertex of the cone had been scooped out to receive it, and which continues always of the same depth, without any visible outlet. It is a mile in circumference.

Whenever your serious avocations shall allow, I shall consider myself as honoured by a letter from you. Can you tell me how best to get a "general" knowledge of "general" history? Believe me, Dear Sir, in hopes that I shall behave better hereafter,

Yours truly,

J. K.