1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Mason

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 193.



Mason, a native of Yorkshire (1725-1797), was the friend and literary executor of Gray, whose acquaintance he made at Cambridge. He became chaplain to the king, and wrote plays and odes after Greek models; but they lack vitality. In 1781 he published a didactic poem, The English Garden, in blank verse, a stiff and much padded production. In one genuine little poem, an epitaph on his wife, he seems to be betrayed into true feeling, and to escape from that "stateliness and assumed superiority of manner" which Aikin refers to as characteristic of Mason's external demeanor, but which seems to have influenced his interior nature so far as to have deadened all spontaneousness in his poetical utterances. It should be remarked that the last four lines of the Epitaph on Mrs. Mason were supplied by Gray.