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gives me does not matter a rush; and yet I own I would have 'something more of her too, merely because I have not philosophy-or a better thing, economy-to make what I have a competency. And this was written after he had got the living of Aston, which he held till his death, in 1797.

Admissions such as these justify the tone Gray always assumes in jest; but, as his jest always has, with a good deal of earnest in it: Be assured,' he writes, when Mason is in eager expectation of a Canonry, your York Canon will never die, so the 'better the thing is in value the worse for it is a 'judgment that waits on your insatiable avarice.' And again, on the actual demise of the Canon:


It is a mercy that old men are mortal, and that dignified clergymen know how to keep their word. I heartily rejoice with you in your establishment, and with myself that I have lived to see it,-to see your insatiable mouth stopped, and your anxious periwig at rest, and slumbering in a stall.'-Mitford, p. 284.

And when Mason got the Precentorship, and Gray visited him while at residence at York, he still indulges in the same raillery at his friend's expense:

'After my fortnight's residence in York, I am arrived here. The Precentor is very hopefully improved in dignity. His scarf sets the fullest about his ears; his surplice has the most air of lawn sleeves you can imagine in so short a time; he begins to complain of qualms and indigestions from repose and repletion; in short, il tranche du Prélat. We went twice a-day to church, with our vergers and all our pomp.'-Mitford, p. 291.

But let us not do Mason injustice. He made a conscientious Rector and a good Precentor. Though a King's Chaplain, he was not amongst those who incurred George the Third's reproof: I desire those gentlemen may be told that I come here to 'praise God, and not to hear my own praises;' a saying quoted with great satisfaction by Gray. If he did not write sermons, which might be considered in those days too great a sacrifice of time to a congregation of rustics, he employed himself in modernizing, and consequently spoiling, old homilies for the same end. He employed his great talent for music in the service of the sanctuary. He gave an organ to his village church, and formed a choir, which he took pains to instruct. He wrote an essay on English Church Music, and himself composed strains for York Minster, which are better known now than his verses. It is said that he invented the pianoforte, which means, we presume, that he devised some of the improvements which distinguish the modern instrument from the old harpsichord. He distinguished himself late in life by warmly advocating, in the pulpit, the abolition of the slave-trade; and his biography assures us that his life was principally devoted to the duties of his profession,

though poetry and politics (he was a strenuous and bitter Whig) were frequent relaxations. The romance of his life, as seen in this correspondence, is, however, to be found in the brief happiness of his married life, and its melancholy close. Gray was not such an old bachelor but that his friend could make him the confidant of his hopes and wishes on the first dawning of his attachment; could reckon on his sympathy in his happiness while it lasted, and turn naturally first to him for pity and consolation when fear and sorrow came. His own epitaph in Bristol Cathedral on his beloved wife

• Take, holy earth, all that my soul holds dear!'

is, perhaps, the best known of his poems, and no doubt, though it is marked by some formalities of the age, it is the outpouring of a heart wrung with anguish. His letters convey the same impression, with more intensity. Gray had seen Mrs. Mason on their way from Yorkshire to the south, and describes her to a friend, to whom many of these letters are addressed (the Rev. James Brown): Mason is here, and has brought his wife -a pretty, modest, innocent, interesting figure; looking like ' eighteen, though she is near twenty-eight. She does not speak, only whispers, and her cough as troublesome as ever; yet I have great hopes there is nothing consumptive. She is strong and in good spirits. We were all at the Opera together on Saturday last. And soon after he writes to Mason himself with most friendly inquiries:

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I cannot but inquire after Mrs. Mason's health. If she has withstood such a winter, and her cough never the worse, she 'may defy the doctors and all their works. Pray tell me how she is, for I interest myself for her, not merely on your 'account, but on her own. These last three mornings have been. ' very vernal and mild.' Going on to speak of another friend, whom he wishes Mason to persuade to marry, only do not let her be a fine lady.' To which we have the following pathetic answer:

'Cleveland Row, Feb. 2, 1767. 'Dear Mr. Gray,-No, alas! she has not withstood the severity of the weather; it has nipped her as it would have done a flower half-withered before, and she has been this last month in a most weak condition. Yet this present fine season has enabled me to get her three or four times out into the air; and it seems to have had some good effect, yet not enough to give me any substantial hopes of her recovery. There are few men in the world that can have a competent idea of what I have of late felt, and still feel; yet you are one of those few, and, I am sure, will give me a full share of your pity. Were I to advise Stonhewer to a wife, it should certainly be to a fine lady; it should not be to one he could love to the same degree that I do this gentle, this innocent creature.'-Mitford, p. 371.

Gray replies in a long letter, full of feeling, compassion,

and practical suggestions; making their concerns his own, and offering to come to town if his presence should be any comfort to his friend. Something more than a month later we have the following beautiful expression of sympathy, breathing,' as Mason expresses it, friendship, in its tenderest and most pathetic note:'

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'March 28, 1767.

'My dear Mason,-I break in upon you at a moment when we least of all are permitted to disturb our friends, only to say that you are daily and hourly present to my thoughts. If the worst be not yet passed, you will neglect and pardon me; but, if the last struggle be over, if the poor object of your long anxieties be no longer sensible to your kindness, or to your own sufferings, allow me (at least in idea, for what could I do were I present more than this?) to sit by you in silence, and pity from my heart, not her who is at rest, but you who lose her. May He who made us, the Master of our pleasures and of our pains, preserve and support you. Adieu! I have long understood how little you had to hope.'-Mitford, p. 377.


These are things to knit men's hearts together; and Gray's friendship was Mason's one earthly consolation. In the first moment of bereavement, he turned to him. This letter reached Bristol at the time of the funeral. In the short answer, Mason writes: I cannot express the state of my mind or health. 'I know not what either of them are; but I think that I mean at present to steal through London very soon, and come to 'you at Cambridge.' Two months after, the correspondence touches upon the epitaph on this much-loved wife (the three concluding lines of which, indeed, are Gray's); a composition so affecting to those who first heard it that Gray writes of his friend Dr. Wharton, (who must not be confounded with either of the brothers, Thomas or Joseph Warton,) that it had sent him brimful into another room to cry. For which tears he afterwards receives the author's benediction, "God bless Dr. Wharton, and send him (for sympathy) never to feel what I feel!" This same epitaph led to a pathetic little scene, which Mason records, between himself and Archbishop Drummond. These men did not really like one another at all, but a common sorrow had its natural effect in bringing them into tenderer feelings towards one another for the moment :

'I dined lately,' says Mason, 'at Bishopthorpe, when the Archbishop took me into his closet, and, with many tears, begged me to write an epitaph on his daughter. In our conversation, he touched so many unison strings of my heart (for we both of us wept like children), that I could not help promising him that I would try, if possible, to oblige him. The result you have in the opposite page. If it either is or can be made a decent thing, assist me with your judgment immediately; for what I do about it, I would do quickly, and I can do nothing neither, if this will not do with correction. It cannot be expected, neither would I wish it, to be equal to what I have written from my heart, upon my heart's heart.'—Mitford, p. 393.

Gray never shows the candour of true friendship more than in his criticisms. Most men would think the request to give the mind to an epitaph in which the personal interest was so remote, amongst the most irksome tasks in nature, and they would shirk it accordingly; but Gray throws himself into it at once, praises in general, but criticises sharply in detail; objecting, for instance, to the first three lines, that they might be written by the chaplain with an eye to flattering his patron. Poor Mason, sore and sorrowful, yet an author still, defends his lines; but if I thought that they implied a shadow of flattery to the Archbishop, I would wipe them out with a sponge dipped in 6 the mud of the kennel.' We acquit him of flattery, but they were vile lines notwithstanding, and Gray did him a good turn in getting them expunged.

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'Hence, stoic apathy, to hearts of stone!

A Christian sage with dignity can weep.

See mitred Drummond heave the heart-felt groan,
Where the cold ashes of his daughter sleep.'

The epitaph, as it stands, beginning

Here sleeps what once was beauty, once was grace,'

is very well, and takes a good stand in the ranks of that not very attractive form of composition. Gray gives it his sanction with a farewell comment on the second line,

'Grace that with native sentiment combined,'

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(suggesting tenderness and sense,' instead); and the seventh'Blest with each art that taste supplies, or truth,'—

for I hate "sentiment" in verse. I will say nothing to "taste" and "truth," for, perhaps, the Archbishop may fancy they are fine things; but, to my palate, they are wormwood.'-Mitford, p. 405.

In another respect Gray was a valuable friend to a literary man, like Mason, in the strong stand he took against the French writers then so much in vogue. It was something, when Rousseau excited his first sensation, and when it was the fashion to rave about him, that a man of so universal an appetite for books should at once estimate him rightly. Mason has, indeed, to make some apologies for the contempt of Gray's tone towards a philosopher with whose style and tone he himself was a good deal taken-so far, at least, as to think it very fine writing. Gray had a genuine loathing of unbelief; he could regard it in no other light but that of an abhorrent contempt. Every approach to it was, as it were, a personal affront. This his constitutional low spirits account for, as they enabled him to realize what man would be without hope. Speaking of an acquaintance who harped much on the subject of materialism, he says:

'This French author I never saw, but have read fifty in the same strain, and shall read no more. I can be wretched enough without them. They put me in mind of the Greek sophist, that got immortal honour by discoursing so feelingly on the miseries of our condition, that fifty of his audience went home and hanged themselves. Yet he lived himself (I suppose) many years after, in very good plight.'—Mason, vol. ii. p. 141. And then follows the passage quoted by Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Gray :

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You say you cannot conceive how Lord Shaftesbury came to be a philosopher in vogue. I will tell you. First, he was a Lord; secondly, he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, men are very prone to believe what they do not understand; fourthly, they will believe anything at all, provided they are under no obligation to believe it; fifthly, they love to take a new road, even when that road leads nowhere; sixthly, he was reckoned a fine writer, and seemed always to mean more than he said. Would you have any more reasons? An interval of about forty years has pretty well destroyed the charm. A dead Lord ranks but with Commoners. Vanity is no longer interested in the matter, for the new road is become an old one.' -Mason, vol. ii. p. 142.

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If the "Nouvelle Heloise" be Rousseau's,' writes Mason, pity me, because I live at Aston, and have not seen it; and 'be sure send me some account of it, and that with speed.' To which Gray replies:

I cannot pity you: au contraire, I wish I had been at Aston, when I was foolish enough to go through the six volumes of the "Nouvelle Heloise." All that I can say for myself is, that I was confined for three weeks by a severe cold, and had nothing better to do. There is no one event in it that might not happen any day of the week (separately taken) in any private family; yet these events are so put together, that the series of them are more absurd and more improbable than "Amadis de Gaul." The dramatis persone (as the author says) are all of them good characters: I am sorry to hear it, for had they all been hanged at the end of the third volume nobody (I believe) would have cared. In short, I went on and on, in hopes of finding some wonderful dénouement that would set all right, and bring something like nature and interest out of absurdity and insipidity. No such thing; it grows worse and worse, and (if it be Rousseau, which is not doubted) is the strongest instance I ever saw that a very extraordinary man may entirely mistake his own talents.'-Mitford, p. 248. And to Horace Walpole he writes this just criticism, at a time when it was the fashion to extol this writer to the skies :

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'Rousseau's people do not interest me. There is but one character and one style in them all; I do not know their faces asunder. I have no esteem for their persons or conduct, am not touched by their passions, and as to their story, I do not believe a word of it, not because it is improbable, but because it is absurd.'—Gray's Works, p. 554.

And again

'Rousseau's Letters I am reading heavily, heavily! He justifies himself, till he convinces me that he deserved to be burnt, or, at least, his book did. I am not got through him, and you never will. Voltaire I detest, and have not seen his book.'-Ibid. p. 561.

To the same friend who had written to him from France, and with whom, some twenty or thirty years before, he had visited

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