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gratified him by a visit at Aston in 1770, and after his return to Pembroke Hall, was seized with the gout in his stomach, which proved suddenly fatal. Mason hastened to Cambridge to pay the last duties of friendship, but arrived too late for the funeral, which had been conducted by Dr. Brown, master of Pembroke Hall, who was appointed joipt-executor. To Mason, Gray left the sum of 5001. with all his books, manuscripts, musical instruments, medals, &c.and Mason undertook to write his life, and to publish such of his manuscripts as inigbt appear to be worthy of his high character in the literary world. In his biography, he chose to deviate from the usual plan, by adopting one which seemed to present more advantages. Objections have been made to it, because the biographer seldom appears either as the narrator or the critic, but it must be allowed that the whole is rendered more interesting, and that the attention of the reader being constantly fixed on the principal character, he is enabled to form a more impartial opinion than if he had perused no evidence but the assertions of the biographer. The plan bas since been followed in the cases of Johnson, Cowper, sir William Jones, Mrs. Carter, and Dr. Beattie, and where lives of equal importance to literary curiosity are to be recorded, which cannot be often, it appears to be not only the most engaging species of minute biography, but also the most impartial,
The Memoirs of Gray were published in 1775, in an elegant quarto volume, including an edition of his poems, with additions and a series of his correspondence, illustrative of those particulars, of education, genius, opinion, and temper, which, insig. nificant as they may often appear, are all that form the life of a scholar. In executing this task, Mr. Mason has been accused of partiality, but his partiality appears to Þe more in intention than effect. Some things he may bave omitted, and others are certainly thrown into shade; but by exhibiting so much of his friend's correspondence he has laid him more open to public inspection than could have been done by any species of narrative. So much may be known of Gray from this volume, that probably very little is concealed which was necessary to be told, and accordingly we find that it has been appealed to with equal confidence by Gray's enemies, and by his admirers.
In 1779, he published his political creed in the shape of an animated Ode to the Naval Officers of Great Britain, written immediately after the trial of admiral Keppel in February of that year. Although attached to a retired life, he became tired of forbearance when the disappointments of the American war had incited the Whig party to discover the more distant or latent sources of national misfortune, and to propose remedies by which Britain should be always prosperous and always victorious. He was already one of those who thought the decision of parliament on the Middlesex election a violation of the rights of the people, and when the counties began, in 1779, to associate for parliamentary reform, he took an active part in assisting their deliberations, and wrote several patriotic manifestos, which raised him as bigh in the opinion of his own party, as they degraded him in the eyes of the other. He is even said to have given so much offence at court that he found it convenient to resign his chaplainship. It appears, however, by the poems he wrote in his latter days, that the fever of reform bad abated, and that his cure, which was begun by Mr. Fox's India Bill, was afterwards completed by the French revolution. His ode to Mr. Pitt, published in 1789,
expresses the sanguine hopes he entertained of the virtues and talents of that young statesman. When he prepared this ode for a new edition in 1795, he altered the last line from
Be thine the Muse's wreath ; be thou the people's friend. to
To claim thy sovereign's love, be thou thy country's friend.
The reason of this alteration be assigns in a note, “a person (Mr. Fox) had usurped the name of the Friend of the People &c.” To such vicissitudes are the eager assertors of theoretic liberty exposed.
Among Mr. Mason's accomplishments, his taste for painting was perhaps not inferior to that he displayed for poetry, and it has been thought that his judgment was more uniformly correct in the former than in the latter. His translation of Du Fresnoy's Art of Painting, which appeared in 1783, was begun, as he informs us, in his early years, with a double view of implanting in his memory the principles of a favourite art, and of acquiring a habit of versification, for which purpose the close and condensed style of the original seemed peculiarly calculated, especially when considered as a sort of school exercise. The task, however, proved so difficult, that it was long laid aside for original composition, and his translation would have never been made public, if sir Joshua Reynolds had not requested a sight of it, and offered to illustrate it by a series of notes. This induced him to revise the whole with such scrupulous care that it may be considered, in a great measure, as the production of his mature talents, and whether perused as an original or a translation is certaiuly not inferior to his most favourite works. In the poetical address, however, to sir Joshua Reynolds, he has not been thought so happy, and some inaccuracies of rhyme may be objected to a translation which is generally elegant and faithful. How much its value was enhanced to the artist and to the connoisseur by the annotations of sir Joshua Reynolds, is too obvious to be noticed.
His last separate publication of the poetical kind was a Secular Ode in commemoration of the glorious revolution, 1688, and appeared when men of all parties joined in festal meetings to celebrate the restoration and establishment of English liberty. In the same year he condescended to be the biographer and editor of the poems of his friend William Whitehead, esq. Of his life of Whitehead, some notice has been already taken. Neither his subject nor his materials could furnish such memoirs as he has given of Gray; but it is interesting, in an inferior degree, and would not have de tracted much from his fame as a biographer, had he suppresed his splenetic notice of Dr. Johnson, and shown that he had preserved that simplicity of character and those generous feelings which Gray ouce attributed to him. He appears to have been equally mistaken in a pamphlet which he published about this time, animadverting on the government of the York Lunatic Asylum; but the mistake was rather of the bead than the heart, for he was a cordial and liberal supporter of that institution, and was betrayed into a degree of intemperance of remark by excess of zeal for its prosperity. Of his general humanity, or what he has termed "moral patriotisın," he afforded during this year an eloquent proof in a discourse delivered in York Cathedral on the subject of the African slave trade. He was one of the first who contributed to expose the infamy of that trade, and to invigorate those remonstrances which have at length been heard with effect.
In 1795 he published a judicions, comprehensive and elegant essay, historical and critical, on English Church Music. This work embraces so many subjects connected with the decorous administration of public worship, as to deserve much more attention than has yet been bestowed upon it. His answer to Mr. Thomas Warton's objections to metrical psalmody is not the least valuable part, and the spirit and intelligence which he displays on this subject do credit to him both as a poet and a divine. His knowledge of music was very accurate, and he is said to have composed a Te Deum, a hymn, and other pieces for the choir of York. The improvement, if not the invention of the piano forte is also attributed to him in an elaborate article on that subject inserted in Dr. Gleig's supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
In all the editions of his poems hitherto published, Mr. Mason omitted some pieces for various reasons; but about the year 1796, he determined to collect the whole into an additional or third volume, interspersed with some which had never been printed. This appeared in 1797 immediately after his death. The collection now before the reader consists only of the pieces which have long been considered as common property,
His death, although he had reached his seventy second year, was not the consequence of age. His health was yet more robust than most men enjoy at that advanced period, and his faculties had undergone no perceptible alteration, when he received a hurt in stepping into a carriage, which, producing a mortification, terminated his life on the 7th of April 1797. A monument has been since erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey adjoining to that of Gray, with the following inscription.
Sacrum. The countess Harcourt also erected an urn to his memory in the flower garden at Nuneham, with an inscription celebrating his " simple manners, piety, and steady friendship.” A yet higher tribute of respect has been paid by his friend Mr. Gisbome in some elegant verses which are prefixed to the present edition of his poems.
The opinion of so good a man as Mr. Gisborne is entitled to confidence, and there is no reason to doubt that Mason deserved the praise he has given him, nor, considering the general and acknowledged frailty of human nature, will this panegyric suffer by the few exceptions which truth and justice to the merits of others, his contemporaries,
Mr. Mason's life appears to have been principally devoted to the duties of his profession, occasionally relieved by the cultivation of the fine arts. His associates, at least in the latter part of his life, were few. He had the misfortune to survive the