Mason, James (1779-1827) (DNB00)


MASON, JAMES (1779–1827), miscellaneous writer, born in 1779, was a member of a family long settled at Shrewsbury, where he lived until his death. He was captain of the Shrewsbury volunteers, and interested himself both in politics and literature. He was a supporter of Fox, advocating the abolition of slavery and Roman catholic emancipation. In 1804 appeared his ‘Considerations on the necessity of discussing the State of the Irish Catholics’ (1804). This was followed by ‘A Brief Statement of the present System of Tythes in Ireland, with a Plan for its Improvement.’ He took part in the Shrewsbury election of 17 Oct. 1806, and next year issued ‘A Letter to the Electors of Shrewsbury.’ Others of his political pamphlets were: ‘Observations on Parliamentary Reform’ (1811), and ‘A Review of the principal Arguments in favour of restricting Importation, and allowing the Exportation of Corn’ (1814).

His published literary work included a tragedy called ‘The Natural Son’ (1805), which should be distinguished from Cumberland's earlier comedy bearing the same title, and in 1809 he issued two volumes of ‘Literary Miscellanies.’ The first contained ‘Mortimer,’ a novel in a series of letters; translations of the ‘Iliad,’ book xix., passages from the ‘Æneid,’ and imitations of Horace's ‘Odes,’ accompanied with critical remarks; and a defence of the ‘Œdipus Tyrannus’ against some observations of Voltaire. In the second were two tragedies, ‘The Renown’ and ‘Ninus;’ and two comedies, ‘The School for Husbands’ (an original play, unlike Ozell's translation from Molière) and ‘The School for Friends.’ A comedy, under the same name as the last, by Marianne Chambers was produced at Drury Lane in December 1805, and printed in the same year. These were preceded by ‘Observations on our Principal Dramatic Authors,’ with severe strictures on the contemporary drama, and some account of the author's plays. The writings are those of a scholar widely read in both ancient and modern literature, and of a critic of some acuteness, although an adherent of the old ‘unities’ school. Mason further published in 1810 ‘The Georgicks of Publius Virgilius Maro, translated into English Blank Verse,’ London, 8vo. Watt also attributes to him, probably wrongly, ‘A Plea for Catholic Communion in the Church of God’ (1816). Mason died at Shrewsbury 27 April 1827.

[Gent. Mag. 1827, ii. 189; Mason's Works; Biog. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Watt's Bibl. Brit. ii. 653; Brit Mus. Cat.]

G. Le G. N.