Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 36.djvu/446

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Mason
Mason
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alterations by himself, at the same theatre on 22 Feb. 1779. The `Caractacus,' also corrected by himself, was performed at Covent Garden on 1 Dec. 1776, and was again produced on 22 Oct. 1778. The success of both plays was very moderate. In 1778 he wrote an opera called `Sappho,' to be set to music by Giardini. Some other theatrical writings remained in manuscript. In 1777 he had a lawsuit with John Murray, the first publisher of the name, who had infringed his copyright by publishing extracts from Gray. Mason obtained an injunction, but Murray attacked him effectively in a pamphlet 'Concerning Mr. Mason's Edition of Mr. Gray's Poems, and the Practices of Booksellers,' 1777. Mason's other works are given below.

In 1797 Mason hurt his shin on a Friday in stepping out of his carriage. He was able to officiate in his church at Aston on the Sunday, but died from the injury on the following Wednesday, 7 April. A monument was erected to him in Westminster Abbey, close to Gray's, and the Countess Harcourt placed a cenotaph in the gardens at Nuneham. There is also a monument in Aston Church.

Mason was a man of considerable abilities and cultivated taste, who naturally mistook himself for a poet. He accepted the critical canons of his day, taking Gray and Hurd for his authorities, and his' serious attempts at poetry are rather vapid performances, to which his attempt to assimilate Gray's style gives an air of affectation. The `Heroic Epistle' gives him a place among the other followers of Pope's school in satire.

He was a good specimen of the more cultivated clergy of his day. He improved his church and built a village school (Mason and Walpole Corresp., i. xxiii). He had some antiquarian taste, like his friends Gray and Walpole. It was by his and Gray's criticisms that Walpole's eyes were opened to Chatterton's forgery. Mason was an accomplished musician. He composed some church music and published an essay upon the subject. He is said by a doubtful authority (Encycl. Brit. 1810) to have invented an improvement of the pianoforte brought out by Zumpe. Mrs. Delany says that he also invented a modification called the `Celestina,' upon which he performed with much expression; this is the instrument mentioned in the `Mason and Walpole Correspondence' as the celestinette (Encycl. Brit. 9th ed. `Pianoforte;' Grove, Dictionary of Music, `Mason' and 'Pianoforte;' Mrs. Delany, Autobiography, &c., 2nd ser. ii. 90). He was also something of an artist, and a portrait which he painted of the poet Whitehead was in 1853 bequeathed by the Rev. William Alderson, together with the poet's favourite chair, to the Rev. John Mitford, the editor of the `Gray and Mason Correspondence' (Gent. Mag. 1853, i. 338).

Mason's works are: 1. ' Mus├Žus, a Monody to the Memory of Mr. Pope, in Imitation of Milton's "Lycidas,"' 1747. 2. 'Isis, a Monologue,' 1749. 3. `Ode on the Installation of the Duke of Newcastle as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge on 1 July 1749,' 1749. 4. 'Elfrida: written on the model of the antient Greek Tragedy,' 1752. 5. `Odes,' 1756. 6. 'Caractacus: written on the model of the antient Greek Tragedy,' 1759; a Greek translation was published in 1781 by George Henry Glasse [q.v.] 7. 'Elegies,' 1763. 8. `Animadversions on the Present Government of the York Lunatic Asylum,' &c., 1772. 9. `The English Garden,' bk. i. 1772; bk. ii. 1777; bk. iii. 1779; bk. iv. 1782. 10. 'An Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers,' 1773. 11. 'An Heroic Postscript,' 1774. 12. 'Life of Gray,' 1774. 18. `Ode to Mr. Pinchbeck, upon his newly invented Candle-snuffers, by Malcolm Macgregor, Author of the "Heroic Epistle,"' 1776. 14. `An Epistle to Dr. Shebbeare; to which is added an Ode to Sir Fletcher Norton, by Malcolm Macgregor,' &c., 1777. 15. `Ode to the Naval Officers of Great Britain,' 1779. 16. `Ode to William Pitt,' 1782. 17. `The Dean and the Squire, a Political Eclogue by the Author of the "Heroic Epistle," ' 1782. 18. 'The Art of Painting' (translated from Du Fresnoy, 'De Arte Graphica'), 1782. 19. `Collection of the Psalms of David' (used as anthems in York Cathedral), published `under the direction of W. Mason, by whom is prefixed a Critical and Historical Essay on Cathedral Music,' 1782 (the essay also published separately). 20. `Secular Ode,' 1788. 21. 'Life of W. Whitehead' (prefixed to Whitehead's `Poems'), 1788. 22. `Sappho, a Lyrical Drama in three Acts,' by Mason, with an Italian translation by Mathias, was published at Naples in 1809, first printed in the 1797 volume (below).

Besides the above, `Mirth, a Poem in Answer to Warton's "Pleasures of Melancholy," by a Gentleman of Cambridge' (1774), with dedication by `W. M.,' has been attributed to Mason, but can hardly be his. The `Archaeological Epistle' to Dean Miller, also attributed to him, was written by John Baynes (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 113).

Mason's poems were collected in one volume in 1764, and in two volumes in 1774. A third volume, prepared by himself, was added in 1797. His `Works' were collected in four volumes in 1811.