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a volume of new odes in 1756, which were evidently written in imitation of the gorgeous diction, and the splendid imagery, which dazzle throughout all his friend Gray executed in the same style. They have, therefore, not inappropriately or severely been considered to display more of the ingenuity of study than the spirit of imagination. This redundance of artificial beauty, however, was subdued in his next publication, which was entitled ‘Elegies,' and first appeared in 1763: for though tinted with some superfluous ornament, they are elegantly written, and for the greater part couched in a simplicity of language which decently becomes their order. They are to be commended for many noble declarations of virtue and freedom. Indeed, in two re. spects, Mason stands almost superior and unfellowed as a poet: he is consistently an advocate of the purest morality, and a warm patron of all that is honourable in civil liberty. He collected all his poems with the exception of his • Installation Ode,' and · Isis,' in 1764, and published them together in one 8vo. volume, which was repeatedly reprinted during his lifetime, and has not been neglected since his death.
Devoting his powers to a different line of subjects, he produced in 1772 the first part of the · English Garden ;' a didactic and descriptive poem in blank verse, of which the fourth and concluding book was published in 1781. The purport of this undertaking was to recommend, by the impressive charms of poetry, that modern plan of landscape gardening, which has now exploded the formal quincunx, straight avenue, and rectangular walk; and to this mode he adheres with all the vigour of judgment and pertinacity of exclusive taste. His versification, constructed on the purest models, is embellished by some vivid delineations; bu: the preceptive portion is so minutely provided and stiffly delivered, that the whole text was regarded more as an evidence of professional skill than a proof of poetical art, and being considered dry by the first readers, was expelled by their aversion from that popularity to which the generality of his writings ascended.
In July, 1771, Gray died, and Mason paid an honourable tribute to his memory, by preparing an edition of his works, to which were prefixed, memoirs of his life, and a character of his writings. They appeared in a 4to. volume during the year 1775
and contained some compositions which were unfinished, and some few others which had not been previously published. The account of the life was agreeably relieved by the interspersion of original letters, which were connected with the narrative, an example which has been since adopted to great advantage in other biographical works, and which in this instance was rendered peculiarly judicious on account of the paucity of incident and anecCote which pervaded the subject matter. The book was deservedly well received by the public; for the remarks offered upon the habits and genius of his deceased friend, and the exemplifications adduced of his upright mind and varied acquirements, were extremely creditable to the taste and attachment of Mason. This was the opinion of cotemporaries; but it has since been discovered, that some papers were either wilfully suppressed, or inaptly neglected, which establish the profundity of Gray's judgment, and the extent of his knowledge, in a more striking manner than Mason chose to display.
Mason's warmth in the advocacy of those doctrines of civil liberty, which constitute the supretne boast of his country, have been already alluded to, but require a more particular exemplification. Not merely contented with avowing the best principles, he was always forward to act upon his professions, and thus repeatedly concurred with the friends of reform in the neighbourhood of his own residence, in an effectual opposition to every public measure which appeared obnoxious to the interests, or incompatible with the rights of freemen. During the American war he took advantage of Admiral Keppel's court-martial, to address "An Ode to the Naval Officers of Great Britain,' in which he strongly expressed his disapprobation of the hostilities carried on against the transatlantic subjects of the state. With a similar feeling, but one which proved fallacious in the issue, the greeted Mr. Pitt's arcession to power in 1782, with an Ode,' replete with manly sentiments of patriotism, though somewhat enervated by a profusion of imagery and embellishment. This homage was doubtless incited by the zeal with which he co-operated with the Yorkshire Association for procuring a Reform in Parliament, a measure which Mr. Pitt had supported with a strength so hardy, and a judgment so commanding, that Mason, in common with many of the Whigs, regarded the young po
litician, not without an earnest of truth, as a heaven-born minister, who was to heal the wounds, and renovate the health of the Constitution.
From this busy diversion, however, he soon reverted to more congenial pursuits, and, in consequence of an early predilection for the art, revised and improved, to the utmost of his mature abilities, for such are his own words, a translation of Fresnoy's Latin Poem on Painting,' which he had begun in his youth. It was published in a 4to. volume during the year 1783, and was enriched with many additions, of which the principal comprised annotations, furnished by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Few undertakings have ever been better executed than this was; it combines elegance of language, purity of versification, and a correct idea of the original. In short, it was equally well received, and performed; and has completely superseded the previous version by Dryden.
Hitherto, scarcely any notice has been taken of Mason, in the character of a churchman, and, in truth, he effected little that entitles him to any marked commemoration in that vocation. The following are the only essays in his clerical career which are worth a recital. Not long after his assumption of orders, he was preferred to the post of precentor and canon residentiary in the Cathedral of York, and at that grade his promotion rested. During the year 1788, he preached in this church “An Occasional Discourse,' subsequently printed, which entered upon the abominations of the slave trade, and vividly denounced the infamous barbarity of the traffic. It was one of the first and most energetic blows levelled against a system which, not withstanding its mortal sinfulness, is not even yet entirely abandoned. It was also during this year, that he came before the public as editor of the Poems of his friend Whitehead, the Poet Laureate, to which he prefixed a biographical memoir. But wanting the intrinsic excitement and current interest, which signalised the similar task he performed for Gray- these labours were less ably executed, and less prosperously received. In the next year the centenary commemoration of the Revolution again called forth his poetical talents in a • Secular Ode,' which breathed his wonted spirit of independence and liberty.
Having by this time carned a standard reputation, he reposed
awhile from exertion, and lived in easy dignity. In 1795 a passion for music, in which constant cultivation made him tolerably proficient, induced him to publish “Essays, Historical, and Critical,' in one volume, 12mo. In this work he is not denied the merit of having introduced judicious remarks, and useful suggestions ; although his notion of simplifying church music, and his impugnation of many of those principles which have long been considered indispensably attached to its performances, prevented the book from attaining any authoritative circulation. Two years afterwards he made his last literary offering to the public, a volume of “Poems,' in which he printed various pieces, some revised from the productions of his youth, and others the effusions of old age. Amongst the latter, was a • Palinody to Li. berty,' which gave a painful utterance to the change wrought in his political opinions by the unhappy perversions of the French Revolution. Of this vacillation, to which Burke led the way, nothing very surprising need be thought, particularly when the opulent respectability, the elegant livelihood, and advanced years of Mason, are all taken into consideration. So far from being strange, it was rather natural that one so happily circumstanced should have caught the common epidemic of apprehension, and dreaded lest the revulsion of those principles which had disorganized a neighbouring country, might, if inadvertently encouraged, effect similar fatalities in his native land, and thus unhinge the easy tenor of his own declining days. These conversions are to be explained, and to be lamented; for the abuse of a good cause is no argument against its promoters, and of all men the English ought to prize the benefits of a revolution. To return, however, to the volume of poetry, it is characterised by altered years, and subdued energy ; much of it may be read without offence, but it cannot be considered any confirmation of the powers by which the author originally established his reputation.
Mason's death took place at his rectory, and was occasioned by a mortification in onc of his legs, which he happened to graze on the shin as he was stepping into his carriage. He was married, but losing his wife, in 1767, when she was only twenty-eight, left no family. She was the daughter of William Shearman, Esq. of Kingston-upon-Hull, and lies buried in Bristol Cathedral, where a imonument is erected to her memory, inscribed with some affectionate lines of his own composition. In private life he was esteemed an exemplary character of active worth and extencive benevolence, qualities which were rather depreciated by an air of stateliness, and confident superiority. Such traits naturally detracted somewhat from his popularity, but are stated to have never incommoded the exercise of his virtues: they were, in all probability engendered by clerical habits, and a provincial residence. In letters he was rather an accurate than a splendid genius, oftener bold than uncommon, and more impetuous than sublime. His reputation is now mainly preserved by · Elfrida' and `Caractacus,' poems, of which it is observable, that the foriner is more cautiously written than the latter, and the latter more successful than the former. “Elfrida' violates the truth of history in facts the most important and tragical ; where the embarrassment of the plot is deepest, it is voluntary; and where it is the most likely to affect the reader, it is only partially felt by the agent; the intervention of the chorus seems always fortuitous, and the catastrophe, because strictly conformable to the Grecian model, is indirect, feeble, and unmoving. The language, however, is uniformly classical, and the imagery attractive. But in · Caractacus,' he has taken a greater license, with a far happier effect. The story is true, the action varied and rapid, and the chorus felicitously appropriate ; for it was the province of the Druidical bards to found their subjects for vocal effusions and instrumental accompaniments upon moral and religious truths. From this judicious combination of harmonious circumstances Mason has produced a noble drama: as the scene is sublime, the descriptions are grand; as the incidents are awful, so is the style grave; as the characters are elevated, so are the thoughts lofty, the imagery magnificent, and the language refined. Of all the compositions by which we have as yet essayed to emulate the ancient dramatists, and of all the translations by which we have endeavoured to render their beauties into English, there is no composition which surpasses Mason's “Caractacus' in pure majesty, elegant taste, and commanding interest. If there be any part which the fastidious can desire to see better, (and where is the mortal labour for which the imagination will not suggest improvements ?) it may, perhaps, be remarked, that throughout the odes the numbers of the couplets are not always accurately respondent -- in them the ear is occasionally disap