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"William Shakespeare to Mrs Anne, Regular Servant to the Revd Mr Precentor of York"

"William Shakespeare to Mrs Anne,
Regular Servant to the Revd Mr Precentor of York"


1 A moment's patience, gentle Mistress Anne!
2 (But stint your clack for sweet St Charitie)
3 'Tis Willy begs, once a right proper man,
4 Though now a book and interleaved, you see.

5 Much have I borne from cankered critic's spite,
6 From fumbling baronets and poets small,
7 Pert barristers and parsons nothing bright:
8 But what awaits me now is worst of all.

9 'Tis true, our master's temper natural
10 Was fashioned fair in meek and dovelike guise;
11 But may not honey's self be turned to gall
12 By residence, by marriage, and sore eyes?

13 If then he wreak on me his wicked will,
14 Steal to his closet at the hour of prayer,
15 And (when thou hear'st the organ piping shrill)
16 Grease his best pen, and all he scribbles, tear.

17 Better to bottom tarts and cheesecakes nice,
18 Better the roast meat from the fire to save,
19 Better be twisted into caps for spice,
20 Than thus be patched and cobbled in one's grave.

21 So York shall taste what Clouet never knew,
22 So from our works sublimer fumes shall rise:
23 While Nancy earns the praise to Shakespeare due
24 For glorious puddings and immortal pies.

Expanding the poem lines shows notes and queries taken from various critical editions of Gray's works, as well as those contributed by users of the Archive. There are 7 textual and 7 explanatory notes/queries.

All notes and queries are shown by default.

0 "William Shakespeare to Mrs Anne,
Regular Servant to the Revd Mr Precentor of York" 1 Explanatory, 1 Textual

Title/Paratext] "These verses were sent from [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"These verses were sent from Hartlepool to Mason in a letter dated July 16, 1765. They were first published in Mitford's "Correspondence of Gray and Mason," 1853.
    The letter begins with the verses, and then proceeds to say:—"Tell me if you do not like this, and I will send you a worse. I rejoice to hear your eyes are better, as much as if they were my own." Mason acknowledged it on the 22nd July, saying, "As bad as your verses were they are yours, and, therefore, when I get back to York, I will paste them carefully in the first page of my Shakespeare to enhance its value. . . . You will not pity me now, no more than you did when I was in residence and sore eyes.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 263-264.

Title/Paratext] "I have followed the copy [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"I have followed the copy given in Mitford's "Correspondence of Gray and Mason," p. 339; but in the Mitford MSS. there is another copy with several variations which I shall note in their places."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264.

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1 A moment's patience, gentle Mistress Anne! 1 Explanatory

1.5-6 Mistress Anne!] "Mason's servant at York." J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Mason's servant at York."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264.

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2 (But stint your clack for sweet St Charitie)
3 'Tis Willy begs, once a right proper man, 1 Explanatory

3.6-8 right ... man,] "this is an archaic expression, [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"this is an archaic expression, and here simply means "a real man" (not a mere book or a name), right is an adverb, "truly,"— "right fat."—Chaucer. proper, "well-formed":—"Thou art a proper man."—Chaucer. "Moses was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child."—Hebrews, xi. 23."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264.

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4 Though now a book and interleaved, you see.

5 Much have I borne from cankered critic's spite, 1 Textual

5.6 cankered] "In the Mitford MSS. it [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MSS. it is "crabbed.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264.

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6 From fumbling baronets and poets small, 1 Explanatory

6.1 - 7.6 From ... bright:] "The references are to the [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"The references are to the editions of Shakespeare published by Rowe, 1709; Pope, 1721; Theobald, 1733 (an attorney); Sir Thomas Hanmer, 1743 (a 'baronet'); Warburton, 1747 (a 'parson'), and Dr. Johnson, 1765 (a 'small poet'). Steevens', published in 1766, and Capell's, 1767, were probably announced as in preparation when Gray wrote these lines."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264.

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7 Pert barristers and parsons nothing bright: 1 Explanatory

6.1 - 7.6 From ... bright:] "The references are to the [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"The references are to the editions of Shakespeare published by Rowe, 1709; Pope, 1721; Theobald, 1733 (an attorney); Sir Thomas Hanmer, 1743 (a 'baronet'); Warburton, 1747 (a 'parson'), and Dr. Johnson, 1765 (a 'small poet'). Steevens', published in 1766, and Capell's, 1767, were probably announced as in preparation when Gray wrote these lines."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264.

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8 But what awaits me now is worst of all. 1 Textual

8.7-9 worst ... all.] "'Worse than all,'—Mitford MSS." J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"'Worse than all,'—Mitford MSS."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264.

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9 'Tis true, our master's temper natural
10 Was fashioned fair in meek and dovelike guise;
11 But may not honey's self be turned to gall
12 By residence, by marriage, and sore eyes? 2 Explanatory, 1 Textual

12.2 residence,] "Mason was Precentor of York, [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Mason was Precentor of York, and "Residentiary" in the cathedral; in a letter of Gray's (October 19, 1763) he refers to Mason's "repining at his four and twenty weeks' residence at York, unable to visit his bowers, the work of his own hands, at Aston.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 264-265.

12.4 marriage,] "Mason at the time Gray [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Mason at the time Gray sent these verses, was engaged to be married, and his marriage took place on the 25th of September."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

12.6-7 sore eyes?] "In the Mitford MSS. it [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MSS. it is "mince pies"; but sore eyes is evidently the correct reading as shown by the extracts from the letters quoted above."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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13 If then he wreak on me his wicked will,
14 Steal to his closet at the hour of prayer,
15 And (when thou hear'st the organ piping shrill)
16 Grease his best pen, and all he scribbles, tear.

17 Better to bottom tarts and cheesecakes nice, 1 Textual

17.1 - 20.9 Better ... grave.] "In the Mitford MSS. this [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MSS. this verse is the third."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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18 Better the roast meat from the fire to save, 1 Textual

17.1 - 20.9 Better ... grave.] "In the Mitford MSS. this [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MSS. this verse is the third."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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19 Better be twisted into caps for spice, 1 Textual

17.1 - 20.9 Better ... grave.] "In the Mitford MSS. this [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MSS. this verse is the third."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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20 Than thus be patched and cobbled in one's grave. 1 Textual

17.1 - 20.9 Better ... grave.] "In the Mitford MSS. this [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MSS. this verse is the third."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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21 So York shall taste what Clouet never knew, 1 Explanatory

21.6 Clouet] "Clouet was a celebrated cook; [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Clouet was a celebrated cook; the meaning is, people in York will taste cakes and pies that even Clouet never heard of—being made with the help of Shakespeare, i.e., of the paper of a copy of Shakespeare.
    In the British Museum there is the copy of Verral's "Cookery" which belonged to Gray. The title is—"A Complete System of Cookery, in which is set forth a variety of genuine receipts collected from several years' experience under the celebrated M. de St. Clouet, sometime since Cook to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, by William Verral, Master of the White Hart Inn in Lewes, Sussex, 1759." This copy contains several receipts in Gray's handwriting; it subsequently belonged to Mitford."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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22 So from our works sublimer fumes shall rise: 1 Textual

22.4-6 works ... fumes] "In the Mitford MS. it [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MS. it is "work"; and instead of fumes the word seems to be "views.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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23 While Nancy earns the praise to Shakespeare due
24 For glorious puddings and immortal pies. 1 Textual

24.1-3 For ... puddings] "The Mitford MS. has "To [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"The Mitford MS. has "To . . . cheesecakes.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 265.

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Works cited

  • The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891.

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Spelling has been modernized throughout, except in case of conscious archaisms. Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Obvious errors have been silently corrected, punctuation has been supplied. The editor would like to express his gratitude to the library staff of the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB Göttingen) for their invaluable assistance.