William Mason: A Study

  • Joan Addison

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is an examination of the work of William Mason, an eighteenth-century poet who, though highly regarded in his own time, is little known in ours. The thesis seeks to revalidate Mason as a poet worthy of attention in the twenty-first century. The Introduction contextualises Mason, both socially and culturally. Emphasis is given to the importance of Whig politics in his life and works, and to the influence upon him from an early age of the philosophy of John Locke. Attention is also drawn to Mason's ability as an innovative adaptor of ancient genres, the importance to him of Milton's verse, and the relevance of his 'public' poetry to modern Britain.The first part of Chapter One provides an overview of Mason's poetic trajectory, from his popularity in the eighteenth century to his decline in the nineteenth. The general loss of interest in eighteenth-century poetry, and its revival in the twentieth, is considered. In the second part of the chapter, Mason's youthful poetic claim to be the literary and moral descendant of Milton and Pope is examined in the context of his early monody, and its innovative purpose and style. Attention is drawn to the intertextuality that informs much of the poetry discussed in this thesis. The treatment of the Pindaric ode in the hands of earlier poets, and Mason's far more authentic one, are subsequently discussed. Examples are given which illustrate Mason's successful treatment of the genre, and of his concern with the preoccupations of the age.In Chapter Two Mason's georgic, The English Garden, is examined. Consideration is given to Mason's choice of Miltonic form, to the poet's employment of his subject, gardening, as a representation of the state of the nation, and to the poet's personal involvement in the verse in a variety of manifestations. His success in matching subject to form is demonstrated. Mason's correspondence with Walpole concerning the American war, his collaboration with William Burgh, and his use of prose as well as poetry for political purposes, are discussed. Chapter Three provides a brief account of the attitudes to satire from the late seventeenth century to Pope's death, and goes on to look at Mason's own satire. His satires are discussed in the context of his political and literary relationships with Walpole, Gray, Pope and Churchill, and his concern with the issue of slavery is foregrounded. The individual satires are examined, and examples explored of Mason's novel and varying employment of the genre in the service of his Whig viewpoint.The Conclusion draws together the points made in the body of the text, and claims a place for Mason amongst the eighteenth-century poets rediscovered by recent scholarship.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHal Gladfelder (Supervisor) & Alan Rawes (Supervisor)


  • Eighteenth-century poetry
  • William Mason

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