Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Masters, Mary

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MASTERS, Mrs. MARY (d. 1759?), poetess, was of humble birth, and her genius was 'always discountenanced by her parents.' She seems to have been known to most of the literati of the day; and Dr. Johnson, whom she occasionally visited, is said to have revised her volumes and 'illuminated them here and there with a ray of his own genius' (Boswell, edit. Croker, 1860, p. 743). In her 'Familiar Letters and Poems upon several Occasions' (London, 1755) there are three 'Short Ejaculations,' the first of which, the well-known, 'Tis religion that can give Sweetest pleasures while we live,' has been adopted in most hymnals. The original consists of six lines only; two more were added in Rippon's 'Selection' (1787), and. the eight lines divided into two stanzas, in which form the hymn is now known. An ejaculation for use 'At the Altar,' and beginning, 'my ador'd Redeemer! deign to be,' is sometimes met with. She is spoken of as 'chaste, moral, and religious,' and 'an agreeable and ingenious writer' (Monthly Review, 1st ser. xiii. 155). She is supposed to have died about 1759 (Croker, p. 78, n.}

[Holland's Psalmists of Great Britain, ii. 202; Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology, i. 718; W. Garrett Horder in Sunday Magazine, April 1889.]

J. C. H.