Thomas Gray

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Gray, Thomas,

1716–71, English poet. He was educated at Eton and Peterhouse, Cambridge. In 1739 he began a grand tour of the Continent with Horace WalpoleWalpole, Horace or Horatio, 4th earl of Orford,
1717–97, English author; youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole.
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. They quarreled in Italy, and Gray returned to England in 1741. He continued his studies at Cambridge, and he remained there for most of his life, living in seclusion, studying Greek, and writing. In 1768 he was made professor of history and modern languages, but he did no real teaching. Although he was reconciled with Walpole, and formed other close relationships in his lifetime, his shy and sensitive disposition was ill adapted to the robust century in which he lived. He was offered the laureateship in 1757 but refused it. His first important poems, written in 1742, include "To Spring," "On a Distant Prospect of Eton College," and a sonnet on the death of his close friend Richard West. After years of revision he finished his great "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751), a meditative poem presenting thoughts conjured up by the sight of a rural graveyard; it is perhaps the most quoted poem in English. In 1757, Walpole published Gray's Pindaric odes, "The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard." Gray's verse illustrates the evolution of English poetry in the 18th cent.—from the classicism of the 1742 poems to the romantic tendencies of "The Fatal Sisters" and "The Descent of Odin" (1768). He did not write a large amount of poetry. Much of his verse is tinged with melancholy, and even more of it reflects his extensive learning. His letters, which contain much humor, are among the finest in the English language.


See his collected works, ed. by E. Gosse (4 vol., rev. ed. 1902–6; repr. 1968); his correspondence, ed. by P. Toynbee and L. Whibley (1935, repr. 1971); selected letters, ed. by J. W. Krutch (1952); biographies by R. W. Ketton-Cremer (1955), M. Golden (1964), W. P. Jones (1937, repr. 1965); study by A. L. Sells (1980); A. T. McKenzie, Thomas Gray: A Reference Guide (1982).

Gray, Thomas


Born Dec. 26, 1716, in Cornhill, London; died July 30. 1771, in Cambridge. English poet.

Gray was educated at Cambridge University. His best work is the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751). Its melancholy, its idea of death as the equalizer of rich and poor, and its idealization of patriarchal country life make the poem a vivid model of sentimentalism and lyricism. In Russia, the elegy is well known in V. A. Zhukovskii’s translation (1802, under the title A Country Churchyard). In his later works Gray showed an interest in the traditions of popular history and mythology, which was characteristic of the period of the emergence of preromanticism.


The Works in Prose and Verse, vols. 1–4. London-New York 1902–06.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 1, fasc. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945. Pages 550–54.
Jones, W. P. Thomas Gray, Scholar. New York, 1965.


References in periodicals archive ?
6) Thomas Gray, An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard, ed.
Thomas Gray came to Ar-kansas with the Air Force where he served for three years.
One of the most important facts about Thomas Gray (1716-1771) is that he was the only one of his parents' twelve children to survive into adulthood, and survival is a recurrent theme in his poetry.
The essays in Dante's Modern Afterlife examine Dante's reception from Thomas Gray and William Blake to Samuel Beckett, Derek Walcott, and Seamus Heaney.
3) The case of Thomas Gray offers a unique exception to the focus on popular forms of literature by studies of nationalism.
Undoubtedly, Western literatures constitute one of the important sources in al-Mala'ika's education; they left their mark in some of her works as is evident in her uses of borrowed images and symbols, her allusions to John Keats and other Western poets, and her translation of poems by Byron, Thomas Gray, and Rupert Brooke and others.
It is fortunate for current readers of eighteenth-century poetry that Thomas Gray was on close terms with fellow poet William Mason.
Just such a work is this: the series, 'The Nineteenth Century' from Scolar Press; the general editor, Vincent Newey (with Joanne Shattock) of the University of Leicester; the broadly unifying title, Centring the Self, with a subtitle arching from Thomas Gray to Thomas Hardy - Gray (and Cowper) being granted honorary nineteenth-century status.
Among his subjects for biography were the poet William Cowper (The Stricken Deer, 1929), Jane Austen (1935), Lord Melbourne (The Young Melbourne, 1939), Thomas Hardy (Hardy the Novelist, 1943), the poet Thomas Gray (Two Quiet Lives, 1948), and the writer and caricaturist Sir Max Beerbohm (Max, 1964).
The Ossianic poems, compared at the time to the works of Homer, could move the poet Thomas Gray to write, " Imagination dwelt many hundred years ago in all her pomp on the cold and barren mountains of Scotland.