Classic Poetry from Passions in Poetry
Thomas Gray 1716 - 1771
English poet. His best known work is Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard (written 1750, published 1751) where Gray celebrates the life of the "common man" in a way that anticipates Wordsworth. His first published work was Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1747), followed by Ode on the Spring and Sonnet on the Death of West. He wrote two Pindaric Odes The Progress of Poetry (1754) and The Bard (1757). He had an interest in Old Norse and Welsh poetry which produced The Fatal Sisters and The Descent of Odin (1768), and some of his letters also remain.
Gray had small output but was a dominant poet of the mid-eighteenth century pre-romantic era.
Gray's father was a scrivener while his mother and aunt kept a milliner's shop. He led a quiet, studious life in the main, training in law after his degree at Cambridge and then becoming a history done at Peterhouse.
Gray formed a friendship with Walpole which was broken off as a result of a disagreement during a "Grand Tour of Europe" (1734-39), though they were eventually reconciled in 1745. This friendship was important to Gray's literary career and Walpole later published The Progress of Poetry and The Bard, an impassioned summary of English history, on his Strawberry Hill Press. Gray sent his Ode on the Spring to an Etonian friend, Richard West, who died shortly afterwards, prompting the Sonnet on the Death of West. Gray was immensely popular and helped to create a new taste in poetry; fertile ground for the romantic poets to follow him. In 1757 at the death of the Poet
Laureate Cibber, the post was offered to Gray, but he refused it.