Thomas Gray

Thomas Gray (December 26, 1716 - July 30, 1771), English poet, classical scholar, and professor of History at Cambridge University.

Thomas Gray was born in London, and lived with his mother after she left his abusive father. He was educated at Eton College, and became a Fellow first of Peterhouse and later of Pembroke College, Cambridge. While a student, he met Horace Walpole, whom he accompanied on the Grand Tour. The two are believed to have had a homosexual affair.

Gray spent most of his life as a scholar in Cambridge, and only later in his life did he begin travelling again. Although he was one of the least productive poets (his collected works published during his lifetime amount to less than 1,000 lines), he was, besides William Collins (1721 - 1759), the predominant poetic figure of the middle decades of the 18th century. In 1757, he was offered the post of Poet Laureate, which he refused. In 1768 he succeeded Lawrence Brockett as Regis Professor of History at Cambridge, a sinecure.

Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard (http://www.thomasgray.org/cgi-bin/display.cgi?text=elcc)" (1751), believed to have been written in the churchyard of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, has become a lasting contribution to the English heritage. It is still one of the most popular and most frequently quoted poems in the English language; before the battle of the Plains of Abraham, British General James Wolfe is said to have recited it to his officers, adding, "Gentlemen, I would rather have written that poem than take Quebec tomorrow."

Gray combined traditional forms and poetic diction with new topics and modes of expression and may thus be considered as a precursor of the romantic revival.

Famous Lines

From "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College":

To each his suff'rings: all are men,
Condemn'd alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain;
Th' unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.

From "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard":

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

This biography was taken verbatim from the Wikipedia. We're providing a snapshot just in case the Wikipedia servers were temporarily unreacheable. The original page is not only much more up-to-date, it also features links to other pages and sites. This snapshot was last updated: 08/13/2004. (mm/dd/yyyy)

Home :: Authors :: Thomas Gray