About Thomas Gray
Written over several years in the 1740s, Gray’s elegy was eventually published in 1751 and enjoyed phenomenal popularity for the next two hundred years.
Gray was a versatile poet. He wrote elegant lyric and dramatic poems, Latin translations, odes and sonnets whichreflected his wide range of interests. As a young man, he travelled widely, going on the Grand Tour of Europe, but he spent much of his life at Pembroke College. In the year he settled in Cambridge, his great friend Richard West died, prompting the writing of the much‑admired ‘Sonnet on the Death of Mr Richard West’. His reputation was such that he was offered the Poet Laureateship in 1757, but he declined the honour.
Gray never matched the simple profundity of his ‘Elegy’, but he was an exceptionally learned and significant poet of the late eighteenth century and paved the way for the likes of Wordsworth and Coleridge.