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More About. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. But he never got very far. Rarely can a poet have won such admiration in his lifetime while writing so little. Gray managed the difficult feat of becoming admired, even revered, for his poetic abilities, while appearing to avoid publicity and even to want to keep his poems out of print.

Mack is good on the way Gray used, and occasionally lost control of, the manuscript circulation of his compositions.

Johnson's Life of Gray

The means of making poetry known to select readers, who would transcribe and proliferate copies of a given poem, were as important to Gray as they were to coterie poets of a century earlier. Walpole was the conduit through which his poetry most often came into the world. The Elegy began its public life like this. On completing it in June , Gray immediately sent Walpole a copy.

They have been so applauded, it is quite a Shame to repeat it. So the most popular poem of the 18th century slipped into print. Even when he was thinking of possible readers, Gray was a man for small circles of intimates. Inevitably, thinking about his choice of company means thinking about his sexuality. This is not new. Ketton-Cremer had a comically roundabout way of broaching the subject, but he did broach it.

He was in the closet.

Just occasionally there is some actual evidence for the homosexuality of some of those whom Gray knew. Gray certainly did not join them in spurning his disgraced friend, and made considerable efforts to find financial support for him. Tuthill was later said to have drowned himself. In some way Gray was clearly besotted. His Cambridge rooms were full of fresh flowers, he laboriously manufactured his own potpourri. He was attentive to all matters of decorum. He had his style.

Unpranked Lyre

Here, for instance, he takes a letter in which Gray graciously and affectionately apologises to Richard West for not having written earlier, and his imagination takes over:. He perhaps thought shamefacedly of the weekly correspondence he had carried on with Walpole. Gray must have folded his letter rather guiltily, sealed it, and placed it to one side to be sent off the following morning.

In any event, he may very well have thought, leaning back in his chair and staring into the fire, things will be different in future. With Ashton on the scene as well, Gray may finally have reasoned as he shrugged off the gloom into which the writing of the letter would have thrust him, the Quadruple Alliance [the Eton grouping of Gray, West, Ashton and Walpole] itself could even, for some weeks at least, be entirely restored.

The evidence of much of his book is that, as he completed it, he knew more about Gray than anyone else alive.

But, when we can sometimes hear him spinning psychological fictions, the biographer himself has eroded this trust. There is no evidence for any of this. The relationship with West comes to life, but not the relationships with those other bosom friends who remained.


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Much time and much speculation is given to tracing the allegiances with Walpole, Ashton et al, and their various fallings out. The academic squabbles are plentiful and petty, but only occasionally entertaining. There is at least the fracas that led to Gray leaving Peterhouse for Pembroke, just across the road and which involved that fear of fire. By one account, Gray duly descended by rope-ladder to land in a tub of water.

Mostly his time was filled with un-urgent study.

A Tommy's Sex Life - WW1 Uncut: Thomas Gray

The long days of classical reading sometimes produced projects that absorbed Gray in a way that reminds one a little of Casaubon. His researches in Greek literature and history were put to the compilation of a huge chronology — an elaborate table of the dates of writings and public events. It was, of course, never completed.

In This Article

In he moved to London, but this did not speed the pulse of things. He stayed in Bloomsbury and spent much of each day in the newly opened British Museum. Even in the metropolis, he found seclusion. His classical studies were to give way to an interest in the development of English verse. He burrowed into Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Welsh, convinced that he was unearthing the roots of English rhyme and metre. Eliot attach explanatory notes.

Further Reading on Thomas Gray

The big abstractions rather give the game away. Still, contemporaries were often impressed if uncomprehending. When he wrote to Macpherson in enthusiastic curiosity, the reply he received was so shifty and inconsistent that he became suspicious. If you do not believe this, there is going to be bathos. Gray here is a poet looking for a subject for poetry.

When he travelled to the Highlands in he was Ossianically taken. Again, we may not often hear the heart, but we do find a wealth of odd observations and learned curiosity.