Biography of Thomas Gray
When and Where was he Born?
26th December 1716, Cornhill, London, England.
Thomas Gray was the sole survivor of twelve children. His father Philip was and scrivener and known to be violent. His mother Dorothy ran a millinery business with her sister Mary in order to educate him.
Eton College. (Robert Antrobus his uncle was assistant master there). Peterhouse and Kings Colleges, Cambridge.
Timeline/Biography of Thomas Gray:
1725: Horace Walpole becomes one of his closest friends at Eton.
1734: He writes his first poem “Lines Spoken by John Dennis at the Devil Tavern”.
1735: Thomas Gray is admitted to the Inner Temple.
1736: His “Hymeneal” on the marriage of the Prince of Wales is published in Cambridge.
1738: He leaves Cambridge without taking a degree, intending to read for the Bar at the Inner Temple in London.
1739: He goes on the Grand Tour of Europe with Horace Walpole.
1740: Gray visits Rome, Naples and Florence. He begins writing “De Principiis Cogitand” in Florence.
1741: He leaves Florence for Venice. Hr returns to England alone after a quarrel with Walpole, via Padua, Verona, Milan, and Paris. His father dies, leaving the family poor. Gray begins writing his only tragedy, “Agrippina”.
1742: He plans to study law in London but returns to Peterhouse in Cambridge.
1743: He achieves a Bachelor of Laws degree.
1744: Gray resides in Cambridge but visits to Stoke Poges and London during the summer.
1745: He is re-united with Horace Walpole.
1746: Walpole moves to an apartment in Windsor Castle as Gray shows him some of his poetry including “Lines written in a Country Churchyard”.
1748: Gray makes friends with the Reverend William Mason who was to become Gray’s Literary Executor.
1749: Death of Mary Antrobus.
1750: He completes the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” at Stoke Poges. He writes a “A Long Story” for Lady Cobham at Stoke Poges. He meets Henrietta Jane Speed.
1751: “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is published anonymously by Dodsley.
1753: Death of his mother at Stoke Poges.
1754: Gray tours Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.
1755: He declines an offer by the Earl of Bristol to become his secretary.
1756: He moves from Peterhouse to Pembroke Hall Cambridge.
1757: “The Progress of Poesy” and “The Bard” are published by Walpole at his new Strawberry Hill press. Gray refuses the post of Poet Laureate.
1759: He takes lodgings in Southampton Row, London so that he can study at the British Museum which was newly opened.
1760: He visits Henrietta Jane Speed at Mrs Jennings house at Shiplake, in Oxfordshire.
1761: Gray takes an interest in early Nordic and Welsh poetry. Henrietta Jane Speed marries Baron de la Perriere. Gray returns from London to Pembroke Hall.
1762: He tours York and Durham.
1764: Gray pens the satire “The Candidate”, about the Earl of Sandwich’s application for the High Stewardship of Cambridge University.
1765: He again visits York and Durham and makes a tour of the Scottish Highlands with Lord Strathmore. He meets James Beattie at Glamis Castle.
1767: He stays at Durham, Hartlepool, York and makes his first visit to the Lake District.
1768: Thomas Gray is appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, and made a Fellow of Pembroke College. He visits York, Durham, and the Lakes once more.
When and Where did he Die?
30th July 1771, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England of gout.
Age at Death:
1742: Gray wrote the “Ode on the Spring”, which he sent to Richard West on 3rd June. “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”.
1747: “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes”.
1748: “The Alliance of Education and Government”.
1750: “A Long Story”.
1751: “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. (Published)
1752: “The Progress of Poesy”.
1753: “Hymn to Adversity”.
1757: “Odes by Mr. Gray”.
1758: “Epitaph on a Child”.
1761: “The Fatal Sisters”, “The Descent of Odin”.
1768: “Poems by Mr. Gray”.
1769: “Installation Ode”. “Ode for Music”.
Site of Grave:
St. Giles Churchyard, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England beside his mother and aunt.
Places of Interest: