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Biography of Thomas Gray

Portrait of Thomas Gray

When and Where was he Born?

26th December 1716, Cornhill, London, England.

Family Background:

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:


Written Works:

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”.
1775: “Poems”.


Never married.

Site of Grave:

St. Giles Churchyard, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England beside his mother and aunt.

Places of Interest:


Eton College.