Thomas Gray (1716-1771)

Death: 30th July 1771
Location: St Giles Churchyard, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England
Photos taken by: Clive and Chris
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English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar and professor at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He is widely known for his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, published in 1751. Gray was an extremely self critical writer who published only 13 poems in his lifetime. Despite that, Gray was extremely popular during his lifetime. He was even offered the position of Poet Laureate in 1757, though he declined the offer.
Gray came to be known as one of the "Graveyard poets" of the late 18th century, along with Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper, and Christopher Smart.
It is believed that Gray began writing his masterpiece, the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, in the graveyard of St Giles parish church in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, in 1742. After several years of leaving it unfinished, he completed it in 1750. The poem was a literary sensation when published in 1751. Its reflective, calm and stoic tone was greatly admired, and it was pirated, imitated, quoted and translated into Latin and Greek; it is still one of the most popular and most frequently quoted poems in the English language.
The Elegy was recognised immediately for its beauty and skill. It contains many phrases which have entered the common English lexicon, either on their own or as quoted in other works. These include "Far from the Madding Crowd" which was used as the title of a novel by Thomas Hardy.