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Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard


by Thomas Gray

Analysis: Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Gray only published his most famous poem, "An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" after some hack publishers got hold of a copy and tried to publish it without his permission. Good thing for us that they did, or the world might never have seen this poem! (Source.)

Gray's relationship with his father was so unhappy that when his dad died, Gray didn't even mention it in any of his letters (at least, none of his letters that were not later burned or destroyed). (Source.)

Gray's childhood pals included Horace Walpole (who wrote the totally zany Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto) and Richard West (the son of a British Chancellor). They gave themselves awesomely dorky nicknames from mythology—Gray was "Orozmades." (Source.)

Thomas Gray was offered the prestigious position of British Poet Laureate, but he refused it. (Source.)

His life as a college kid at Cambridge was made difficult by all the party boys who lived near him. They got drunk and made a lot of racket, and on at least a few occasions they yelled "FIRE!" in the middle of the night to get everyone out of bed (the eighteenth-century equivalent of pulling the fire alarm). (Source.)

Various famous writers and critics have argued about Gray's use of language since the time he was writing. Samuel Johnson (yeah, the guy who wrote the first Dictionary of the English language) once said that Thomas Gray had two languages: a public and a private language. Poems written in his private language, like the "Elegy," were considered waaaaay better. William Wordsworth (yeah, the poet who wrote "Tintern Abbey") said in his "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" that Gray's language was too stilted and formal, at least in poems like his "Sonnet on the Death of Richard West." Matthew Arnold (the guy who wrote "Dover Beach") said that because of the time in which he lived, Gray never spoke at all. That's a lot of different opinions by some otherwise very reliable writers! (Source.)

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