Biographical / Historical
Thomas Gray was born in London in 1716. He attended Eton College School before coming up to Peterhouse College in Cambridge in 1734 where he was awarded the Cosin scholarship. The following year, in November, he was admitted to the Inner Temple. He left Cambridge in 1738, having not taken his BA, and in 1739 embarked upon a tour of Europe with his friend from Eton, Horace Walpole (1717–1797). He returned home in 1741, after a disagreement with Walpole. Gray's father died later the same year. In the autumn of 1742, following the death of his friend Richard West, Gray returned to Cambridge to study civil law. He would remain at Cambridge, bar one prolonged absence, for the rest of his life. He returned to his old College, Peterhouse, as a Fellow Commoner, but looked to Pembroke College for company. Once family and financial pressures lifted he ceased to attend his law lectures and began to write poetry again. He was admitted Fellow Commoner at Pembroke on 6 March 1756 after an incident at Peterhouse in which some undergraduates gave false alarm of fire. In 1759 he spent a period of time in London, but returned to his rooms at Pembroke in November 1761. In 1768 Gray was offered, and accepted, the chair of modern history at Cambridge. However, his health was deteriorating and in July 1771 he passed away in his rooms at Pembroke. Most famous for his poem 'Elegy written in a country church yard', he was a polymath with interests in history, architecture, languages, botany and natural history.