This chronological table records landmark dates in Gray's life and work. It is intended as a means of contextualizing Gray's literary and scholarly efforts. It must be noted that some of the dates are approximate, and, unless indicated to the contrary, reference is to date of publication, not composition, of literary works. The chronology makes no claim to be exhaustive. The reader should consult the list of works cited and the bibliography section of full-length biographies for more detailed information. Please send your suggestions, corrections, and additions to the editor.
Early Years (1716 - 1741)
|Date||Age||Life and Works|
Thomas Gray born in Cornhill, London, where his mother, Dorothy (1685-1753, nee Antrobus), kept a milliner's shop in partnership with her sister, Mary (1683-1749). His father, Philip Gray (1676-1741), was a "money scrivener" by profession. Thomas was the only survivor of twelve children.
Gray sent to Eton College, under the care of his uncle, Robert Antrobus (1679-1729), who was assistant master there. He met and formed the 'Quadruple Alliance' with Richard West (1716-42), Horace Walpole (1717-97), and Thomas Ashton (1715-1775), his closest friends. A few Latin exercises date from the time at Eton.
Entered as pensioner at Peterhouse, Cambridge.
Gray fully admitted at Peterhouse.
Gray admitted at Inner Temple.
Inherited the small property of his paternal aunt, Sarah Gray.
April - June
Stayed in Paris.
June - September
Stayed at Reims.
September - October
On the way to Geneva, visited the Grande Chartreuse. Crossed the Mont Cenis.
Arrived at Turin.
March - July
Excursion to Naples.
Returned to Florence.
During this period sent several Latin poems to West.
Second half of the year
Left Florence for Venice.
Quarrelled with Walpole at Reggio and proceeded to Venice.
May - July
Stayed at Venice with John Chute.
Arrived back in England, went to London.
Gray's father, Philip, died, leaving the family financially insecure.
Gray began his only tragedy, the fragmentary Agrippina.
Middle Years (1742 - 1758)
|Date||Age||Life and Works|
Wrote the "Hymn to Ignorance" (fragment).
28 May - 15 October
Visited his uncle Jonathan Rogers at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire.
Richard West, Gray's closest friend, died.
Mid-June - Mid-July
Gray briefly returned to London.
Gray's uncle Jonathan Rogers, died.
Gray's mother and her sister, Mary Antrobus, retired from Cornhill and settled with their third sister, Anne (1676-1758), the widow of Jonathan Rogers, at West End House at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire. Gray accordingly divided his summers between Stoke and London in the following decade.
Granted a Bachelor of Laws degree.
Reconciled with Horace Walpole.
Gray shared some of his earlier poetry and probably the beginning of the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard", which he had recently started, with Horace Walpole who had begun living in an apartment within the precincts of Windsor Castle.
"Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College", "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes", and "Ode on the Spring" published anonymously in R. Dodsley's Collection of Poems, vol. II
January / February
Gray's childhood home in Cornhill burned down.
Gray's aunt and his mother's former business partner, Mary Antrobus, died.
August - October
Planned to collaborate with William Mason on a "History of English Poetry".
Began "The Progress of Poesy".
Designs by Mr. R. Bentley for Six Poems by Mr. T. Gray, the first authorized collected edition of Gray's poetry, published by Dodsley.
July - September
Probably began "Ode on the Pleasure arising from Vicissitude".
June - September
Made a tour in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.
"The Progress of Poesy" finished.
Winter 1754 / 55
Declined offer to become Secretary to the Earl of Bristol at Lisbon.
Moved from Peterhouse to Pembroke College.
Attended a concert by harper Mr. Parry. Completed "The Bard".
Was offered, but refused, the post of Poet Laureate, vacant through the death of Colley Cibber.
June or July
Gray's aunt, Mrs. Jonathan Rogers, died in Stoke Poges.
Gray's connection with the place ended the following year. Hereafter Gray usually spent his summers visiting friends in different parts of the country.
Later Years (1759 - 1771)
|Date||Age||Life and Works|
Took lodgings in Southampton Row, London, in order to study at the British Museum, which was opened to the public in January. Collected materials for his planned "History of English Poetry".
Lady Cobham died.
28 June - 21 July
Read and studied the works of James Macpherson and later the Rev. Evan Evans.
Gray had completed "The Fatal Sisters", "The Descent of Odin", and the other imitations of Welsh and Norse poems (including "The Triumphs of Owen"), expression of his culminating interest in early Welsh and Icelandic poetry. Intended to include them in his "History of English Poetry", which he had first projected in 1752.
Wrote "Epitaph on Sir W. Williams".
Henrietta Jane Speed married to Baron de la Perriere.
1 July - 11 November
January - March
25 September - 22 October
Visited Southampton, Salisbury, etc.
27 May - 18 August
18 August - 17 October
16 May - 4 July
Travelled in Kent.
15 June - 2 November
Poems published by R. and A. Foulis in Glasgow.
7 April - 15 July
Stayed in Kent.
Wrote verses "On L[or]d H[olland']s Seat Near M[argat]e, K[en]t".
Appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, and made Fellow of Pembroke College.
Completed the "Ode for Music".
18 July - 15 October
De Bonstetten left England.
2 July - 3 August
Gray made an excursion through the Western Counties in company of Norton Nicholls.
Taken ill suddenly while dining at Pembroke College.
Gray died of suppressed gout.
- Gray: Poetry and Prose. With essays by Johnson, Goldsmith and others. With an Introduction and Notes by J. Crofts. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1948 [1st ed. 1926].
- Golden, Morris: Thomas Gray. Updated edition. Twayne's English authors series, TEAS 6. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988 [1st ed. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1964].
- The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith. Edited by Roger Lonsdale. Longman Annotated English Poets Series. London and Harlow: Longmans, 1969.
- Thomas Gray. Edited by Robert L. Mack. Everyman Paperback Classics. Everyman's Poetry Library. London: Everyman, 1996.
- The Poems of Gray and Collins. Edited by Austin Lane Poole. Revised by Leonard Whibley. Third edition. Oxford editions of standard authors series. London: Oxford UP, 1937, reprinted 1950 [1st ed. 1919].
- Correspondence of Thomas Gray. Ed. by the late Paget Toynbee and Leonard Whibley, in 3 vols., v. 1 1734-1755, v. 2 1756-1765, v. 3 1766-1771. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971 [1st ed. 1935].
- Selected poems of Thomas Gray, Charles Churchill and William Cowper. Ed. with an introduction and notes by Katherine Turner. Penguin English poets series. London [etc.]: Penguin Books, 1997.
- Synopsis of British Literature and Culture 1000-2000, ed. by Hartmut Ilsemann, Englisches Seminar, Universität Hannover, 1994. Extract for the "long 18th century" (roughly 1660-1830) kindly provided by and used with permission of the author. Each page of the survey covers 20 years: 1660-1679, 1680-1699, 1700-1719, 1720-1739, 1740-1759, 1760-1779, 1780-1799, 1800-1819, 1820-1839. [PDFs]
- "Chronological Table (1716-1797)". Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, West and Ashton (1734-1771), in two volumes, chronologically arranged and edited with introduction, notes, and index by Paget Toynbee. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1915, vol. ii, 327-336.
- "Literature in Context: A Chronology, c. 1660-1825" [PDF], part of the printed guide to Poetic Commonplace Books and Manuscripts of Thomas Gray, 1716-1771, from Pembroke College, Cambridge, published on microfilm by Adam Matthew Publications Ltd.
- A Time-Line of English Poetry: Early Modern English: Augustans (1667-1780) from Representative Poetry On-line, ed. by Ian Lancashire, University of Toronto
- Eighteenth-Century Chronology (1660-1800) by Jack Lynch, Rutgers University
- 18th-Century chronology (1700-1784) from the Romantic Chronology, ed. by Alan Liu, UCSB, and Laura Mandell, Miami University
- Chronology of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries at the Department of English, University of Pennsylvania