Glory to the Grave:
A Collection of Thomas Gray's
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Thomas Gray (1716-1771) enjoyed a quiet life at Cambridge as a scholar
of Greek and history. Perhaps as early as
1742 he began a long meditative elegy. Composed over several years,
Gray completed his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard in
1750. The source of his inspiration was Stoke Poges Church in
England, in whose churchyard Gray now rests.
First published early in 1751, the success of Gray’s Elegy was
instantaneous and overwhelming, going through four editions in two
months. The sheer size of the collection, numbering over 100 different
publications produced over a two hundred year period, proves the poem’s
sustained popularity. Many of these are gift books, which were
purchased to mark a specific occasion, such as birthdays or Christmas.
Gray’s Elegy still enjoys an unusually wide and comprehensive
In fact, it remains one of the most
frequently quoted and best-known poems of the English language.