Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Connections and Further Reading
by Thomas Gray

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(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Brady, Frank. “Structure and Meaning in Gray’s Elegy.” In From Sensibility to Romanticism: Essays Presented to Frederick A. Pottle, edited by Frederick W. Hilles and Harold Bloom. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. In his lucid and careful reading of Gray’s elegy, Brady stresses the appropriateness of the closing “epitaph.” (The book contains two other essays on the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”)

Brooks, Cleanth. “Gray’s Storied Urn.” In The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947. In a celebrated and important close reading of the poem, Brooks argues that the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is rich in irony and implication. Essential reading for any interpreter of the work.

Lonsdale, Roger, ed. The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith. London: Longman, 1969. Lonsdale’s introduction to Gray’s elegy and his notes to the text are invaluable, especially on the difficulties of lines 93 to 96.

Sells, A. L. Lytton, assisted by Iris Lytton Sells. Thomas Gray: His Life and Works. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1980. This biography includes frequent references to Gray’s elegy and includes a lengthy discussion of the work. Sells believes that the epitaph refers to Richard West.

Weinfield, Henry. The Poet Without a Name: Gray’s “Elegy” and the Problem of History. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991. A scholarly book that employs a variety of critical methods to establish the poem’s significance. Weinfield, who gives his own intricate reading of the work in chapter 3, considers the “thee” in line 93 to refer to all of humanity.

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Poetry for Students)


Arnold, Matthew, "Thomas Gray," in his Essays in Criticism, 2nd ser., The Macmillan Company, 1934, pp. 69-99.

Brady, Frank, "Structure and Meaning in Gray's Elegy," in Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, edited by Harold Bloom, Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Ellis, Frank Hale, "Gray's Elegy: The Biographical Problem in Literary Criticism," in Twentieth Century Interpretations of Gray's "Elegy," edited by Herbert W. Starr, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Empson, William, "Proletarian Literature," in English Pastoral Poetry, New York: New Directions, 1935, pp. 4-5.

Hutchings, W., "Syntax of Death: Instability in Gray's 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,'" in Studies in Philology, Vol. LXXXI, No. 4, Fall, 1984, pp. 496-514.

Johnson, Samuel, "Gray," in his Lives of the English Poets, Vol. II, 1781; reprinted by Oxford University Press, 1967, pp. 453-64.

Krutch, Joseph Wood, "Introduction," in The Selected Letters of Thomas Gray by Thomas Gray, edited by Joseph Wood Krutch, New York: Farrar, Strauss and Young, Inc., 1952, pp. ix-xxxii.

Weaver, Carl J., "The Bicentenary of Gray's 'Elegy,'" in Colby Library Quarterly, Series III, No. 1, February, 1951, pp. 9-12.

Weinfield, Henry, The Poet Without a Name: Gray's "Elegy" and the Problem of History, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.

For Further Study

Brooks, Cleanth, "Gray's Storied Urn," in The Well-Wrought Urn, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1947, pp. 96-113.

Brooks, one of this century's most esteemed literary critics, examines the layers of complexity in this seemingly simple poem, which he likens to "a tissue of allusion and half-allusion."

Glazier, Lyle, "Gray's Elegy: 'The...

(The entire section is 765 words.)