Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 371
The most authoritative edition of Gray's poetry is the edition originally published by the Oxford Press in 1966, entitled The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. H. W. Starr wrote the introduction and edited the book with J. R. Hendrickson.
John Dyer is a Welsh pastoral poet who wrote at the same time as Gray. His greatest works, including "Grongar Hill," considered one of the first romantic pastoral poems, are included in the collection Poems, 1761.
Samuel Johnson was the outstanding literary figure of Gray's time. Among his writings was the ten-volume Lives of the Poets, which includes a brief biography of Gray, as well as a number of poems that he wrote himself. He is best known today for the biography that James Boswell wrote about him, The Life of Samuel Johnson, considered one of the best biographies ever and an important source for readers who want to understand the British literary scene in the eighteenth century.
Gray wrote during the Age of Enlightenment, a period of intense intellectual activity throughout the world. One of the leading thinkers of the time was French Philosopher Rene Descartes, who is often credited with adding humanity to the age of ideas. His Discourse on Method and the Meditations is still considered one of the world's most important philosophical works.
Thomas Gray is often considered a poet ahead of his time, who predated the Romantic Movement that swept across the globe approximately fifty years later. More than his contemporaries, his contemplative style, and concern for humanity are often compared to the works of William Wordsworth, one of the founders of Romanticism. Wordsworth's "Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13th, 1798," has a much looser structure than Gray's "Elegy," but there is a similarity in the melancholy of both poems.
Richard Gough's The History of Myddle was written between 1700 and 1706, chronicling the lives of people living in the small English town of Myddle in Shropshire. This rural history is probably as close as one can get to reading about the lives of the people discussed in Gray's "Elegy." A 1980 edition of Gough's book is available, with an introduction by Dr. Peter Razzell.
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