Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Thomas Gray did not write a great deal of poetry, but he was a most prolific writer of letters. In the eighteenth century, the personal letter became so refined as an exercise in wit, description, and intellect that modern critics and literary historians now regard the letter as a minor art form of the period. Among the very greatest eighteenth century letter writers are Gray and his close friend Horace Walpole. The Gray of the letters sounds different from the poet. As he addresses his personal friends on a remarkably broad range of topics, there is a refreshing clarity and ease that his concept of poetry as an expression of ideals excluded from his verse. Especially famous are his descriptions of the Alps, which foreshadow the Romantic appreciation of nature’s wilder aspects, but whatever the subject, the letters reveal that Gray was as much an artist in prose as in poetry.