Exhibition | Thomas Gray

Posted in exhibitions, online learning by Editor on December 4, 2021

The exhibition closes soon, but I note it here particularly to draw your attention to the online component, mounted by Daniel McKay: it’s the most compelling virtual book exhibition I’ve ever seen.

Thomas Gray: An Anniversary Exhibition
Ward Library, Peterhouse, Cambridge, 8 November — 13 December 2021

Curated by Scott Mandelbrote

To mark the 250th anniversary of Thomas Gray’s death, the 270th anniversary of the publication of “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” and the 305th anniversary of his birth.

Thomas Gray was born on 26 December 1716 and died on 30 July 1771. On 15 February 1751, one of the leading contemporary publishers of literary works, Robert Dodsley, hurried into print an edition of an Elegy wrote in a Country Church Yard, which subsequently became one of the most reprinted, anthologised, translated, and imitated poems in any language. It was one of barely more than a dozen poems that Gray allowed to be printed in his lifetime.

This exhibition considers Gray’s life and work from the perspective of the holdings of the two Cambridge Colleges with which he was associated from 1734, when he entered Peterhouse, until his death, which occurred shortly after he was taken ill at dinner in Pembroke. The exhibition focusses on three defining themes in Gray’s life and reputation: his relationship with Cambridge and the effect on him and on his work of the friends and enemies he made at the University; his activity as a reader, in particular as a user of the libraries of his two Colleges; and the publishing phenomenon of the “Elegy,” his most significant poem and one steeped in his appreciation and emulation of classical tradition, as well as his sense of place and of English history and the history of English poetry.


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