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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Thomas Gray (1716-1771), Classical scholar and poet

Poet, classical scholar; of humble origin, educated at Eton with Horace Walpole, [1] who became his life-long friend and with whom he toured the Continent, 1739-40; Ode on a distant Prospect of Eton College, published anonymously, 1747; Ode to Spring and On the Death of a Favourite Cat, 1748, in Dodsley's collections; Elegy in a Country Churchyard, published 1751; lived most of his life in Cambridge moving, 1765, on his appointment as professor of history and modern languages, from Peterhouse to Pembroke College.
Norton Nicholls, a close friend since Gray's student days, refers to the lightning of his eye, his 'folgorante sguardo'. William Cole records: 'His person was small, well put together, and latterly tending to plumpness ... I heard him say he never was across a horse's back in his life' ... he was 'very nice and exact' in his person and dress, 'most lively and agreeable in conversation, except apt to be too satirical and ... full of affectation'. [2]

Footnotesback to top

1) To be discussed in a subsequent volume under Orford, 4th Earl; see also C. Kingsley Adams and W. S. Lewis, 'Portraits of Horace Walpole', Walpole Society, XLII, 1970, pp 12-13.
2) The Works of Thomas Gray, ed. J. Mitford, 1835-43, V, p 5; I, pp c-ci.

Referencesback to top

Goodison 1948
J. W. Goodison, 'A Silhouette of Thomas Gray by the Rev. Francis Mapletoft', Apollo, September 1948.

Goodison 1955
J. W. Goodison, Cambridge Portraits, 1955.

Lewis (ed.) 1937-65
Horace Walpole's Correspondence, ed. W. S. Lewis, 1937-65 (in progress).

Mitford (ed.) 1835-43
The Works of Thomas Gray, ed. J. Mitford, 1835-43.

Nichols 1814
J. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, 1814.

Scharf 1894
G. Scharf, 'A Newly Discovered Portrait of Thomas Gray, the Poet', Athenaeum, 24 February, 1894.

Strawberry Hill sale catalogue, 1842.

Toynbee (ed.) 1927
Strawberry Hill Accounts, ed. P. Toynbee, 1927.

Toynbee and Whibley (ed.) 1935
Correspondence of Thomas Gray, ed. P. Toynbee and L. Whibley, 1935.

Walpole 1784
H. Walpole, A Description of the Villa of Mr. Horace Walpole ... at Strawberry Hill, 1784.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.