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Thomas Gray Life and History

Gray also added several lines to the philosophical epic De principiis cogitandi after the death of his friend. The passage was the last of his Latin writing.

After more than three years, Gray returned to his old college of Peterhouse on October 15, 1742. While there, he spent his time studying law, although no real passion of being on the bar, and Greek literature.

After his renewed friendship with Horace Walpole, Gray spent many months at Walpole's Strawberry Hill estate at Twickenham. Walpole greatly urged Gray to publicity, he did just that in the summer of 1747. The poem Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College was his first poem ever published.

Much of the coming years were spent at Peterhouse, reading, studying, taking part in summer tours and surrounding himself with his circle of friends while writing admirable letters. He did not take part in courses at the university, but resided there as a gentleman of leisure and took advantage of the intellectual amenities.

In 1759, the British Museum first opened. Gray settled in London in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury to study in the reading-room daily and did not return to Cambridge, except on flying visits, until the summer of 1761.

After his return, Gray went on several long walking tours in place of the Buckinghamshire countryside he use to visit. His tours sometimes took him further than he was accustomed previously. He visited various districts of Great Britain, exploring houses, ruined abbeys, castles and the English lakes. His journal of the tours was later published by Mason in 1775 which contained remarkable descriptions of the "sublime" scenery.

In 1769 Gray composed the customary "Installation Ode" to show his gratitude to the Duke of Grafton as his health began to decline. Later that year he met Charles Victor de Bonstetten, an enthusiastic young Swiss nobleman, who he developed a romantic, homoerotic devotion to. De Bonstetten however, only stayed in England for a few months before his departure to Switzerland. Through Gray's letters, he promised he would visit him.

While journeying to Switzerland in the summer of 1771, Gray suddenly fell ill. He returned to London, then soon to Cambridge where his health worsened. With an attack of gout in the stomach, his condition became alarming.

On July 30, 1771, Gray died in his room. He was laid to rest in the same vault as his mother in the churchyard of St Giles at Stoke Poges on August 6. Exactly seven years later on August 6, 1778 a monument was erected in memory of Thomas Gray in Westminster Abbey. The monument is located in Poets' Corner just Milton's and next to Spenser's, the two poets Gray admired most. In 1799 another monument to Gray's memory was placed adjoining the churchyard at Stoke Poges. Other memorials were set up years later in Eton College and Cambridge.

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