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The Thomas Gray Archive Website consists of a general search engine, and two main sub-sites, the Texts section and the Resources section. While the former contains Gray's complete poems and the commentary, selected prose works, his complete correspondence, and a digital library, the latter comprises secondary resources, such as a finding aid to Gray MSS, a concordance, a criticism section, a biographical sketch, a chronological table of Gray's life and work, a glossary of names and terms, a select bibliography of printed materials, a picture gallery, and links to related online resources.

Please see also the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

General introduction

Archive at a glance

  • Poems: 75
  • Commentary: 3514 notes/queries
  • Letters: 651
  • Digital Library: 14268 pages
  • Finding Aid: 290 MSS
  • Glossary: 114 entries
  • Bibliography: 564 items
  • Gallery: 84 images
"nobody understands me, & I am perfectly satisfied."
Letter to William Mason, 7 September 1757

The Thomas Gray Archive began as an unfunded research project at the Göttingen State and University Library in 2000. It is devoted to scholarship on Thomas Gray (1716-1771), one of the most versatile 18th-century poets. Regarded by a majority of today's literary scholars as a predominant poetic figure of the middle decades of the 18th century, reception history up to the 20th century frequently dismissed him either as an imperfect Augustan (Dr Johnson) or as a timid Romantic (Wordsworth). The Archive has been designed to address the challenges associated with understanding Gray's poetry in its historical context and with recognizing his contribution to the history of 18th-century English poetry.

Gray's poetry poses considerable challenges even to professional readers of his texts. The need for explanatory notes had, in fact, already been expressed by Gray's contemporaries. As a result of frequent misunderstandings and misrepresentations, Gray conceded to provide notes for the edition of his collected poems in 1768, which forms the basis for the electronic texts in the Archive. Due to the complexity of both form and subject matter of Gray's texts, the volume of textual and editorial scholarship produced has been entirely out of proportion with the slim corpus of Gray's poetry. As the richness of allusions and references in the texts often makes it impossible for any one reading to be prioritised over another, this project's principal goal and core functionality has been to stimulate discussion by providing an opportunity to scholars to add notes and queries to any part of any of the texts available in the Archive. As a starting point, extracts from printed scholarly editions have been used, under fair use conditions, to provide a basis for the scholarly discussion to emerge online under a peer-review system. Over the past years the Website has evolved from this core concept to a more fully-fledged electronic archive, which includes many of the online tools used by scholars working in the humanities today, such as a search facility, a computer-generated concordance, a digital library, as well as living secondary materials, including a criticism page, biography, chronology, glossary, bibliography, gallery, and links to related online resources.

The Archive is conceived as a structured repository of texts and materials of interest to those reading, teaching, researching, and studying Gray's life and works, and will develop long-term along with the contributions and proposals received from its users. We expect this resource to grow and change, and we invite participation from scholars and institutions around the world. Interaction via a structured platform has been and will be the essential component in the creation, development and improvement of this resource. As a living forum for students, teachers, and scholars, the Website is designed to enable readers not only to browse and search the texts in order to locate and access variants, textual notes, and glosses, but also to contribute their own annotations or queries interactively on this site. All contributions, including those to the resources section, will be collected and peer-reviewed and will subsequently be published on this Web site. Contributors are encouraged to keep their annotations and materials alive, by periodically reviewing previously contributed information. While the commentary strives to be authoritative, it is not conceived of as definitive, instead it is intended to be suggestive of new connections and interpretative avenues for scholars. The success of the Archive will depend on readers' willingness to share resources in an open access environment for the benefit of collaborative scholarship online.

Based on open, interoperable standards and formats widely used in the digital humanities (such as METS, MODS, TEI, and EAD), the Archive strives to preserve and to make freely accessible a comprehensive corpus of high-quality primary sources and secondary materials for use in teaching, digital scholarship, and electronic publishing. In this sense, the Thomas Gray Archive, just like its analogue counterparts, is a place of reading, a place that facilitates and supports research, a place that preserves and disseminates information in the pursuit of knowledge. The creation of the electronic versions of the primary sources and secondary materials available in the Archive would not have been possible without generous permission granted by both Göttingen State and University Library and Bodleian Libraries to the research project.

The search engine can be used to locate one or more words or a phrase in the full-text of primary or secondary works, and to retrieve a result set with highlighted hits. All words entered in the text field are search terms, no stop-word list is in effect. This search engine uses an "all the words" or "AND" search by default. All search terms must be found in a text for it to be included. Also, by default, results will only contain matches that form whole words. However, the search engine does support the wildcards "?" for a single character, and "*" to represent any number (0-x) of characters. It is also possible to modify the "query options" to limit searches:

  • Find: "all the words" performs an "AND" search, i.e. all the terms must be found; "any word" performs an "OR" search, i.e. at least one term must be found; "exact phrase" looks for the terms as a phrase in the text.
  • Case: "insensitive" will find both capitals and lower-case letters, "sensitive" will only find words spelled exactly as typed in the search field.

Result sets are organized by texts in order of the number of hits. The result set page can be customised by the user to show or hide the Keyword in Context results (when hidden, only a list of texts is shown), and to sort the texts by results or titles. Users may then choose to go to the texts by following the linked titles, page numbers, or, in the case of searches within the poems, go to individual results via the line numbers or, if the result is in a paratext (e.g. the front matter or the footnotes), via the letter "P".

Known limitations: No in-text boolean operators are allowed, neither are stop-words defined. Be prepared to get large result sets when searching for words like "and", "the" or "a". The grouping of search terms is also not supported by this search engine. If you have questions or problems, please do not hesitate to e-mail for help or more information.


Editorial practices

Spelling has been modernized throughout, except in case of conscious archaisms. Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Obvious errors have been silently corrected, punctuation has been lightly modernized. Additional contextual information for Gray's notes, presented here in unmodernized form, has been taken from the Starr/Hendrickson edition.

If you have questions or problems, please do not hesitate to e-mail for help or more information.

Selecting a text

The Poems page is the main way of accessing the poem texts. Poems can be selected by title or by first line. It is also possible to reach a poem via the concordance, or by conducting a search. Once selected, the reader is presented with the poem text. Details about the poem, including the date of composition, date of publication, rhyme scheme, published edition the text is taken from, genre, link to manuscripts listed in the Finding Aid, and the number of Notes/Queries relating to the poem, are provided in the navigation boxes, as are links to all the editions available as scanned images or electronic texts in the Digital Library. The second tab provides access to Notes and Queries on a line by line basis, while the third tab provides a form for readers to submit their own Notes and Queries for inclusion in the Archive.

It is also possible to access the text of a poem via the printed editions available in the Digital Library. These are available as scanned images and/or electronic texts, with accompanying bibliographic records. Each edition can be navigated using an electronic table of contents.

If you have questions or problems, please do not hesitate to e-mail for help or more information.

Commentary display

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On the "Notes and Queries" tab, clicking on a line will give you access to all Notes and Queries relating to that line. Notes and Queries relating to more than one line are reproduced under each one. Notes and Queries are categorised as either Explanatory (summarized in red) or Textual (blue) and are sorted firstly by the first word, and secondly by year of publication or contribution. If the reader is interested in just one category, it is possible to prevent the other from displaying using the filter at the top of the page. Each annotation retrieved gives precise information about its origin, whether from printed sources or online contributors. The reader has access to the bibliographic information of the print publication or may choose to contact the author if it is an online contribution.

Contributions (corrections, annotations, queries) can be submitted by clicking on any line of the text. Contributors are kindly asked to specify commentary types and levels for their annotations, and must agree to submit their names and e-mail addresses and grant permission to make this information available to users via the collaborative online commentary. Any contribution submitted is covered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Contributors may also provide additional information about their affiliation and about related online resources. All contributors are kindly asked to be as precise as possible when specifying the reference (line and word numbers) for their annotations by providing a summary in the text box. If all the required fields are filled in correctly, contributions will be saved and submitted to the editor for review. After review, your contribution will appear together with your contact details as part of the existing commentary. If you have questions or problems, please do not hesitate to e-mail for help or more information.


The Letters section provides access to the full text of Gray's correspondence (where available), as scanned images of manuscripts, scanned images of published editions and/or electronic texts. All known letters have associated detailed descriptive metadata. Readers can choose from several selection criteria to explore the collection, including a basic choice between letters written by Gray and letters addressed to Gray, or a particular exchange between Gray and one of his correspondents, or letters mentioning a particular person. Letters can also be browsed by date of composition*, place of composition, or holding institution if the original survives.

[Help image]Once a selection has been made, a list of matching letters will be displayed consisting of six basic descriptive categories: the Archive letter id, the date(s) of composition, the place(s) of composition, the writer(s), the addressee(s), and information about where the original is held. This list can be re-sorted by selecting one of these six table headings. To view the full record for an individual letter, select the letter id number from the list. To select a different set of letters, use the quick search box at the top of the page, or choose any of the link icons (date, place, writer or addressee name, or holding institution) to see all the letters written in that year, place, by that author, to that addressee, or held at that institution.

The full record view of a letter consists of: the Archive letter id, the names of the writer(s) and addressee(s) (shown in square brackets if supplied) and their age, the date(s) and place(s) of composition (shown in square brackets if supplied) including the date and address lines in the letter (where extant), the letter's incipit and language(s) (if extant), a brief summary of its contents, information about possible surrogates and the letter's holding institution and availability (if extant), and details of publication. The description of the letters is based on the TEI's Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange.

Please note that the Archive neither controls nor is able to mediate access to the original letters. Please check the availability category in the full record view and contact the holding institution directly. Although every effort has been made to trace the whereabouts of the letters, we cannot provide any guarantee as to their actual location, status, or availability. If you have questions or problems, please do not hesitate to e-mail for help or more information.

* It should be noted that the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Britain only in 1752 by which time it was necessary to correct the date by 11 days: Wednesday, 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752. Dates of letters written in Britain before September 1752 are therefore Julian dates. The Calendar Act of 1752 also made 1 January the official start of the year instead of 25 March (Lady Day). Letters with imprecise dates (e.g. year only) therefore pose a problem. Some letters written by Gray and Walpole during their Grand Tour on the continent (1739-1741) carry the addition "N.S." (New Style), indicating Gregorian dates as opposed to Julian dates (Old Style). It is not clear in every instance though whether this refers to the adjustment of calendar, of the start of year, or both.

Digital Library

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The Archive's digital library is intended to make digital versions of Gray's works and of Gray scholarship available online. The digital library contains electronic texts and digital images of Gray's published (printed) works as well as audio-visual media. For the digitized printed works an electronic table of contents is provided as an alternative point of entry to the menu of page numbers and the traditional page-turner digital library interface. All scanned page images are scaled against the dimensions of the original to display 100% their size with 100dpi resolution. All page images in the Web delivery system are of the MIME types image/gif and image/jpeg; due to restrictions imposed by most of the contributing institutions, neither the 600dpi master image/tiff versions nor derivatives usable for print publications are available on the Web. You can use the arrows of the page-turner interface to go to the next or previous pages, click on the image to go to the next page, or you can select a page number from the menu. The quickest way of navigating the page-turner interface is by using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard.

Electronic texts are currently delivered as single HTML pages. They can be navigated using the "Table of contents" tab. It is hoped to be able to deliver these in a more user-friendly interface, and make them available for download as PDF and EPUB in the near future. All out-of-copyright print editions held by the Archive are already available for download in PDF format via the "Record" tab.

The audio-visual media available in the digital library have been encoded as OGG and MP3 files to support HTML5 Audio. These formats will allow all modern browsers to play the files inside the browser without the need of plugins or audio players. Please do not hesitate to e-mail should you encounter problems viewing or playing any of the files in this section. Please note that the Archive publishes the digital versions on this Website for educational purposes only, please see the individual items for information on copyright holders. If any material on this site inadvertently infringes copyright, please contact the editor.

Finding Aid

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The integrated finding aid to Thomas Gray manuscripts is intended as a standards-based and up-to-date research tool for Gray scholars. The aim is to provide a primary point of access to Gray-related archival collections in archives and manuscript repositories around the world. To this purpose, the integrated finding aid, which is arranged alphabetically by work title, lists all of Gray's identified autograph manuscripts as well as transcripts in the hands of his contemporaries and of early editors of his works. Since an up-to-date calendar of Gray's letters is already available, the focus has initially been on literary manuscripts, starting with poetry, but will eventually include Gray's prose works, personal papers, and marginalia.

Each work entry is designed to identify an item uniquely. It gives its uniform title and first line, language, date of first publication, standard editions, and a brief note on composition and first publication. Each of the manuscript entries in the finding aid provides basic bibliographic and archival information based on the EAD 2002 document type definition. Where available, the records contain links to digital surrogates of both the original manuscripts and the first printed edition of the work. All entries have been heavily interlinked to allow for easy access to source materials, electronic texts, glossary entries, and bibliographic records. As with the calendar of letters, individual categories such as the holding institution are selectable to narrow or re-focus the selection. This integrated finding aid builds on a number of print and online information sources, among which those listed in the bibliography have been particularly helpful and are herewith gratefully acknowledged.

Please note that the Archive neither controls nor is able to mediate access to the original manuscripts. Please consult with the repository holding the original manuscript using the contact information provided with each of the manuscript records. Although every effort has been made to trace the whereabouts of MSS, we cannot provide any guarantee as to their actual location, status, or availability. If you have questions or problems, please do not hesitate to e-mail for help or more information.


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The word list and the concordance contain every word in the texts of the complete poems of Thomas Gray as available on the poems page of the Archive. The word lists are created from a central word index once the reader has selected a letter or the corpus word occurrences list on the main page. Each word list with word occurrences is displayed in five table columns, running from top to bottom in each of the columns. Selecting a word from the list will retrieve the concordance proper for the word selected. The numbers of occurrences and texts, in which the term appears, are given first, followed by the poem titles and lines of the individual texts, in which the term is high-lighted. From there the text may be accessed directly via the poem title or the line number. Users may also choose to re-sort the concordance, or to return to the word lists.

This concordance is offered to the scholarly community as a "working" concordance, it does not claim to resolve limitations traditionally associated with computer-generated concordances. Thus, in the display just the line in which the word appears is given, which is not always sufficient to identify clearly how the word is used. Also, word entries have not been disambiguated by assigning the proper part of speech to each word. Please note that the concordance only lists words in the text of the poems, i.e. in the (numbered) poem lines, excluding all textual variants and paratextual elements, such as titles, advertisements, prefaces, section headings, notes etc. If you want to retrieve results from the latter elements, please use the search engine: a regular search with any word displayed in the concordance can be launched as one of the options in the bottom line of the concordance display. If you have questions or problems, please do not hesitate to e-mail for help or more information.