An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard (1751) and The Eton College Manuscript eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 21 pages of information about An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard (1751) and The Eton College Manuscript.
“Elegy” is that of the simple life, which alone is rational and virtuous—­it is the life according to nature.  Sophisticated living, Gray implies in the stanza that once ended the poem, finds man at war with himself and with reason; but the cool sequestered path—­its goal identical with that of the paths of Glory—­finds man at peace with himself and with reason.  The theme was not new before Gray made it peculiarly his own, and it has become somewhat hackneyed in the last two hundred years; but the fact that it is seldom unheard in any decade testifies to its permanency of appeal, and the fact that it was “ne’er so well express’d” as in the “Elegy” justifies our love for that poem.

George Sherburn
Harvard University


The first edition of the “Elegy” is here reproduced from a copy in the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

By permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College, the manuscript preserved in the library of Eton College is also reproduced.  This manuscript once belonged to Gray’s friend, biographer, and editor, William Mason.  In spite of its dimness, due to creases in the paper and to the fact that the ink shows through from the other side of the paper, this manuscript is chosen for reproduction because it preserves the quatrains discarded before printing the poem, and has other interesting variants in text.  Two other MSS of the poem in Gray’s hand are known to exist.  One is preserved in the British Museum (Egerton 2400, ff. 45-6) and the other is the copy made by Gray in Volume II of his Commonplace Books.  This, is appropriately preserved in the library of Pembroke College, Cambridge.  Sir William Fraser bequeathed to Eton College the MS there found, which in certain editions of the poem is called “the Fraser manuscript.”




Country Church Yard.


Printed for R. DODSLEY in Pall-mall;

And sold by M. COOPER in Pater-noster-Row. 1751.

[Price Six-pence.]


The following POEM came into my Hands by Accident, if the general Approbation with which this little Piece has been spread, may be call’d by so slight a Term as Accident.  It is this Approbation which makes it unnecessary for me to make any Apology but to the Author:  As he cannot but feel some Satisfaction in having pleas’d so many Readers already, I flatter myself he will forgive my communicating that Pleasure to many more.



ELEGY, _&c._

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An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard (1751) and The Eton College Manuscript from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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