Arnold considers Pope and Dryden to be "prose classics" of the 18th century, rather than poet classics. In terms of poetry, he views Gray's to be the sole 18th-century classic.
Gray's reputation as a poet rests primarily on his poems to the memory of King George II. These poems are said to display both elegance and delicacy of sentiment. They also represent an attempt by their author to create something like a royal court laureate position in England at that time. However, many critics view these poems as merely fashionable because they imitated the style of Pope's Poems on Various Subjects much more than that of Dryden's own work. Despite this, they remain popular today among students who study English literature at university.
It is estimated that between 1760 and 1800, up to five million copies of poems by John Gray were sold in Britain. This makes him one of the most read poets of all time.
His work was so popular that several adaptations were made during his lifetime. One such adaptation was Thomas Arne's song "The World Was Wide Enough for Him", which was originally written for the stage but later used as the theme tune for BBC Radio 4. Another was Henry Purcell's opera Dido, Queen of Carthage, which was based on Virgil's account of the same name.
Gray was a self-critical writer who, despite his popularity, produced just 13 poems in his lifetime. In 1757, he was even given the office of Poet Laureate, which he refused...
|Died||30 July 1771 (aged 54) Cambridge, England|
|Alma mater||Peterhouse, Cambridge|
Robert William Geoffrey Gray (born February 23, 1945) is a poet, freelance writer, and critic from Australia. He has been called "an Imagist without a competitor in the English-speaking world" and "one of the modern masters of English poetry."
Gray was born in Melbourne, Victoria, and grew up in Sydney. He graduated from University College Dublin with a degree in economics and political science, then worked for a bank in London for a year before returning to Ireland as an economist with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. In 1971, he moved back to Sydney and began writing poems again. He now lives in the coastal city of Botany Bay, near Sydney.
Gray's work tends to focus on the transience of life, love, and happiness. Many of his poems are about sea creatures and ocean environments, such as shells, waves, and seabirds. Others focus on human emotions and relationships, such as loneliness, grief, and disappointment.
In addition to publishing several collections of poems, Gray has written two books on poetry: A New Path to the Sky (1989), which focuses on contemporary British poets including Philip Larkin, John Donne, and Michael Longley; and The Way Through Doors: An Introduction to Poetry (1998).
Gray has been praised for the elegance and simplicity of his language and imagery.
Creekwater Journal, his first collection of poems, was released in 1973. Gray has been a writer-in-residence at Meiji University in Tokyo and various Australian universities, notably Geelong College in 1982. He has won the Adelaide Arts Festival, as well as the New South Wales and Victorian Premiers' Poetry Awards.
Gray began writing poetry at the age of 21. His first collection, Creekwater Journal, was published by Hesperus Press in 1973. Since then he has gone on to publish several more books of poetry, including Recent Translations from Japanese Poets (1977), The Man with Night Sweats (1979), Selected Poems (1980), The Way through the Woods (1983), The Best of Robert Gray: 1970-1990 (1991), and The Star Diaries (1994). Gray has also written two novels, A High Wind from the North and Its Effect on Some Faraway Trees, and three books for children: The Day John Cusack Was Born, How William Bligh Created Australia, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He has also edited several other writers' works.
In addition to his career as a poet, Gray has been a professor of English literature at the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. He has also been a visiting writer at universities in Japan, Taiwan, and Germany. In 1982 he became the first Australian writer to be awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy in Rome.