From Publishers Weekly
English poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771) penned many wonderful poems in addition to the beloved and oft-quoted "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard," but the "Elegy" is, by general consensus, his supreme achievement. It is fitting, then, that Mack, a lecturer in English at the University of Exeter, should open his excellent biographyAthe first major work on Gray's life in almost 50 yearsAwith a discussion of what he calls "one of the most moving and effective meditations on death ever to have been written in English." He posits Gray as a literary and historical forebear to such "AIDS elegists" as Thom Gunn, Paul Monette and Reynolds Price. Mack's reading of Gray's work is informed by contemporary critical theory (gender studies in particular), while archival research and new discoveries about Gray's family and personal life provide a fuller, clearer and more colorful picture of this seminal poet who so clearly prefigures the full flowering of English Romanticism. As for the life, Mack's thoroughAand thoroughly absorbingAaccount regards Gray's "romantic attachments" to various men more forthrightly than any previous biography. He sees in the poet's sexuality one of the "deeper, motivating subtexts of Gray's poetry." What we discover here is not an entirely new Thomas Gray, but new insights into the poet's life and ongoing concerns, which include "issues of perception, intuition, and poetic authority," as well as the "possible limits of human knowledge and experience," themes that continue to engage us more than 200 years after the poet's deathAand that will draw to this volume students of poetry, English literature and Romanticism. 50 illus. Agent, Stephanie Cabot, William Morris Agency. (Nov.)
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About the Author
Robert L. Mack is lecturer in English at the University of Exeter.