17th October 2017

Dr Bill Roberts (1952, English) publishes Thomas Gray: A Life in Letters


Exeter alumnus Dr Bill Roberts (1952, English) has published Thomas Gray: A Life in Letters in a tribute that marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of the 18th-century poet and scholar.

Dr Roberts notes that he has tried to use Gray’s letters ‘to bring up topic after topic, aspect after aspect of Gray’s life and character. The result,’ he says, ‘is a different kind of biography: not following an uninterrupted time-line, not trying to fill every minute of every day.’

Dr Roberts also believes that the biography ‘results in a different view of Gray: a subdued personality of warmth and kindness, a mind of astonishing quickness and range, an incomplete life, that might have married (or relaxed into a deeper personal relationship), might have written more and greater poems, might have written about the countryside he so much enjoyed travelling through, might have contributed more to the sciences of natural history.’

As well as the enlightening letters, the book contains some of Gray’s poems, or extracts from them, which Dr Roberts places alongside very interesting commentary and helpful information about the context in which Gray was writing at the time. There are also numerous illustrations that help illuminate Gray’s life.

Among Dr Roberts’ other books is Thomas Gray’s Journal of His Visit to the Lake District in 1769, which he edited and published in 2001.

If you would like to purchase Thomas Gray: A Life in Letters please email the Development and Alumni Relations Office, who can pass your request to the author. The book is also available to read in Exeter College’s library.

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