Yesterday I had the misfortune of receiving a letter from certain gentlemen (as their bookseller expresses it), who have taken the 'Magazine of Magazines' into their hands. As I am not at all disposed to be either so indulgent, or so correspondent as they desire, I have but one bad way left to escape the honour they would inflict upon me; and therefore am obliged to desire you would make Dodsley print it immediately (which may be done in less than a week's time), from your copy, but without my name, in what form is most convenient for him, but on his best paper and character; he must correct the press himself, and print it without any interval between the stanzas, because the sense is in some places continued beyond them; and the title must be, - 'Elegy, written in a Country Church-yard.' If he would add a line or two to say it came into his hands by accident, I should like it better. It was anonymous, and contained these prefatory remarks by Walpole: - - 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.If you behold the 'Magazine of Magazines' in the light that I do, you will not refuse to give yourself this trouble on my account, which you have taken of your own accord before now. 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.In the winter of 1749, after the death of his aunt, Mary Antrobus, Gray resumed it at Cambridge, and finished it at Stoke early in June, 1750; and on the 12th of that month he sent a copy of it in MS.
The variations between the text here given and those of the first edition of 1751, and of the Pembroke MS., are not noted because both the latter are given verbatim in appendices. 157, we find: ''I am inclined to believe that the Elegy in a Country Church-yard was begun, if not concluded, at this time also'' (August, 1742).[For I see in my thoughts, my sweet fire, One cold tongue, and two beautiful closed eyes Will remain full of sparks after our death.] Expanding the poem lines () shows the results of a computationally facilitated analysis of the text.These results should be considered as a basis for deeper interpretative enquiry such as can be found in the notes and queries.1751, by Dodsley, & went thro' four editions, in two months; and afterwards a fifth, 6th, 7th, & 8th, 9th, 10th, & 11th; printed also in 1753 with Mr. there is a 2d edition; & again by Dodsley in his 'Miscellany,' vol. Roberts, & published in 1762, & again in the same year by Rob. A.''It first appeared with Gray's name in the ''Six Poems'' of 1753.4th, & in a Scotch Collection call'd the 'Union'; translated into Latin by Chr. Mason says that Gray ''originally gave it only the simple title of 'Stanzas written in a Country Church-yard,' '' but that he ''persuaded him first to call it an Elegy, because the subject authorized him so to do, and the alternate measure seemed particularly fit for that species of composition; also so capital a poem written in this measure, would as it were appropriate it in the future to writings of this sort.''The title of the eighth edition, 1753, is ''Elegy, originally written in a Country Churchyard.''Three copies of the ''Elegy'' in Gray's handwriting still exist.If Dodsley do not do this immediately, he may as well let it alone.''Walpole lost no time, and on the 16th of February the poem was published in a quarto pamphlet, the following being the content of the title-page: - ''An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard. - The poem was at once reproduced in the magazines; it appeared in the ''Magazine of Magazines'' on the 28th of February, in the ''London Magazine'' and in the ''Scots' Magazine,'' on the 31st of March, and in the ''Grand Magazine of Magazines'' on the 30th of April.Gray has entered the following note in the margin of the Pembroke MS: - ''Publish'd in Febry.Walpole did not at first accept the account of the date of the poem, submitted to him by Mason before the Memoirs of Gray went to press. 1, 1773:''The 'Churchyard' was, I am persuaded, posterior to West's death  at least three or four years.At least I am sure that I had the twelve or more first lines from himself above three years after that period, and it was long before he finished it.''And yet Mason appears to have satisfied Walpole that the opinion expressed in the Memoirs was correct, for Walpole writes to him Dec.After June, 1750, it was circulated in manuscript among his firends, and only an accident hastened its publication.An editor of the , a cheap periodical, sent word to Gray that he was about to print it, and naturally the author did not care to have a poem of this nature make its entrance into the world by so obscure a by-path.