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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.
One of these belonged to Wharton, and is now among the Egerton MSS. London: George Bell and sons, 1903 [1st edition 1891], 211-214. Though I am aware that, as it stands at present, the conclusion is of a later date; how that was originally, I have shown in my notes on the poem.'' (The four stanzas which, according to Mason, originally ended the poem will be found the conclusion as we now read the poem [Footnote: ''Mason says, 'In the first manuscript copy of this exquisite poem I find the conclusion different from that which he afterwards composed.' He has only inferred that the four stanzas were the original and endeavours thus to force this inference upon his readers.''].
in the British Museum, and this copy is therefore referred to as the ''Egerton MS.'' The two other copies were among the ''books, manuscripts, coins, music printed or written, and papers of all kinds,'' which Gray bequeathed in his will to Mason, ''to preserve or destroy at his own discretion.'' These Mason bequeathed to Stonehewer (Fellow of St. Granville John Penn, of Stoke Park, for £100; in 1854 the MS. Gosse refers to it as the ''Mason MS.''; but it may not always belong to the Fraser family; and ''Mason MS.'' is not sufficiently distinctive, as the ''Pembroke MS.'' was also Mason's. seems to have been the rough draft, and contains a greater number of original readings and alterations, the other two apparently being made from it by Gray when he had almost ceased correcting the ''Elegy,'' I shall refer to it in the Notes and Various Readings as the ''Original MS.''" Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. Gray added his after-thoughts without effacing the lines for which he meant to substitute them: this is characteristic of him, for he had a great aversion to erasure.
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.
Mason seems to have had evidence for the 1742 date sufficient to satisfy Walpole, though what that evidence was we do not know. The 'Churchyard' was, I am persuaded, posterior to West's death  at least three or four years, as you will see by my note.
Writing to Mason, 1 December 1773 ( of Gray: ''There are ... 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.'' Mason evidently made some satisfactory reply, for two weeks later, 14 December 1773 (, VI, 31), Walpole writes: ''Your account of the 'Elegy' puts an end to my other criticism.'' Then Mason in 1775 made the statement just quoted above.
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).You can add notes or queries to any part of the poetic text by simply clicking on the line in question and filling in the annotations form with your details.All contributions will be submitted to the editor in the first instance for review.At any rate, 1742 is the traditional date; we know that it was finished at Stoke Poges, in June, 1750 (see p. It is not probable that Gray was steadily working at it all these years, even if he did begin it in 1742.For interesting conjectures as to causes that inspired the poem, see Gosse, , pp. Gray was in no more haste to publish the poem than he had apparently been to complete it.