GRAY, Thomas [1716-1771] & WOLFE, General James [1727-1759] (subject)
London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1756. 10th Edition. Hard Cover. Very Good. 11 pp. (4to) 24.7x19 cm. (9¾x7½"), modern full brown morocco. Tape repairs in gutter of title page; light toning; very good in a fine modern binding. A nice large copyTenth Edition. Scarce early edition of Gray's classic verse. First published in 1751, this is one of the great poems in English. Northup, Bibliography of Gray, p. 75.A midshipman who was present used to relate that, as Wolfe sat among his officers, and the boats floated down silently with the current, he recited, in low and touching tones, Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard, then just published. One stanza may especially have accorded with his melancholy mood: This was the poem James Wolfe was said to have rather written than take Quebec. (written by Thomas Gray) "The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Await alike the inevitable hour: The paths of glory lead but to the grave." "Now, gentlemen," said he, when he had finished, "I would rather be the author of that poem than take Quebec." "Nobody knew that [Major General James] Wolfe, reciting Gray's Elegy in 1759 as his boat was rowed up the St. Lawrence [to Quebec] the night before his death, said that 'he would prefer being the author of that poem to the glory of beating the French tomorrow,' until in 1815, in Vol. VII of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, appeared a biography of its secretary, John Robison, LL. D., professor of natural philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, who as a young man had been a midshipman in Wolfe's flotilla."-Carroll A. Wilson, "Familiar 'Small College' Quotations, II: Mark Hopkins and the Log," The Colophon, spring 1938, p. 204.A similar edition, (to this 10th edition 1756) the 9th edition, 1754, was given to Wolfe the day before he sailed to Quebec on the Netune by his fiancèe, Katherine Lowther. Wolfe made notes on his copy of this poem. The Wolfe noted copy of this similar 1754, ninth edition publication, is in the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library (U of T) in Toronto. Because of the Wolfe notations and therefore it's Canadian cultural heritage, University of Toronto paid $400,000 to purchase the signed 1754 copy in 1988.