The spring and summer of 1742, the interval between Thomas Gray's return from abroad and hs establishment at Peterhouse (Cambridge) witnessed a remarkable spell of creative activity. The sights and sound of the Buckinghamshire countryside inspired him to write the Ode on the Spring. Almost immediately after this, he received the news of the death of Richard West, who had been his only intimate friend (especially after his quarrel with Walpole).
His sorrow and loneliness found expression in the poems which now followed in close succession the Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, the Hymn to Adversity, and the Sonnet on the Death of Ricard West. He also added to the ambitious philosophical poem De Principiis Cogitandi, which had been begun at Florence, some lines of the remarkable intensity of feeling and beauty of expression. this passage was the climax and the close of his Latin writing. In 1751 appeared the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (composed perhaps in 1742, perhaps at a later date), the success of which was instantaneous.
Grey celebrated his first meeting to the admirers of his Elegy in a poem entitled A Long Story, a gay and fanciful example of the humorous vein in which he too seldom indulged.The success of his Elegy led also to the publication in 1753 of the first collected edition of Gray's poems, in a handsome volume with remarkable illustrations by Walpole's friend Richard Bentley.
In 1757 were published the two Pindaric odes The Progress of Poesy and The Bard which met with a mixed reception and which were widely criticised for their alleged obscurity.
Ode on Spring, Sonnet on the Death of Richard West, A Long Story, The Bard- a Pindaric Ode etc are his notable works.