GRAY

1950s
  • T.S. Eliot reads his poetry in Sanders Theatre at Harvard University while Gray is studying for his Bachelor of Arts in English.  Gray is eventually introduced to Eliot by Dr. Theodore Spencer at Eliot House Dormitory where he has several private conservations with the poet.  Eliot invites Gray to his office at Faber and Faber the next time he visits London.
  • W.H. Auden lectures in the New Lecture Hall at Harvard University.  Gray is introduced to Auden at a cocktail party at Eliot House Dormitory.  Auden invites Gray to his birthday party in New York City.
  • Gray develops a friendship with fellow student John Hawkes while rooming together at Wigglesworth Hall Dormitory and taking several courses together at Harvard University.
  • Gray accidentally meets Tennessee Williams at a bar in New Orleans while he is studying at Tulane University.  Williams later introduces Gray to Stark Young and his lovers Frank Merlo and Pancho Rodriguez y Gonzalez.
  • Gray has a private meeting with Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner in New Orleans.
  • Gray meets Shirley Ann Grau through her husband Dr. James K. Fiebleman, the chair of the Philosophy Department at Tulane University.
  • Gray suggests his childhood friend Speed Lamkin room with his close friend Mike Steen, the writer of A Look into Tennessee Williams.  Lamkin and Steen would room together for several years in Los Angeles to assist with Lamkin's writing career and Steen's acting career in Hollywood.  Gray and Lamkin grew up together in the Monroe, Louisiana area; in addition, Gray's mother, Merrimac Gray, was close friends with Lamkin's mother, Layton Speed Lamkin.
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The following are some interesting facts Gray Collections has discovered from several sources related to Gray from the late 1940s to the late 1980s

1940s

"...As you may imagine, I have seen a lot, and heard a lot, and done a lot, and I mean a lot over a long time, but so much more significant than the places were the people and the ideas and ideals that they gave me: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Edith Sitwell, Osbert Sitwell, E.M. Forster, [William] Somerset Maugham, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, Angus Wilson, Cecil Beaton, Princess Margaret, Prince Napoleon Murat, Jean Cocteau, Bernard Berenson, Frederick Durenmatt, and many others.  I have seen and been introduced and have come to know all of these individuals in various degrees of intimacy and what is more they know me too.  They have all given me ideas and ideals that I have not had before.  I had intellectual intercourse with these individuals..."


Dr. William Shelton Gray, Jr.

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1950s
  • After Tennessee Williams chokes to death on a plastic cap, his secretray, John Uecker, discovers the body.  An emotionally stressed and shocked Uecker calls Gray for assistance.  Gray immediately tells Uecker to call the police.
  • Gray is asked to be a pallbearer at Tennessee Williams' funeral.
  • Gray, John Malcom Brinnin, Mel Gussow, Alan Hale, Jr., James Leo Herlihy, James Kirkwood, Jr., James Laughlin, Donald Spoto, and Lanford Wilson are lead speakers at the Tennessee Williams Fourth Annual Literary Seminar and Festival in Key West.
  • Gray is invited and attends the celebration of the 100th Birthday of Frances Steloff at the Gotham Book Mart in New York City.  Several well-known writers attended this party.
  • Gray is invited and attends a fundraising event hosted by Milton Katselas and Jose Quintero to receive donations for two sculptured, bronze, memorial busts of Tennessee Williams.
  • Joanne Woodward asks for Gray's assistance with an autobiography she, her aunt Mary Jane Langrall, and Steward Stern are working on.
1960s

Dr. William Shelton Gray, Jr., also referred to as Bill or Woods, was a Professor and the Chair of the English Department at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia specializing in modern English and American Literature.  He earned his B.A. degree from Harvard University and Centenary College in Shreveport in 1950; his M.A. degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1960; his Ph.D. degree from the University of Exeter in England in 1964; and he also attended the University of Arizona, University of Miami, Tulane University, and New York University for several academic years.  He wrote both his master’s thesis and Ph.D. dissertation on T.S. Eliot's poetry.

Before joining the faculty at Randolph-Macon College in 1968, Dr. Gray taught at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, Louisiana where he was the Chair of the English Department; Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan, where he also chaired the English Department; at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he chaired the English Department; and at Pembroke College in Pembroke, North Carolina.  Gray’s area of expertise allowed him to establish a relationship with a larger number of writers, playwrights, poets, artists, and Hollywood actors.  He spent several decades collecting items from or about these well-known individuals.  After Gray died from alcoholism in 1992, he accumulated one of the largest privately held collections related to American and English Literature.

  • Gray has several courses with Professor Leon Edel while studying at New York University.  Edel teaches Gray a great deal on the works by Henry James and T.S. Eliot.
  • Tennessee Williams introduces Gray to William Inge, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Tallulah Bankhead, and Elizabeth Taylor while he is studying at New York University.
  • Truman Capote invites Gray the last minute to his Black and White party in New York City.
  • Gray attends a party Tennessee Williams is hosting for his mother at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City where he develops a friendship with Carson McCullers and Marilyn Monroe.  Monroe and Gray drink too much champagne and after the party swim inside the Bethesda Fountain.
  • Tennessee Williams and Gray are invited by Elia Kazan to have dinner with Judy Garland at the Le Pavillon Restaurant in New York City.
  • Gray introduces Tennessee Williams to W.H. Auden in New York City.  This is the second time Williams and Auden met each other.  The first was at a literary party for Edith and Osbert Sitwell at the Gotham Book Mart.
  • Gray is contracted by New Directions of New York to write an authorized, definitive critical biography on Tennessee Williams.  He begins working on a book entitled A Tourist in the Mind of Tennessee Williams and speaks on several occasions at a literary seminar and festival honoring Williams regarding the work.
  • Gray travels throughout Europe where he was invited by Bernard Berenson to stay at his Villa I Tatti in Florence and by Max Beerbohm to stay at his home in Rapallo.  Gray talked a great deal with Berenson, along with Beerbohm and his wife Elisabeth (it is possible that Gray met with Mary Berenson and Bertrand Russell during his stay).  In addition, Gray was introduced to Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood by W.H. Auden while staying at his home on Ischia Island.
  • Gray dines with Princess Marthe Bibesco and a Bourbon-Parma because of Tennessee Williams.  Bibesco introduces Gray to Prince and Princess Napoleon Murat.
1980s

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1970s

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  • Gray is invited and attends an autographing party for John Ashbery at the Gotham Book Mart where he meets Andreas Brown, the second owner of the Gotham Book Mark.
  • Gray recommends and awards the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters to Katharine Hepburn whose father, Dr. Thomas N. Hepburn, held two degrees from Randolph-Macon College (B.A. in 1900 and M.A. in 1901) and grandfather was for many years the rector of Fork Episcopal Church just outside of Ashland, Virginia.
  • Gray takes numerous trips throughout Europe where he visits Auden and his lover, Chester Kallman, several times at his home in Kirchstetten, Austria and a resort in the Austrian Alps.  The New York Times came to Auden's home for a story where they took photographs of Auden with Gray and Gray was interviewed on the radio in Graz in connection with his friendship to Auden.  In addition, Gray travels with Auden and Kallman to Russia for a Mozart Festival.
  • W.H. Auden finds Gray a job as a visiting lecturer in American Literature for the summer of 1971 at the University of Graz in Graz, Austria.
  • W.H. Auden dedicates his poem The Aliens to Gray shortly before he dies.  The poem appears in the New Yorker and is later published in Auden's last book of poetry Epistle to a Godson.
  • Gray stays at Gore Vidal's apartment in Rome where he is introduced to Grace Zaring Stone and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  Vidal assists with a bibliography Gray is writing on the works of Vidal.
  • Gray visits W.H. Auden just a few weeks before his death at Christ Church College at Oxford University.
  • Gray is invited and attends a party to celebrate the publishing of Angus Wilson's As If By Magic at The Viking Press in New York City.
  • Gray visits Anais Nin several times at her home in California shortly before she dies.
  • The film critic Rex Reed stays with Gray on several occasions at his on-campus apartment at Randolph-Macon College.
1940s
1940s
  • Angus Wilson stays at Gray's apartment while he is teaching at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  The two then take a trip together to New Orleans.
  • Gray attempts to buy the original 54 page typescript of The Waste Land from T.S. Eliot.  Eliot accepts Gray's offer; however, Eliot is later informed by his wife Valerie Eliot that he sold the manuscript to his legal defender John Quinn in 1923.
  • Gray has several courses with Professor William Moelwyn Merchant and Professor G. Wilson Knight while studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Exeter.  Knight invites Gray to his home numerous times and he introduces Gray to his brother W.F. Jackson Knight.
  • Gray is visited by William Somerset Maugham while studying at the University of Exeter.
  • Gray meets T.S. Eliot several times at his Faber and Faber office in London while he is studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Exeter.  Eliot proofreads and provides advice for Gray's Ph.D. dissertation called The Symbolical Continuity in the Poems of T.S. Eliot.
  • After the completion of Gray's Ph.D. dissertation, several London and New York publishers consider if for publication.  Gray's nearly 500 page dissertation is professionally typed for British and American publishers who have asked to see it.  Gray's dissertation is placed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and the British Museum in London.  In addition, New Directions of New York and the Hogarth Press of London have real interest in a critical study that Gray is working on related to contemporary American and British novelists and short story writers entitled Fiction in the Fifties.
  • Christopher Isherwood introduces Gray to Gerald Hamilton.  Gray stays at Hamilton's home several times in London and he also introduces Gray to Robin Maugham, Shane Leslie, and Winston Churchill.
  • Gray meets with W.H. Auden and Robert Gathorne-Hardy in Oxford; in addition, he meets Lord and Lady David Cecil through Auden.
  • Gray meets with Edward Upward to assist with a bibliography Gray is writing on the works of Christopher Isherwood.
  • Ivy Compton-Burnett invites Gray to have tea at her home in Cornwall Gardens in South Kensington, London.
  • Gray meets Shane Leslie to discuss the subjects and courses being taught at the University of Exeter.
  • Gray is able to meet Isak Dinesen in Denmark shortly before she dies.
  • Gray takes a road trip with Paul and Jane Bowles through Madrid, Spain, Lisbon, Portugal, and Marrakesh/Tangier, Morocco.
  • Howard Austen and Gray travel through Dubrovnik, Venice, Revanna, Assissi, and then they stay with Gore Vidal at his apartment in Rome.  All three of them eventually fly to London and stay at Exeter.
  • Cecil Beaton invites Gray to a cocktail party where he is introduced to Princess Margaret.  She invites Gray to have tea at her home, the Clarence House in Pall Mall.
  • Gray, Gerald Hamilton, Robin Maugham, and Angus Wilson meet together in London.
  • Gray travels with Gerald Hamilton from Exeter to London where they leave for Paris and later Madrid.
  • Gray offers to buy the original manuscript of The Folded Leaf from William Maxell, but Maxwell decides to keep it for personal reasons.
  • Gray wines and dines separately at Aldous Huxley's and Evelyn Waugh's homes in London.
  • Gray visits Carson McCullers at her home in Nyack, New York a couple of times.
  • Gray is invited and attends the celebration of William Somerset Maugham's 90th birthday at his Villa Mauresque on the French Riveria.
  • Paul Bowles asks Gray to persuade E.M. Forster into writing a preface for his Moroccan stories A Life Full of Holes.
  • Gray visits T.S. Eliot for the last time, a little more than six months before Eliot's death, at his Faber and Faber office where he has several first editions signed by the poet, including Prufrock and Other Observations.
1940s

Dr. William Gray, Jr.

1970s