John Gray was born on 2 March, 1866 in Bethnal Green, London, the first of nine children. Like most people with great taste, he came from a working class background. At thirteen he quit school and began working as an apprentice metal-worker (continuing his education with evening classes). In 1882 he passed the Civil Service exams and five years later passed the University of London matriculation exams. He subsequently joined the Foreign Office and became a librarian. Gray’s evening classes had included (among other foreign languages) the study of French and he translated the work of Symbolists Arthur Rimbaud, Jules Laforgue, Paul Verlaine, and Stéphane Mallarmé into English -- some for the first time.