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Significant Scots
Rev James Grahame


Rev James Grahame GRAHAME, (REV.) JAMES, the author of "The Sabbath" and other poems, was born in Glasgow on the 22d of Apri1, 1765. He was the son of Mr Thomas Grahame, writer in that city, a gentleman at the head of the legal profession there, and who held a high place in the esteem of his fellow citizens for strict integrity and many amiable qualities. His mother was a woman of very uncommon understanding; and it may be well supposed, that the young bard owed much of that amiable disposition which distinguished him in after-life, to the mild and benevolent tuition of his parents. From them also he imbibed those ultra-liberal opinions on politics, which, on the first breaking out of the French revolution of 1789, found so many supporters in this country, and which Mr Grahame no doubt adopted under a sincere impression that the diffusion of such opinions was likely to benefit the human race. He was educated at the grammar school and university of Glasgow. At this time his father possessed a beautiful villa on the romantic banks of the Cart, near Glasgow, to which the family removed during the summer months; and it is pleasing to remark the de-light with which James Grahame, in after years, looked back upon the youthful days spent there. In the "Birds of Scotland," we have the following pleasing remembrances, which show that these days were still green in his memory:

I love thee, pretty bird! for 'twas thy nest
Which first, unhelped by older eyes, I found;
The very spot I think I now behold!
Forth from my low-roofed home I wandered blythe
Down to thy side, sweet Cart, where cross the stream
A range of. stones, below a shallow ford,
Stood in the place of the now-spanning arch;
Up from that ford a little bank there was,
With alder copse and willow overgrown,
Now worn away by mining winter floods;
There, at a bramble root, sunk in the grass,
The hidden prize, of withered field-straws formed,
Well lined with many a coil of hair and moss,
And in it laid five red-veined spheres, I found.

James Grahame eminently distinguished himself both at school and college; and we have an early notice of his poetical genius having displayed itself in some Latin verses, which, considering his age, were thought remarkable for their ele-gance. At this period he was noted among his companions for the activity of his habits, and the frolicsome gayety of his disposition; his character, however, seems to have undergone a change, and his constitution to have received a shock, in consequence of a blow inflicted in wantonness on the back of his head, which ever afterwards entailed upon him occasional attacks of headache and stupor; and there seems to be little doubt, that this blow was ultimately the muse of his death. After passing through a regular academical course of edu-cation at the University of Glasgow, during which he attended a series of lectures delivered by the celebrated professor Millar, whose opinions on politics were by no means calculated to alter those which his pupil had derived from his father, he was removed to Edinburgh, in the year 1784, where he commenced the study of law under the tuition of his cousin, Mr Laurence Hill, writer to the signet. This was a destination wholly foreign to his char-acter and inclination; his own wishes would have led him to the clerical pro-fession, which was more congenial to his tastes than the busy turmoil of legal associations; but young Grahame passively acquiesced in the arrangement which his father had made, more from considerations connected with his own means of advancing him in the legal profession, than from regard to the peculiarities of his son's disposition and character.

After having finished his apprenticeship, he was admitted a member of the Society of Writers to the Signet, in the year 1791. His prospects of success in business were very considerable, in consequence of the influence possessed by his father, and his other relations; but the death of his father towards the close of the year 1791, seems to have freed him from the restraint which bound him to his profession, and he resumed his original, desire of entering the church. For a time, however, the persuasion of his friends induced him to relinquish his intention of changing his profession; and, at length, in the year 1795, in the hope that the avocations of the bar would prove more congenial to his taste and allow him, during the vacations, greater leisure to indulge his literary propensities, than the more irksome details of the other branch of the profession, he became a member of the Faculty of Advocates.

James Grahame, while yet at the university, printed and circulated among his friends a collection of poetical pieces. Of this work no trace is now left ex-cept in the memory of the members of his own family, and it is only curious as it seems to have contained a rough draught of those sketches which he afterwards published under the title of the "Rural Calendar." It was in the year 1797, that these pieces appeared in their amended form. Being on a visit to a friend in Kelso when the "Kelso Mail" was commenced, he contributed them anonymously to that newspaper; he afterwards published them, greatly enlarged and improved, in the l2mo edition of his works, in 1807. In the year 1801, he published a dramatic poem, entitled, "Mary, Queen of Scot-land;" but his talents were by no means dramatic; and although this production was a great favourite of his own, it is only deserving of attention as containing some beautiful descriptive passages.

In the year 1802, Mr Grahame was married to Miss Grahame, eldest daughter of Richard Grahame, Esq., Annan, a woman of masculine understanding and very elegant accomplishments. She at first endeavoured to discourage her husband's poetical propensities, from the idea that they interfered with his professional duties; but on the discovery that he was the author of the Sabbath, she no longer attempted, or wished, to oppose the original bias of his mind. The Sabbath was published not only anonymously, but the poet even concealed its existence from his dearest relations. The mode which he took to communi-cate it to his wife presents a very pleasing picture of his diffident and amiable disposition. In relating this anecdote, we shall use the words of one who was very intimate with the poet and his family. "On its publication he brought the book home with him, and left it on the parlour table. Returning soon after he found Mrs Grahame engaged in its perusal; but without venturing to ask her opinion, he continued to walk up and down the room in breathless anxiety, till she burst out in the warmest eulogium on the performance; adding 'Ah James, if you could but produce a poem like this.' The acknowledg-ement of the authorship, and the pleasure of making the disclosure under such circumstances, may be easily imagined." The Sabbath was subjected to a severe ordeal of criticism in the Edinburgh Review; but the critic afterwards made ample atonement to the wounded feelings of the poet and his friends, in re-viewing his subsequent work, the British Georgics-an example which one can-not but wish that Lord Byron had imitated, by expressing some contrition for the wanton and cruel attack made in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers on the gentle and amiable poet of the Sabbath.

About the year 1806, Mr Grahame published a well written pamphlet on the subject of the introduction of jury trial in civil causes in Scotland, entitled "Thoughts on Trial by Jury." This was a favourite project of his party in politics, about the beginning of the present century; and during the whig ad-ministration of 1806-7, a bill was brought into parliament by the ministry for the purpose of extending that mode of trial to Scotland. That bill fell, on the change of administration; but some years afterwards, a bill having the same object was carried through parliament by the succeeding administration; and in 1816, jury trial in civil causes was introduced under certain modifications, and has since been made a permanent part of the civil judicial procedure in this country.

But for the bad health to which he was occasionally subject, Mr Graharne might have enjoyed much happiness, surrounded as he was by his family, to whom he was devotedly attached, and mixing during the winter months on familiar terms with the intellectual and polished society which Edinburgh at all times affords, and which, at the time alluded to, was peculiarly brilliant; while, to vary the scene, he usually spent the summer either at Kirkhill, on the banks of the Esk, or at some other rural retirement. It was at Kirkhill, sur-rounded with some of the loveliest scenery in Scotland, that he composed "The Birds of Scotland." But in spite of the happiness which such a state of literary ease was calculated to afford, Mr Grahame still looked with longing to the condition of a country clergyman - a vocation which his imagination had invested with many charms. The authority already referred to mentions a cir-cumstance strongly indicative of the constant current of his thoughts:-"The writer will never forget the eager longing with which he surveyed the humble church of Borthwick, on a fine summer evening, when the sun's last rays had gilded the landscape, and rendered every object in nature more sweet and im-pressive. He cast a look of delighted complacency around the peaceful scene, and said, with an accent of regret, "I wish such a place as that had fallen to my lot." And when it was remarked, that continued retirement might become wearisome, "Oh! no," he replied, "it would be delightful to live a life of use-fulness among a simple people, unmolested with petty cares and ceremonies." At length, yielding to his long cherished wish, he entered holy orders as a clergyman of the church of England. After having spent the summer months of 1808, at a pleasant villa in the neighbourhood of Annan, where he composed "The British Georgics," he proceeded to England in the spring following; and after encountering some difficulty, was ordained by Dr Bathhurst, bishop of Norwich, on Trinity Sunday, being the 28th of May, 1809. That good pre-late was so much delighted with Mr Grahame, that he was anxious to persuade him to remain in his diocese, but Mr Grahame was prevented from acceding to this request by the prevalence of fever and ague in the district. He resided for some weeks after his ordination at the city of Chester; and there he ob-tained the curacy of Shefton in Gloucestershire, which he held from July until the month of March in the following year, when he was called to Scotland by family affairs. The accomplishment of his long cherished and ardent desire to enter the clerical profession, does not seem to have afforded him that full mea-sure of happiness which he anticipated. This was partly to be attributed to broken health; and perhaps, also, to a natural restlessness of disposition, but more particularly to the change having been too long deferred. Indications of this fact may be traced in the following beautiful lines in the British Georgics, which show how deeply he loved and how fondly he regretted leaving his na-tive land:

How pleasant came thy rushing, silver Tweed,
Upon mine ear, when, after roaming long
In southern plains, I've reached thy lovely banks!
How bright, renowned Sark, thy little stream
Like ray of column'd light chasing a shower,
Would cross my homeward path! how sweet the sounds
When I, to hear the Doric tongue's reply,
Would ask thy well known name.
And must I leave,
Dear land, thy bonny brass, thy dales,
Each haunted by its wizard-stream, o'erhung
With all the varied charms of bush and tree;
Thy towering hills, the lineament sublime,
    Unchanged, of Nature's face, which wont to fill
The eye of Wallace as he musing plann'd
The grand emprise of setting Scotland free?
And must I leave the friends of youthful years,
And mould my heart anew to take the stamp
Of foreign friendships an a foreign land?
Yes, I may love the music of strange tongues,
And mould my heart anew to take the stamp
Of foreign friendships in a foreign land;
But to my parched mouth's roof cleave this tongue,
My fancy fade into the yellow leaf,
And this oft-pausing heart forget to throb,
If, Scotland, thee and thine I e'er forget.

On his return to Scotland, he was an unsuccessful candidate for St George's episcopal chapel, Edinburgh. This disappointment was severely felt by his friends, who, fondly attached to him, and admiring him much as a preacher, were exceedingly anxious to have him settled amongst them; but he bore the frustration of his hopes without a murmur. In August, 1810, he was appointed interim curate to the chapelry of St Margaret, Durham, where his eloquence as a preacher quickly collected a crowded congregation; and after having of-ficiated there for a few months, he obtained the curacy of Sedgefield, in the same diocese. Having been affected with oppressive asthma and violent headaches, he was induced to try the effect of a change to his native air; and after spend-ing a few days in Edinburgh with his only surviving sister, Mrs Archibald Grahame, he, along with his wife, who had joined him in Edinburgh, proceeded to Glasgow, where he expired two days after his arrival. He died at White-hill, the residence of his eldest brother, Mr Robert Grahame of Whitehill, on the 14th of September, 1811, in the forty-seventh year of his age; leaving two sons and a daughter.

The most characteristic feature in the mind of James Grahame, was a keen and refined sensibility, which, while it in some measure incapacitated him for encountering the hardships and enduring the asperities of life, and gave the appearance of vacillation to his conduct, at the same time rendered him sensi-tively alive to the intellectual pleasures of the world, and shed an amiable purity over his character and manners. It is deeply to be regretted, that the wishes of his father should have thrown an impediment in the way of his embracing, at the outset of life, that profession which was so congenial to the benign gentleness of his disposition. His mild manners and many amiable qualities made a deep impression on all who knew him, while his surviving friends cherish his memory with feelings of the sincerest affection and reverence. Possessed of a pleasing and intellectual fund of conversation, there was about him an infantine simplicity of character, which rendered him alternately the companion of the late Francis Horner, and of Jeffrey, Cockburn, Brougham, and of his other distinguished contemporaries, and the delight of his own children, in whose most playful gambols he would often join. His personal appearance was particularly striking; his dark complexion harmonizing well with his finely-formed and expressive features, over which there hung a deep shade of languor and pensiveness; his figure was tall, and while discharging the duties of his sacred office, his air and manner were truly apostolic.


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