GRAINGER, JAMES, a physician and poet of some
eminence, was born in Dunse, about the year 1723. After receiving such
education as his native town afforded, he came to Edinburgh, and was bound
apprentice to a Mr Lander, a surgeon. While in the employment of this
gentleman, he studied the various branches of medicine; and having
qualified himself for practice, joined the army, and served as surgeon to
lieutenant Pulteney’s regiment of foot, during the rebellion in Scotland
of 1745. On the conclusion of the war, Grainger went in the same capacity
to Germany, but again returned to England at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.
He now sold his commission, and entered upon practice in London, but
without much success. In 1753 he published a treatise in Latin on some
diseases peculiar to the army, entitled "Historia Febris
Intermittentis Armatorum, 1746, 1747, 1748." In the medical
knowledge, however, which this work contained, and which evinced much
learning and skill, together with acuteness of observation, he was,
unfortunately for his interest, anticipated by Sir John Pringle in his
celebrated work on the diseases of the army.
During Dr Grainger’s residence in London,
he became intimately acquainted with many of the men of genius then
resident there; amongst these were Shenstone, Dr Percy, Glover, Dr
Johnson, and Sir Joshua Reynolds; by all of whom he was much esteemed for
his amiable manners, and respected for his talents.
The poetical genius of Dr Grainger was
first made known by his publishing an "Ode on Solitude," which
met with a favourable reception, and was, although now perhaps but little
known, much praised by the reviewers of the day. His want of professional
success now compelled him to look to his literary talents for that support
which his medical practice denied him, and he endeavoured to eke out a
scanty livelihood by writing for booksellers; and in this way he was
employed by Mr Miller in compiling the second volume of Maitland’s
history of Scotland, from the materials left by the latter at his death.
In 1758, he published a translation of the
"Elegies of Tibullus." This work was severely handled in the
critical reviews, where it was allowed none of the merit which in reality
Dr Grainger now got involved in a
controversy with Smollet, with whom he had formerly been on terms of
friendship. The cause of their difference is not now known, but if it bore
any proportion to the severity with which Smollett on all occasions
treated his quondam friend, it must have been a serious one. He abused Dr
Grainger in every possible shape, availed himself of every opportunity of
reviling and humiliating him, and pursued his system of hostility with the
most unrelenting bitterness.
Soon after the publication of the
"Elegies," Dr Grainger went out as a physician to the island of
St Christopher’s, where an advantageous settlement had been offered him.
On the voyage out he formed an acquaintance, in his professional capacity,
with the wife and daughter of Matthew Burt, esq., the governor of St
Christopher’s; the latter of whom he married soon after his arrival on
the island. Having thus formed a connexion with some of the principal
families, he there commenced his career with every prospect of success. To
his medical avocations he now added those of a planter, and by their
united profits soon realized an independency.
On the conclusion of the war, Dr Grainger
returned for a short time to England. While there, he published (1764) the
result of his West India experience, in a poem entitled the "Sugar
Cane." This work was also much praised at the time, and certainly
does possess many passages of great beauty; but without arraigning the
author’s talents, since his subject precluded any thing like sentiment
or dignity, it cannot be considered in any other light, than as an
ill-judged attempt to elevate things in themselves mean and wholly adapted
In the same year (1764) he also published
"An Essay on the more common West India diseases, and the remedies
which that country itself produces; to which are added, some hints on the
management of Negroes." Besides these works, Dr Grainger was the
author of an exceedingly pleasing ballad, entitled "Bryan and Pereene."
After a short residence in England, he returned to St Christopher’s,
where he died on the 24th December, 1767, of one of those
epidemic fevers so common in the West Indies.
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