Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities

*    *    *    *    *

Literary Chronicle
New Monthly Magazine
Monthly Review
Notes and Queries
Gibson and Laing
Halkett and Laing
Scottish Notes & Queries

Part I. (Volume I.)
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson



James Græme [note] was born at Carnwath, in Lanarkshire, in the month of December, 1749. He was the youngest son of a poor farmer; but happening to present a greater promise of talent than any of his brothers, was, according to a policy very common with Scottish families in this walk of life, selected to be put forth in some learned profession, while the others were left, as their fathers had been before them, to find their destiny at the plough tail. At the age of fourteen, young James was sent to the grammar school of the neighbouring town of Lanark, then taught by a Mr. Robert Thomson, brother-in-law to the author of “The Seasons.” [note] During four years' attendance at this seminary, he appears to have so much distinguished himself above his school fellows for classical learning, as to be looked upon somewhat in the light of a prodigy, not only by his master, but by all who were supposed competent to judge on the subject. In the composition of Latin poetry, he was thought particularly to excel, and much was said of a Sapphic ode, which he wrote when only fifteen, entitled Descriptio Scholæ Lanarcensis, in which he described the occupations and pastimes of the scholars during the hours allotted for recreation. The time at length came, when he was to take his departure for the University; and a degree of ceremony attended the event, which could scarcely have been ex-
ceeded, had it been the admirable Crichton, who was to be launched into the world. A public examination of the school took place, at which the ministers of the Presbytery of Lanark and the magistrates of the town acted as examinaters; and before these high authorities in classical literature, young Græme pronounced a valedictory oration in Latin, which is said to have deserved and called forth great applause.


In 1762, Græme was matriculated of the University of Edinburgh; and although he had now to contend with the best scholars of various masters, it was still his good fortune to bear away the palm. We are told, that in classical learning he had no superior of the same standing; that he spoke and composed in Latin with fluency and elegance, and had even commenced writing in Greek.


In mathematics and natural philosophy, he made also great progress; he delighted too in metaphysics, and was, what Franklin says all Scottish students are, prone to disputation.


At the close of his first session at College, he was engaged by Laurence Brown, esq. of Edmonston, who then resided at Easthils, in the parish of Dunsyre, to assist the studies of his sons, and in this family he passed the summer of 1768. While living here, he is said to have become acquainted with a young lady, whose beauty and accomplishments made a deep impression on his heart, and first led him to attune his harp to those amatory strains, which constitute his chief claims to poetical distinction. She was alternately the Mira and the Eliza of his muse.


In 1769, Græme attracted the notice of Mr. Lockhart, [note] then Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, after-
wards a judge of the Court of Session, by the title of Lord Covington, through whose interest he was presented to a Bursary or Exhibition at St. Andrew's. On repairing thither however, he found that the acceptance of the bursary would subject him to repeat a course of languages and philosophy which the extent of his acquirements rendered now superfluous and he was therefore reluctantly obliged to decline availing himself of the presentation.


In 1770, he resumed his studies at Edinburgh, and having finished the usual preparatory course, entered himself of the Divinity Hall, with the design of qualifying himself for the church.


During the following summer, he was employed as a tutor in the family of Martin White, esq. of Milton, near Lanark; but a state of ill-health which had been for some time gaining ground upon him, forced him on the approach of winter to return home to his parents, in order to receive those attentions which his situation required, and which the hand of parental affection could best bestow. His disease presented at length all the features of a deep consumption. He lingered through the winter and spring, occasionally relieving the pains of sickness, by composing verses and corresponding with his friends, but at last expired without a groan on the 26th of July, 1772, in the twenty-second year of his age.


Græme is described, by those who knew him, to have been of a very manly and prepossessing appearance. “He had a lively and penetrating eye; his features were expressive, his gestures animated, and all his movements were marked with extraordinary energy and vivacity. He was social, cheerful, and affectionate,
and by those friends who thoroughly knew him, beloved, even to enthusiasm.”


He had begun to make a collection of his poetical pieces for publication, when the inroads of disease made him suspend the task. It was, after his death, completed by his friend Dr. Anderson, [note] and published in 1773, in one volume 8vo., under the title of “Poems on several occasions, by James Græme,” with a prefatory Account of his Life and Character. Dr. Anderson has also given his works a place in his collection of British Poets. [note]


From partiality to the memory of his friend, Dr. Anderson has however much transgressed the bounds of a discreet praise. He has assigned Græme a station of importance, which there is nothing in his poetry, even in the way of promise, to justify. Græme had certainly attained to considerable ease in versification, but he no where exhibits the fire of genius. He abounds in conceits, and not unfrequently offends by coarseness. In one of his elegies to Mira, (“in the manner of Tibullus!” [note] ) the delicate theme is all about flannel night-caps and grisly beards. Dr. Anderson has even carried his injudicious admiration so far, as to republish the “Sapphic Ode,” as it was called, which Græme wrote at school, and to recommend it as “a very correct and manly performance for a boy of fifteen.” Now it so happens, that this “correct and manly performance,” though it only extends to sixteen lines, contains, as an English critic has been a pains to point out,* no less than forty-five faults! It is scarcely necessary after this to say, what degree

* British Critic, vol. vii.
of credit is due to all that has been said of Græme's wonderful proficiency in Latin composition. It is evident that he must have been indebted for his reputation in this respect, to persons who knew nothing of the subject; and for the credit of Scotch Latinity, it is to be hoped, that that reputation was not quite so extensive as his friendly editor would have the world to believe.

S. Y.