The Rev. James Gray, the friend of Burns, and himself a poet of no mean pretensions, was originally master of the High School of Dumfries, and associated a good deal with Burns while residing in that town. He was afterwards appointed to the High School of Edinburgh, where he taught with much reputation for upwards of twenty years, but being disappointed in obtaining the rectorship, he quitted that situation, and was made rector of the academy at Belfast. He subsequently entered into holy orders, and went out to India as a chaplain in the Hon. East India Company's service. He was stationed at Bhooj in Cutch, near the mouths of the Indus; and the education of the young Rao of that province having been entrusted to the British government, Mr. Gray was selected as well qualified for the office of instructor to that prince, being the first Christian who was ever honoured with such an appointment in the East. He died there in September 1830, deeply regretted by all who knew him, having been much esteemed for the primitive simplicity of his heart and manners. He was the author of Cuna of Cheyd, and the Sabbath among the Mountains; besides innumerable miscellaneous pieces. He left in manuscript a poem, entitled India, and a translation of the Gospels into the Cutch dialect of the Hindostanee.
Mr. Gray married Mary Philips, eldest sister of Mrs. Hogg, wife of the Ettrick Shepherd, and his family mostly settled in India. "He was," says Hogg, "a man of genius, but his genius was that of a meteor, it wanted steadying. A kinder and more disinterested heart than his never beat in a human bosom." Hogg introduced him into the Queen's Wake, as the fifteenth bard who sung the ballad of King Edward's Dream. He is thus described:
The next was bred on southern shore,
Beneath the mists of Lammermore,
And long, by Nith and crystal Tweed,
Had taught the Border youth to read.
The strains of Greece, the bard of Troy,
Were all his theme and all his joy.
Well-toned his voice of wars to sing;
His hair was dark as raven's wing;
His eye an intellectual lance;
No heart could bear its searching glance:
But every bard to him was dear;
His heart was kind, his soul sincere....
Alike to him the south or north,
So high he held the minstrel worth,
So high his ardent mind was wrought,
Once of himself he scarcely thought.
Dear to his heart the strains sublime,
The strain admired to ancient time;
And of his minstrel honours proud,
He strung his harp too high, too loud.