1833 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Grahame

Allan Cunningham, in "Biographical and Critical History of the Literature of the last Fifty Years" The Athenaeum (26 October 1833) 720.



The poem of The Sabbath will long endear the name of James Grahame to all who love the due observance of Sunday, and are acquainted with the devout thoughts and poetic feeling which it inspires. Nor will he be remembered for this alone; his British Georgics and Birds of Scotland, rank with those productions whose images and sentiments take silent possession of the mind, and abide there when more startling and obtrusive things are forgotten. There is a quiet natural ease about all his descriptions; a light and shade both of landscape and character in all his pictures, and a truth and beauty which prove that he copied from his own emotions, and painted with the aid of his own eyes, without looking, as Dryden said, through the spectacles of books. To his fervent piety as well as poetic spirit the public has borne testimony, by purchasing many copies of his works. The Birds of Scotland is a fine series of pictures, giving the form, the plumage, the haunts, and habits of each individual bird, with a graphic fidelity rivalling the labours of [Alexander] Wilson. His drama of Mary Stuart wants that passionate and happy vigour which the stage requires; some of his songs are natural and elegant; his Sabbath Walks, Biblical Pictures, and Rural Calendar, are all alike remarkable for accuracy of description and an original turn of thought. He was born at Glasgow, 22nd April, 1765; his father, who was a writer, educated him for the bar, but he showed an early leaning to the Muses, and such a love of truth and honour as hindered him from accepting briefs which were likely to lead him out of the paths of equity and justice. His Sabbath was written and published in secret, and he had the pleasure of finding the lady whom he had married among its warmest admirers; nor did her admiration lessen when she discovered the author. His health declined; he accepted the living of Sedgemore, near Durham, and performed his duties eloquently and well till within a short time of his death, which took place 14th September, 1814.