TitleCollection of James Grainger
DescriptionGrainger was born at Duns, Berwickshire, between 1721 and 1724, the son, from the second marriage, of John Grainger of Houghton Hall, Cumberland. On the death of his father, Grainger's half-brother, William Grainger, sent him to school at North Berwick, after which he studied medicine at Edinburgh University for three years, and was apprenticed to George Lauder, a surgeon in the city. Entering the army as a surgeon, he served in Lieutenant-General Pulteney's infantry regiment during the rebellion of 1745, and in the Netherlands in 1746-8.

Grainger graduated MD at Edinburgh in 1753. In the same year he printed his Historia febris anomalae Batavæ annorum 1746, 1747, 1748, … Accedunt monita siphylica, giving an account of his military medical experiences during an epidemic among the troops in Holland. Sir John Pringle's elaborate work on the same subject had appeared a year earlier, and Grainger's effort failed to attract attention.

Grainger settled in London after 1753, established a practice in Bond Court, Walbrook, and met literary figures such as Samuel Johnson and Tobias Smollett. In spite of his reputed ability, Grainger failed to obtain patients, and depended chiefly on his writing for a livelihood. From May 1756 to May 1758 he wrote on poetry and drama in the Monthly Review, and, not wholly neglecting medicine, he published a paper on 'An obstinate case of dysentery cured by lime water' in Essays Physical and Literary (2, 1756, 257). He became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1758.

In April 1759 Grainger left England on a four-year tour of the West Indies with John Bourryau, a former pupil and heir to property there. Their first destination was the island of St Kitts and Grainger started practising as a physician on the island, and was entrusted by his wife's uncle with the management of his estates. Unable to afford to become a planter himself, he indulged in his favourite study of botany, and his scanty savings were invested in the purchase of slaves.

While travelling to different parts of the island to visit his patients, Grainger composed his principal work, The Sugar-Cane, a 2560-line poem in four books on the cultivation of the crop. The poem was published in 1764 and was favourably reviewed by Johnson in the Critical Review. Johnson did censure Grainger for not denouncing the slave trade, even though Grainger recommended throughout a humane treatment of slaves.

Just before the publication of his poem in May 1764, Grainger returned to St Kitts.He died there on 24 December 1766 of 'West Indian fever'.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]

Contents: Notebook, c1752
Extent1 volume
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