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After completing his literary course at the University of Glasgow, Grahame went in 1784 to Edinburgh, where he worked as a legal clerk, and was called to the Scottish bar in 1795. However, he had always wanted to go in for the Church, and when he was forty-four he took Anglican orders, and became a curate first at Shipton, Gloucestershire, and then at Sedgefield, Durham.
His works include a dramatic poem, Mary Queen of Scots (1801), The Sabbath (1804), British Georgics (1804), The Birds of Scotland (1806), and Poems on the Abolition of the Slave Trade in a joint volume on the subject with Elizabeth Benger and James Montgomery (1809). His principal work, The Sabbath, a sacred and descriptive poem in blank verse, is characterized by devotional feeling and by happy delineation of Scottish scenery. In the notes to his poems he expresses enlightened views on popular education, the criminal law and other public questions. He was emphatically a friend of humanity—a philanthropist as well as a poet.
He was married to Ann Grahame, eldest daughter of Richard Grahame, Esq., but did not have any children.
A memorial to Grahame lies on the inner north wall of Glasgow Cathedral.
- "Significant Scots | Rev James Grahame". www.electricscotland.com. Retrieved 27 January 2017.