Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Gray, James (d.1773)

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1398851Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 2 — Gray, James (d.1773)1901Lionel Henry Cust

GRAY, Sir JAMES (d. 1773), diplomatist and antiquary, was elder son of Sir James Gray, who was created baronet (of Scotland) by Queen Anne in 1707, and of Hester Dodd, his wife. Horace Walpole said of Gray that 'his father was first a box-keeper and then footman to James II.' In 1744 Gray, who had succeeded his father in the baronetcy, accompanied Robert D'Arcy, fourth earl of Holderness [q. v.], to Venice, and remained there as British resident until 1753, when he was transferred to Naples as envoy extraordinary to the king of Naples and the Two Sicilies. In 1761 he was again transferred as minister plenipotentiary to the king of Spain, and was made a knight of the Bath. Owing to the outbreak of war with Spain in that year, he did not take up his residence at Madrid until 1766. He held that post until his death. He was sworn of the privy council in 1769, and died in London, unmarried, in January 1773.

He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his younger brother, George Gray (d. 1773), colonel of the 17th foot and major-general in the army, who, however, only survived his brother a few weeks, and died in the following February. Their mother, Hester, lady Gray, survived both her sons, and died in 1788, aged 97. She was buried with her sons at Kensington.

Sir James Gray and General Gray are noteworthy as two of the original founders of the Society of Dilettanti in 1732, and they were among the leading spirits of the society. General Gray acted as secretary and treasurer to the society from 1738 to 1771, and was well known in society as an amateur of architecture. In 1750, when British resident in Venice, Sir James Gray met there and made acquaintance with James Stuart (1713-1788) [q. v.] and Nicholas Revett [q. v.], then just about to start for Athens. Through Gray's influence they were elected members of the Society of Dilettanti, which society thereby became identified with the important works on 'The Antiquities of Athens,' published by Stuart and Revett. At Naples he took a leading part in the discoveries at Herculaneum, and in the whole progress of classical research.

Portraits of Sir James Gray and General Sir George Gray in fancy dress are among the series painted by Knapton, and still in the possession of the Society of Dilettanti. The former was one of the party at the celebrated Calves' Head Club dinner, on 30 Jan. 1734, at the White Eagle tavern in Suffolk Street, which resulted in a street riot, and was converted at the moment into a matter of historical importance.

[Gust's History of the Society of Dilettanti; Faulkner's History of Kensington; Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montague.]

L. C.