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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/David Gray

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GRAY, David (1838-1861), Scottish poet, was the son of a hand-loom weaver, and was born at Merkland, a small village on the banks of the Luggie, about 8 miles from Glasgow, January 29, 1838. His parents, observing his fondness for study and his exceptional cleverness, resolved to educate him for the church, and through their self-denial and his own exertions as a pupil teacher and private tutor, he was able, after receiving the rudiments of education at the parish school of Kirkintilloch, to complete a course of four sessions at the university of Glasgow. It soon, however, became evident that the vision of poetry and world fame had begun to lure him away from the path which his parents desires had marked out for him. His most intimate companion at this time was Robert Buchanan, the now well-known poet; and in May 1860 the two agreed to proceed to London, with the indefinite purpose of finding some kind of employment in connexion with literature. Shortly after his arrival in London Gray introduced himself to Mr Monckton Milnes, now Lord Houghton, with whom he had previously corresponded, who, though unsuccessful in his application for a place for Gray's poem, "The Luggie," in the Cornhill Magazine, gave him some light literary work. He also showed him great attention when a cold which had seized him assumed the serious form of consumption, and procured him the means of staying for a time in the south of England; but as the disease made rapid progress, an irresistible longing seized Gray to return to Merkland, where he arrived in January 1861, and died on the 3d December following, having the day before had the gratification of seeing a printed specimen copy of his poem The Luggie. He was buried in the Auld Aisle Churchyard, Kirkintilloch, where in 1865 a monument was erected by "friends far and near" to his memory.

The Luggie, the principal poem of Gray, is a kind of reverie in which the scenes and events of his childhood and his early aspirations are mingled with the music of the stream which he celebrates. The series of sonnets In the Shadows, composed during the latter part of his illness, possess, without the smallest taint of morbidness, a touching and solemn beauty in keeping with the circumstances in which they were written. Most of his poems necessarily bear traces of immaturity, and lines may frequently be found in them which are mere echoes from Thomson, Wordsworth, or Tennyson, but they possess, nevertheless, the distinct individuality of true genius. They nearly all have a direct or indirect reference to phases of outward nature, and they give evidence of an underlying wealth of imagination and sentiment, of a true and vigorous power of conception, and of a gift of clear and strong, yet subtle and tender, musical utterance, which apparently only required to have been mellowed by time and experience in order to have fashioned a poetry which would have given him an enduring name in English literature.

The Luggie and other Poems, with an introduction by R. Monckton Milnes, and a brief memoir by James Hedderwick, was published in 1862, and a new and enlarged edition of Gray's Poetical Works, edited by the late Sheriff Glassford Bell, appeared in 1874. See also the "Essay on David Gray," published originally in Cornhill Magazine, and reprinted in David Gray and other Essays, by Robert Buchanan, 1868, and the poem on David Gray, reprinted therefrom Idyls and Legends of Inverburn.