James Grainger

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James Grainger (c.1721–1766) Scottish doctor, poet and translator, is well-known figure in 18th-century English literature. Grainger graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh in 1753. He is best known for his poem "Sugar-Cane" (1764). He lived in St. Kitts from 1759 on.[1]


James Grainger was born about 1721 in Duns, Berwickshire, in southeast Scotland, the son of a tax collector. Grainger studied medicine at Edinburgh University, served as a military surgeon between 1745 and 1748 and settled in practice in London, where he became the friend of Dr. Johnson, William Shenstone, and other authors. Grainger's first poem, "Solitude", appeared in 1755. He subsequently went to the West Indies (St. Kitts), where he married and remained until his death.

In 1764, Grainger published Essay on the more common West-India Diseases, the first work from the anglophone Caribbean devoted to the diseases and treatment of slaves. A self-taught Latinist, he published translations of classical Latin poems, the most notable being the Elegies of Tibullus. The poem "Sugar-Cane" remains one of the best descriptions of working life on an eighteenth-century sugar plantation.



  • The Sugar Cane - A Poem in Four Parts (1764), London: R. and J. Dodsley [1]
  • Poems of James Grainger (1810)


  • Essays Physical and Literary (1756)


  • The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition. "James Grainger" by Thomas W. Krise. [2]
  • Thomas W. Krise (ed.), Caribbeana: An Anthology of English Literature of the West Indies, 1657-1777, 1999.
  • Steven W. Thomas, "Doctoring Ideology: James Grainger's The Sugar Cane and the Bodies of Empire" in Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 2006, pp. 78–111.[3]