Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gray, Robert (1762-1834)

GRAY, ROBERT (1762–1834), bishop of Bristol, born 11 March 1762, was the son of Robert Gray, a London silversmith. Having entered St. Mary Hall, Oxford, he graduated B.A. 1784, M.A. 1787, B.D. 1799, and D.D. 1802. His first literary undertaking was his ‘Key to the Old Testament and Apocrypha; or, an Account of their several Books, their Contents and Authors, and of the Times in which they were respectively written;’ a work compiled on the plan of Bishop Percy's ‘Key to the New Testament,’ first published in 1790, and repeatedly reprinted. Soon after he was presented to the vicarage of Faringdon, Berkshire. In 1793 he published 'Discourses on various subjects, illustrative of the Evidence, Influence, and Doctrines of Christianity;' and in 1794, 'Letters during the course of a Tour through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, in 1791 and 1792.' In 1796 he was appointed Bampton lecturer, and his discourses were published the same year, under the title of 'Sermons on the Principles upon which the Reformation of the Church of England was established.' Through the favour of Shute Barrington [q. v.], bishop of Durham, he was promoted, in 1800, to the rectory of Crayke, Yorkshire, when he resigned Faringdon; in 1804 he was collated by Barrington to the seventh stall in Durham Cathedral, and again, in 1805, to the rectory of Bishopswearmouth, when he resigned Crayke. He held this living (in which he had succeeded Paley) until his elevation, in 1827, to the bishopric of Bristol.

He was an efficient and liberal bishop, and distinguished himself by firmness in the Bristol riots of 1831. When one of the minor canons suggested a postponement of divine service, as the rioters were masters of the city, Gray replied that it was his duty to be at his post. The service was held as usual, and he was himself the preacher. Before the close of the evening his palace was burned to the ground, and the loss which he sustained (besides that of his papers) was estimated at 10,000l. (Southey, Life and Correspondence, vi. 167). His wife was Elizabeth, sister of Alderman Camplin of Bristol, by whom he had a numerous family. One son, Robert [q. v.], became bishop of Cape Town and metropolitan of Africa. He died at Rodney House, Clifton, 28 Sept. 1834, and was buried in the graveyard attached to Bristol Cathedral. A half-length portrait of him, in his episcopal robes, painted by Wright and engraved by Jenkins, was published in 1833. A marble monument by Edward H. Bayly, R.A., was erected in the cathedral by the clergy and laity of Bristol. It has a good medallion likeness. And a large memorial window, with an inscription, was erected by his family in the chancel of Almondsbury Church, near Bristol.

Besides the above works, Gray published some separate sermons, and the following:

  1. 'Religious Union,' a sketch of a plan for uniting Roman catholics and presbyterians with the established church, 1800.
  2. 'A Dialogue between a Churchman and a Methodist,' 1802, 5th edit. 1810.
  3. 'Theory of Dreams,' 2 vols., 1808, anonymous.
  4. Discourse at Bishopswearmouth, 1812, upon the assassination of Perceval.
  5. 'The Connection between the Sacred Writings and the Literature of the Jewish and Heathen Authors, particularly that of the Classical Ages,' &c., 2 vols., 1816; 2nd edition 1819.

[Gent. Mag. 1834, new. ser. ii. 645; Annual Register, 1834, Ixxvi. Chron. 242; Brit. Mag. 1834, vi. 583; Cat. of Oxford Graduates, p. 270; Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, iv. 4; Pryce's Hist. of Bristol, pp. 91, 112, 114, 566; Lowndes's Bibl. Man., Bonn's ed., ii. 930; Life of Robert Gray, Bishop of Cape Town, i. 4, 30, 33.]

B. H. B.