Canaan House – Rev Dr Henry Grieve (d. 1810)

A Series of Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings by the late John Kay, Edinburgh 1877, vol 2, no. 211, pp. 117-20.

Dr Grieve was minister of the Old Church, Edinburgh at the time he was caricatured by John Kay in 1793. His head is here attached to the ass, being ridden by Robert Dundas, the Lord Advocate. The satire relates to an attempt to raise the salaries of the Church’s ministers, which failed in Parliament because of strong hostility from the landowners.Grieve and the second ass, Dr Carlyle of Inveresk, were members ofthe moderate party, who had strongly supported the government, and they attacked Dundas for the failure of the Act. Grieve was rash enough to accuse the ministry of ingratitude, and admitted that he had risked the friendship of his flock and his own usefulness as a pastor, in his efforts to serve the government. Dr Bryce Johnstone,who heard Grieve’s complaint at the Assembly of the church, quotedthe advice of an older minister – not to yield to the demands of the ‘heritors’ or patrons of the living against the dictates of his own conscience:

If you once yield to them in anything that iswrong, their exactions will always go on increasing, until, havingbeen driven from concession to concession, you will at last be urgedto a point beyond which you cannot possibly go. Here, then, you willbe obliged to refuse them at last; and what will all your former concessions avail you then? Nothing! On the contrary, that onerefusal, after so long a course of submission, will incense them morethan if you had never yielded to them at all; while the only pleathat will be left to you, in mitigation of their wrath, will be theold one of Balaam’s ass – “Am I not thine ass, on which thouhast ridden ever since I was thine until this day?”

Kay’s satire was drawn in response to this speech.

Grieve’s great-nephew recalled coming to Edinburgh as a boy and seeing Grieve preaching:

He was a relic of the last century, and always appearedon Sundays in a three-cornered cocked hat, tight knee breeches, silkstockings and silver buckles in his shoes.

James L Laurie, ‘Reminiscences of a Town Clerk, 1808-62’, The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, vol. 14, 1925, p. 171.