Pococke, Richard (DNB00)
|←Pococke, Edward||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46
POCOCKE, RICHARD (1704–1765), traveller, was born at Southampton in 1704. He was the son of Richard Pococke, LL.B. (1660–1710). His grandfather, also Richard Pococke, LL.B., was rector of Colmer, Hampshire, from 1660 to his death in 1719. His father was headmaster of the King Edward VI Free Grammar School, and curate, under sequestration, of All Saints' Church in Southampton; his mother was Elizabeth, only daughter of the Rev. Isaac Milles [q. v.], rector of Highclere, Hampshire. He was educated by his grandfather Milles, at his school at Highclere rectory. He matriculated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 13 July 1720, and graduated B.A. 1725, B.C.L. 1731, D.C.L 1733. In 1725 he was appointed to the precentorship of Lismore Cathedral by his uncle, Thomas Milles [q. v.], bishop of Waterford and Lismore, of whose dioceses he in 1734 became vicar-general. From 1733 to 1736 he made tours in France, Italy, and other parts of Europe, with his cousin Jeremiah Milles [q. v.], dean of Exeter. Imbued with a passion for travel, he planned a visit to the East. On 29 Sept. 1737 he reached Alexandria, and proceeded to Rosetta, where he visited Cosmas, the Greek patriarch. He endeavoured to discover the site of Memphis, and visited Lake Moeris. In December he embarked for Upper Egypt, and on 9 Jan. 1738 reached Dendereh. He visited Thebes, but did not go up the Nile beyond Philæ. The traveller Frederick Lewis Norden [q. v.] went as far as Derr, and the two explorers passed one another in the night, Norden going up the Nile and Pococke returning. Pococke reached Cairo in February 1738. He next visited Jerusalem, and bathed in the Dead Sea, to test a statement of Pliny's. He travelled in northern Palestine, and explored Balbec. He also visited Cyprus, Candia (where he ascended Mount Ida), parts of Asia Minor, and Greece. Leaving Cephalonia, he landed at Messina in November 1740. He visited Naples, and twice ascended Vesuvius. He passed through Germany, and on 19 June 1741, with an armed party, explored the Mer de Glace in the valley of Chamounix, where a boulder has been in remembrance inscribed by the Swiss ‘Richard Pococke, 1741.’ As the travellers stood on the ice, they drank the health of Admiral Vernon. An account of the expedition appeared in the ‘Mercure de Suisse’ for 1743, and Pococke came to be regarded as the pioneer of Alpine travel. Pococke returned to England in 1742, and in 1743 published vol. i. of ‘A Description of the East,’ containing ‘Observations on Egypt.’ Vol. ii. of the ‘Description,’ consisting of observations on Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Cyprus, Candia, Asia Minor, Greece, and parts of Europe, was published in 1745, and dedicated to the Earl of Chesterfield, lord lieutenant of Ireland, to whom Pococke was domestic chaplain. The work attained great celebrity, and Gibbon (Decline and Fall, chap. li. note 69) described it as of ‘superior learning and dignity,’ though he objected that its author too often confounded what he had seen with what he had heard.
In 1744 Pococke was made precentor of Waterford, and in 1745 Philip Dormer Stanhope, earl of Chesterfield [q. v.], gave him the archdeaconry of Dublin. In 1756 he was appointed to the bishopric of Ossory, and, on settling in the palace of Kilkenny, began the restoration of the cathedral church of St. Canice, then in a ruinous state. He personally superintended the workmen, sometimes from four o'clock in the morning (Ledwich in Vallancey's Collectanea, ii. 460–2). He encouraged Irish manufactures, and about 1763 established the Lintown factory in the suburbs of Kilkenny for the instruction of boys, chiefly foundlings, in the art of weaving. Under the name of ‘Pococke College,’ the institution is still carried on, on a new system, by the Incorporated Society for Promoting English Protestant Schools in Ireland. In June 1765 Pococke was translated from Ossory to Elphin, Bishop Gore being then promoted to Meath. Gore, however, declined to take out his patent, on account of the expense, and Pococke was in July translated to the bishopric of Meath. In the demesne at Ardbraccan he planted the seeds of cedars of Lebanon, still standing.
Pococke, at various periods of his life, made several tours in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Of these he wrote, and arranged for publication, full descriptive accounts, sometimes illustrated by his own drawings. These manuscripts have only been printed in recent years, or Pococke, rather than Thomas Pennant [q. v.], would have been reputed the first systematic explorer of comparatively unknown regions of Great Britain. His tours in England were made chiefly from 1750 to 1757 and in later years, and the descriptions are simply written and exact in detail. He made an Irish tour in 1752, the account of which is valuable as illustrating the social condition of Ireland, especially in Connaught. Starting from Dublin, he went north to the Giant's Causeway, concerning which he published papers in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ for 1748 and 1753. He visited Donegal, Erris, Achill, and Belmullet, travelling—as usual on his tours—on horseback, with outriders. He had previously made an Irish tour in 1749 through Connaught, Clare, Kerry, and Cork, but the manuscript account has never been published. Pococke made various observations on the natural history of Ireland, and a paper by him on ‘Irish Antiquities’ was printed in the ‘Archæologia,’ vol. ii. He gave assistance to Mervyn Archdall [q. v.], his chaplain, when bishop of Ossory, in the preparation of his ‘Monasticon Hibernicum.’
Pococke visited Scotland in 1747 and 1750, and in April 1760 started for a six months' journey, during which he visited Iona and the Orkneys, Sutherland and Caithness. He was made burgess of Aberdeen, Glasgow, and other Scottish cities, and returned to London on 29 Oct. 1760.
Pococke died of apoplexy in September 1765 at Charleville near Tullamore, Ireland, while on a visitation. He was buried in Bishop Montgomery's tomb at Ardbraccan, and on the south side of the monument is a small slab with a memorial inscription. There is also a monument to him in the cathedral of St. Canice, Kilkenny. A portrait of Pococke in oils hangs in the board-room in Harcourt Street, Dublin, of the Incorporated Society for Promoting English Protestant Schools, and is reproduced in Kemp's edition of Pococke's ‘Tours in Scotland’ (frontispiece). A full-length portrait of him in Turkish dress, by Liotard, was once in the possession of Milles, dean of Exeter. Pococke is described by Richard Cumberland (Memoirs) as a man of solemn air, ‘of mild manners, and primitive simplicity.’ In conversation he was remarkably reticent about his travels. Mrs. Delany, whom Pococke entertained when archdeacon of Dublin, found her host and his entertainments dull. Bishop Forbes, however, speaks of his geniality when on one of his Scottish tours. Pococke was a member of the Egyptian Club (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. v. 334) and of the Spalding Society, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 11 Feb. 1741.
Pococke's collection of Greek, Roman, and English coins and medals was sold in London at auction by Langford on 27–28 May 1766. The ‘Sale Catalogue’ consists of 117 lots, including some ancient jewellery (priced copy in Department of Coins, Brit. Mus.). His collection of antiquities, and his minerals and fossils (partly collected in his Scottish travels), were sold by Langford on 5–6 June 1766. By his will Pococke left his property (which consisted partly of an estate at Newtown, Hampshire) in trust to the Incorporated Society for Promoting English Protestant Schools in Ireland for the purpose of endowing the weaving-school at Lintown ‘for Papist boys who shall be from 12 to 16 years old … said boys to be bred to the Protestant Religion, and to be apprenticed to the Society for seven years.’ His sister, Elizabeth Pococke, had a life interest in his property. Pococke left his manuscripts to the British Museum. Some of these were handed over on 9 May 1766, but several volumes were withheld and remained in private hands. The manuscript of the Scotch tours and two volumes of travels in England were bought by the British Museum at the sale of Dean Milles's library at Sotheby's on 15 April 1843 for 33l. Further volumes of travels through England were purchased by the museum at the sale of Dawson Turner's library in 1859. The original manuscript of the ‘Tour in Ireland in 1752’ is at Trinity College, Dublin. Among Pococke's manuscripts in the British Museum are the minutes and registers of the Philosophical Society at Dublin from 1683 to 1687 and in later years, with copies of the papers read. There are also manuscripts relating to his travels in Egypt (Prince Ibrahim-Hilmy, Lit. of Egypt, ii. pp. 124, 125).
Pococke's published writings are as follows: 1. ‘A Description of the East and some other Countries,’ 2 vols. London, 1743–1745 fol., with 178 plates. This is reprinted in Pinkerton's ‘General Collection of Voyages,’ vols x. and xv. There is a French translation, 7 vols. Paris, 1772–3, 12mo; a German translation, Erlangen, 1754–5, 4to; and a Dutch translation, Utrecht, 1776–86. 2. ‘Inscriptionum antiquarum Græc. et Lat. liber. Accedit Numismatum … in Ægypto cusorum … Catalogus, &c. By J. Milles and R. Pococke,’ [London], 1752, fol. 3. ‘Tours in Scotland, 1747, 1750, 1760,’ edited with biographical sketch by D. W. Kemp, 1887 (Scottish History Society Publications, vol. i.). 4. ‘The Tour of Dr. R. Pococke … through Sutherland and Caithness in 1760,’ ed. D. W. Kemp, 1888 (Sutherland Association Papers). 5. ‘The Travels through England of Dr. R. Pococke,’ ed. J. J. Cartwright, 1888, 4to (Camden Soc. new ser. xlii.). 6. ‘Pococke's Tour in Ireland in 1752,’ ed. G. T. Stokes, Dublin, 1891, 8vo.[Memoir in Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 157; Georgian Era, 1854, iii. 16 f.; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Graves and Prim's Hist. of St. Canice, 1857, passim; introductions to the editions of Pococke's Travels, by D. W. Kemp, J. J. Cartwright, and G. T. Stokes; Brit. Mus. Cat. and authorities cited above.]