Richards, William (1643-1705) (DNB00)

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RICHARDS, WILLIAM (1643–1705), author, born at Helmdon, Northamptonshire, in 1643, was son of Ralph Richards, rector of that place from 1641 to 1668. He entered Trinity College, Oxford, in 1658 as a commoner, matriculated 3 May 1659, and became a scholar 13 June 1661. He graduated B.A. 24 Feb. 1663, M.A. 1666, and was elected a fellow of his college on 15 June 1666. He took holy orders, and was chosen preacher at Marston, Oxfordshire. Upon his father's death in 1668, Richards, to whom the living of Helmdon reverted, appointed to it Thomas Richards, probably a relative, and continued to hold his fellowship until 1675, when he instituted himself to Helmdon. In June 1673 he undertook a journey into Wales on business for a friend. The result was the publication in London in 1682 of a small satirical work entitled ‘Wallography, or the Britton described,’ dedicated with fanciful rhetoric to Sir Richard Wenman of Casswell. This witty trifle, published under Richards's initials only, was subsequently, in error, ascribed to Swift. In the preface to a second anonymous edition, entitled ‘Dean Swift's Ghost’ (London, 1753), the editor accused Richards of imitating Swift. Some resemblance is apparent between Richards's satire and portions of ‘Gulliver's Travels,’ but Swift was only fifteen years of age when Richards's work was written.

Richards, who was a nonjuror, was appointed on 25 July 1689 by the corporation of Newcastle-on-Tyne lecturer of St. Andrew's in that city. He was buried in the chancel of St. Andrew's on 22 Aug. 1705. His portrait, painted by Kneller, was engraved by T. Smith in 1688.

Besides ‘Wallography’ he wrote ‘The English Orator, or Rhetorical Descant by way of Declamation upon some notable themes, both Historical and Philosophical,’ 2 parts, London, 1680, 8vo. Wood says he translated and edited with notes (completed in 1690) the ‘Nova Reperta, sive Rerum memorabilium libri duo’ of Guido Panciroli. An anonymous English translation was published in 1715 (London, 2 vols).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 269, 678; Baker's Northamptonshire, i. 632; Bridges's Hist. of Northamptonshire, ed. Whalley, i. 174; Brand's Hist. of Newcastle, i. 194.]

C. F. S.