Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cobbold, Richard

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COBBOLD, RICHARD (1797–1877), novelist, born in 1797 at Ipswich, the youngest but one of twenty-one children, was the son of John Cobbold of Holywells and the Cliff Brewery, Ipswich, by his second wife, Elizabeth [see Cobbold, Elizabeth], daughter of Robert Knipe of Liverpool. His grandmother on the maternal side, whose maiden name was Waller, was descended from Edmund Waller, the poet. The literary tastes of his mother probably had some influence upon the son. Richard was educated at Bury St. Edmunds under Charles the father of Bishop Blomfield, and proceeded to Caius College, Cambridge, where he gained a scholarship and graduated in 1820. After serving as curate in Ipswich he became rector of Wortham (which he held for half a century) and rural dean of Hartismere. Here he developed into a typical country parson, would ride across country at times with the hounds, and was a keen sportsman with rod and gun. For several years he acted as chaplain to the union, only asking as stipend that the children with their master and mistress should attend the Sunday services at his church. In 1822 he married the only daughter of Jeptha Waller, by whom he had three sons, one of them being the celebrated helminthologist, Thomas Spencer Cobbold, M.D. [q. v.] Cobbold is best known as the author of the 'History of Margaret Catchpole,' a novel based on the romantic adventures of a girl living in the neighbourhood of Ipswich, in whom Cobbold's father had taken a kindly interest [see Catchpole, Margaret]. For the copyright of this book he is said to have received 1,000l. but Cobbold did not make much money by his other literary ventures, which were mostly undertaken for charitable purposes. Thus his account of 'Mary Ann Wellington' brought in no less than 600l, much of it in small gifts, for the subject of the book, who was afterwards placed in an almshouse by Cobbold's exertions.

Cobbold was of unwearied activity both in mind and body, never without a pen, pencil, or paint-brush in his hand, and a great reader. To large conversational powers he added a quick apprehension, a remarkable memory, lively humour, and wide and generous sympathies. He was devoted to the church of England, always ready to impress its doctrines on others by example and exhortation. He died on 5 Jan. 1877, in his eightieth year.

His works range from 1827 to 1858. Besides several religious pieces, sermons, and addresses, they are chiefly:

  1. 'Zenon the Martyr,' 3 vols. 1827.
  2. 'Mary Ann Wellington, the Soldier's Daughter, Wife, and Widow,' 1846.
  3. 'The History of Margaret Catchpole, a Suffolk Girl,' 1845.
  4. 'The Young Man's Home,' 1848.
  5. 'J. H. Steggall, a Real History of a Suffolk Man,' 1851.
  6. 'Courtland,' a novel, 1852.
  7. 'Preston Tower, or the Early Days of Cardinal Wolsey,' 1850.

He also wrote, in 1827, 'Valentine Verses,' which he illustrated with spirited pen-and-ink etchings.

[Private information from Rev. E. A. Cobbold and others.]

M. G. W.