Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cracherode, Clayton Mordaunt

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CRACHERODE, CLAYTON MORDAUNT (1730–1799), book and print collector, came from an ancient family long resident in Essex, the name of Mordaunt being derived from an alliance in the sixteenth century with the Mordaunts of Turvey in Bedfordshire. His father, Colonel Mordaunt Cracherode, had command of the marines in Anson's voyage round the world; his mother was Mary, daughter of Thomas Morice, paymaster of the British forces in Portugal, and sister of William Morice, high bailiff ofWestminster, who married Atterbury's eldest daughter. Clayton Cracherode was born at Taplow, Buckinghamshire, on 23 June 1730, and admitted at Westminster School in 1742, whence he was elected second to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1746. He was in the head election at Westminster when Cumberland was at the school, who asserts that Cracherode, though 'grave, studious, and reserved as he was through life,' was also 'correct in morals, elegant in manners . . . pleasant to those who knew him.' While he lived he was a regular attendant at all Westminster meetings, and the second edition of Welch's 'Alumni Westmonasterienses' was much indebted to his manuscript notes in his copy of the first issue at the British Museum. He took the degree of B A. on 4 May 1750, and that of M.A. on 5 April 1763, retaining his studentship at Christ Church until his death. His sole writings were some specimens of Latin verse in the 'Carmina Quadragesimalia,' composed by the students of his house, and printed in 1748 ; and a set of Latin verses in the collection of the university of Oxford on the death of Frederick, prince of Wales, in 1751. Cracherode took orders in the English church, and for some time held the curacy of Binsey, near Oxford, but he neither sought nor obtained any further preferment. On the death of his father in 1773 he inherited an ample fortune, which was estimated on his own death at 800l. a year from landed property and 2,300l. a year in long annuities. The days of this shy recluse passed away among the treasures in his own house or in adding to his stores from his favourite bookshops. He was never on horseback, and never travelled further from London than to the university. So slight was his curiosity that he never saw, except in a drawing, a celebrated chesnut tree on his own estate in Hertfordshire. His manor of Great Wymondley was held from the crown subject to the service of presenting to the king the first cup from which he drinks at his coronation, and the dread of the timid book-lover lest he should at any time be called upon to undertake this service embittered his whole life. Cracherode was both F.R.S. and F.S.A., and in 1784 he was elected a trustee of the British Museum. From the sale of Askew's books in 1775 he was the chief book-buyer of his age. It was his daily habit to walk to Elmaly's, a bookseller in the Strand, and then to the more noted shop of Tom Payne, by the Mewsgate. Though he often declaimed against the high prices which ruled in his day, his purchases never ceased. An agent was buying prints when Cracherode lay on his deathbed, and on his farewell visit to Mewsgate, about four days before his death, he carried away in his ample pockets a 'Terence' and a 'Cebes.' He died 'after a severe struggle, in great pain,' at Queen Square, Westminster, on 5 April 1799, and was buried on 13 April near his mother, in the east cloister of Westminster Abbey. He had never married, and his will, which was drawn up by himself very precisely, though not couched in legal terms, was dated 9 April 1792, and proved on 17 April 1799 by his sister Anne Cracherode (who died on 17 July 1802), sole executrix and residuary legatee, to whom came the whole of his land and personalty, with the exception of 1,000l. for Christ Church, Oxford, 1,000l. for Westminster School, some charitable bequests and slight legacies to Cyril and William Jackson. In the course of his life he had amassed the choicest specimens of the earliest editions in classical and biblical literature, the rarest coins and gems, and the most exquisite prints which money could purchase. He left behind him 4,500 volumes, all of which were remarkable either for the rareness or the excellence of the impression, seven portfolios of drawings, one hundred portfolios of prints, with coins and gems, 'worthy of an imperial cabinet.' The whole of these collections were left by his will to the British Museum; two books only, the Complutensian Polyglot, and the princeps Homer which formerly belonged to De Thou, were excepted. The former he gave to Shute Barrington, bishop of Durham, and the latter to Cyril Jackson; but even these volumes ultimately came to the national collection, as Jackson would not dissever his gift from its former companions, and Barrington, on his death, left his possession to the Museum. His collection of prints comprised splendid examples of Rembrandt and Dürer, and it was the theft by Robert Dighton, a caricaturist, from these treasures which led to the dismissal of Beloe from his post at the Museum. Fortunately an appeal to the virtuosos who had purchased from the thief secured the return of most of the prints. The only likeness of Cracherode, which was taken after his health became impaired, is a drawing in blacklead made by Edridge by the order of Lady Spencer, but the subject of the sketch expressly ordered that it should not be engraved. It was reproduced in Clarke's 'Repertorium Bibliographicum,' and subsequently in Dibdin's 'Bibliographical Decameron.' Cracherode's name is introduced into the 'Pursuits of Literature' by Mathias. The poet Akenside was numbered among his friends, and there is preserved at the Bodleian a copy, formerly the property of Douce, of the following brochure: ' Fragments of a tragedy lately acted at the British Museum. Scene, the shades below, Mr. Cracherode, Mr. Townley, Mr. Steevens, and Mr. Quin . . . Roger and Thomas Payne,' 4to, pp. 3, on which Douce has written 'From the author, St. Weston, 1806, Aug.'

[Dibdin's Bibliog. Decameron, iii. 326-36; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. v. 616, 625, vi. 773-81, viii. 195-7; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 147, viii. 150, 524, ix. 666-7; Edwards's Brit. Mus. ii. 417-22; Gent. Mag. 1799 pt. i. 354-6, 373, 395, 1813 pt. ii. 210; Wright's Essex, i. 644-5; Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey, 439, 461, 467; Welch's Alumni Westmon. (1852), 246, 326, 337-8; Forshall's Westminster School, 235; Cumberland's Memoirs, 49; Fagan's Collectors' Marks, pp. 21-6, and plate C. No. 110.]

W. P. C.