Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Graves, Richard (1715-1804)

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GRAVES, RICHARD, the younger (1715–1804), poet and novelist, second son of Richard Graves the elder [q. v.] of Mickleton, Gloucestershire, was born there on 4 May 1715. At first he was taught in his father's house by a curate named Smith, with whom he read Hesiod and Homer when but twelve years old, and at the age of thirteen he was sent to the grammar school at Abingdon. Becoming ‘a pretty good Grecian’ he gained a scholarship at Pembroke College, Oxford, and matriculated on 7 Nov. 1732. Among his college friends were Blackstone, Jago, Hawkins, the professor of poetry, all of whom dabbled in rhyme, and Shenstone, afterwards his close friend. George Whitefield was a servitor of Pembroke College, and they took the degree of B.A. on the same day, in July 1736. In the same year he was elected to a fellowship at All Souls' College, when he proceeded to London to study medicine. He attended the lectures of Dr. Frank Nicholls on anatomy, but was prostrated by a nervous fever. He returned to Oxford, and, having taken his master's degree in 1740, was duly ordained. The donative of Tissington in Derbyshire was bestowed upon him by William Fitzherbert, the friend of Dr. Johnson, and for three years Graves was family chaplain at Tissington Hall, where he rambled through the district described in his principal novel, and made the acquaintance of Pratt, afterwards Lord Camden, Sir Edward Wilmot, Nicholas Hardinge, and other distinguished persons. After resigning this charge he made a tour in the north, and at Scarborough met a distant relative, Samuel Knight, archdeacon of Berkshire, and the author of the ‘Life of Colet.’ Knight obtained for him the curacy of Aldworth, near Reading, where the parish registers show him to have been in residence in 1744. As the parsonage was out of repair he lived in the house of a gentleman farmer, Mr. Bartholomew of Dunworth. There he fell in love with and married his host's youngest daughter Lucy, a beautiful but uneducated girl of about sixteen. About 1748 he sent her to London, where she is reported to have acquired good manners and needful knowledge. This marriage lost him his fellowship and offended his relations. He was very poor until, through the interest of Sir Edward Harvey of Langley, near Uxbridge, he was presented in 1748 by William Skrine to the rectory of Claverton, near Bath. He was inducted in July 1749, and came into residence in 1750, and until his death was never absent for a month together from this living. Ralph Allen obtained for him in 1763 the adjoining vicarage of Kilmersdon, and through the same influence Graves was appointed chaplain to the Countess of Chatham. About 1793 he took the rectory of Croscombe, also in Somersetshire, but held it only as a ‘warming-pan.’ He purchased the advowson of Claverton from Allen's representatives in 1767, but afterwards resold it to them. The old rectory house had been built in part by Ralph Allen in 1760, but enlarged by Graves. It is described as ‘a pretty rural spot,’ marked by ‘classic elegance of taste.’ Graves for thirty years took pupils, whom he educated with his own children. Until his parsonage house was enlarged he rented from Mrs. Warburton for sixty pounds a year ‘the great house at Claverton, and the great gallery-library was turned into a dormitory.’ His pupils included Ralph Allen Warburton, the bishop's only son; Henry Skrine of Warleigh, who in his book on the ‘Rivers of Great Britain’ praises the ‘little grounds’ of Claverton rectory; Malthus, the political economist, who ‘was taught little but Latin and good behaviour;’ and Prince Hoare, the artist. Through his preferments and scholars he gradually acquired considerable means, and among his purchases was the manor of Combe in Combe Monckton, Somersetshire. In frame he was short and slender, and he was eccentric both in dress and gait, but his features were expressive and his conversation was marked by a sportive gaiety. This ‘amiable, well-read, and lively old man … was known to all the frequenters of Bath,’ and it was amusing ‘to see him on the verge of ninety walking almost daily to Bath with the briskness of youth.’ A zealous churchman and a whig in politics, he mixed in all shades of society. He was a frequent guest of Allen or the Warburtons at Prior Park, and contributed to the vase at Lady Miller's house at Batheaston. Shenstone paid him repeated visits at Claverton, between 1744 and 1763. Malthus attended his old master during his last illness, and administered the holy sacrament to him. Graves died on 23 Nov. 1804, and was buried in the parish church on 1 Dec., a mural tablet being placed there to his memory. His wife died in 1777, aged 46. In a niche on the south wall of Claverton chancel he placed ‘a handsome festooned urn on a small plain pedestal’ bearing the inscription, ‘Luciæ coniugi carissimæ Ricardus Graves coniux infelicissimus fecit et sibi, ob. Cal. Maii 1777, æt. 46.’ The urn is said to be now in the vestry. Their children were five sons and one daughter. His portrait, painted by Gainsborough when in Bath, was engraved by Basire and Gainsborough Dupont; a second portrait by Northcote was engraved by S. W. Reynolds, 1800.

Graves from early life wrote verses for the magazines. Some of his poems appeared in the collections of Dodsley (iv. 330–7) and Pearch (iii. 133–8). His prose works were more elaborate, and as they were written in a clear and lively style, attained considerable popularity in his day, but are now forgotten, with the exception of his novel, the ‘Spiritual Quixote.’ He was the author of: 1. ‘The Festoon; a Collection of Epigrams’ (anon.), 1766 and 1767. 2. ‘The Spiritual Quixote, or the Summer's Ramble of Mr. Geoffry Wildgoose, a Comic Romance’ (anon.), 1772, 1773, 1774 (two editions), 1783, and 1808, as well as in Mrs. Barbauld's ‘British Novelists,’ and in Walker's ‘British Classics.’ It ridiculed the intrusion of the laity into spiritual functions and the ‘enthusiasm’ of the methodists with a severity asserted even then to have been excessive. The hero has been identified with Sir Harry Trelawny (an assertion refuted by chronology), Joseph Townsend, rector of Pewsey, Wiltshire, and his own brother Charles Caspar Graves, and the novel is said to have originated in the intrusion into the parish of Claverton of a shoemaker from Bradford-on-Avon, who held a meeting in an old house in the village. The plot is skilfully devised, and many of the incidents are amusing. The rambles brought Wildgoose to Bath, Bristol, the Leasowes of Shenstone, and the Peak. A key to several of the personages was supplied by Sir Alleyne Fitzherbert, Lord St. Helen's, to Croker. His own love adventures are portrayed in vol. ii. 3. ‘Galateo, or a Treatise on Politeness,’ translated from the Italian of Giovanni della Casa, archbishop of Benevento, 1774. 4. ‘The Love of Order; a Poetical Essay, in three cantos’ (anon.), 1773. Dedicated to William James of Denford, Berkshire. 5. ‘Euphrosyne; or Amusements on the Road of Life,’ 1776; 3rd edition vol. i. 1783; 2nd edition vol. ii. 1783, with appendix of pieces written for the Poetical Society at Batheaston. 6. ‘Columella; or the Distressed Anchoret, a Colloquial Tale,’ 1779. In praise of an active life as superior to that of a small country gentleman, and probably suggested by the career of Shenstone. 7. ‘Eugenius; or Anecdotes of the Golden Vale’ (anon.), 1785, 2 vols. A tale of life in a Welsh valley. 8. ‘Lucubrations, consisting of Essays, Reveries, &c., by the late Peter of Pontefract,’ 1786. 9. ‘Recollections of some particulars in the Life of the late William Shenstone, in a Series of Letters from an intimate Friend of his [i.e. Graves] to … esq., F.R.S. [William Seward],’ 1788. The fourth elegy by Shenstone is ‘Ophelia's Urn. To Mr. G——’ [Graves], and the eighth elegy is also addressed ‘To Mr. G——, 1745.’ Numerous letters from Shenstone to Graves are in vol. iii. of the former's ‘Works;’ a letter addressed to Mr. —— on his marriage, written 21 Aug. 1748, probably refers to Graves. In the ‘Works,’ ii. 322–3, are ‘To William Shenstone at the Leasowes by Mr. Graves,’ and ‘To Mr. R. D. on the death of Mr. Shenstone,’ signed ‘R. G.’ For the statement by Graves in the ‘Recollections of Shenstone’ that the latter had a share in the compilation of the ‘Reliques,’ Bishop Percy obtained ‘a letter of retractation in form.’ Shenstone's letter to Graves on the death of Whistler is among the manuscripts of Mr. Alfred Morrison. 10. ‘The Rout; or a Sketch of Modern Life, from an Academic in the Metropolis to his Friend in the Country,’ 1789. 11. ‘Plexippus; or the Aspiring Plebeian’ (anon.), 1790, 2 vols. 12. ‘Fleurettes; a translation of Fénelon's “Ode on Solitude.”’ 13. ‘Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, a new translation from the Greek original, with a Life, Notes, &c., by R. Graves,’ 1792; new edition, Halifax, 1826. 14. ‘Hiero on the Condition of Royalty, a Conversation from the Greek of Xenophon, by the Translator of Antoninus,’ 1793. 15. ‘The Heir-Apparent, or the Life of Commodus, from the Greek of Herodian, with a preface adapted to the present time,’ 1789. 15. ‘The Reveries of Solitude, consisting of Essays in Prose, a new translation of the “Muscipula,” and Original Pieces in Verse,’ 1793. 17. ‘The Coalition; or the Opera Rehearsed, a Comedy in three acts,’ 1794. In this was embodied ‘Echo and Narcissus,’ a dramatic pastoral which originally appeared in ‘Euphrosyne,’ vol. ii. 18. ‘The Farmer's Son; a Moral Tale, by the Rev. P. P., M.A.,’ 1795. 19. ‘Sermons,’ with ‘A Letter from a Father to his Son at the University,’ Bath, 1799. 20. ‘Senilities, or Solitary Amusements in Prose and Verse, with a Cursory Disquisition on the Future Condition of the Sexes, by the Editor of the “Reveries of Solitude,”’ 1801. 21. ‘The Invalid, with the Obvious Means of Enjoying Health and Long Life, by a Nonagenarian, editor of the “Spiritual Quixote,”’ &c., 1804; dedicated to Prince Hoare. 22. ‘The Triflers, consisting of Trifling Essays, Trifling Anecdotes, and a few Poetical Trifles, to which are added “The Rout” and “The Farmer's Son.” By the late Rev. R. Graves,’ 1805. The copy belonging to Mr. J. G. Godwin, librarian to Lord Bute, contains some manuscript verses by Graves. An advertisement at the end mentions a proposed new edition of the ‘Spiritual Quixote,’ with a life of Graves, partly written by himself, and completed by extracts from original manuscripts in the possession of his executrix. Mr. Godwin possesses a manuscript collection of poems transcribed and corrected from original sources by Shenstone, which afterwards belonged to Bishop Percy. It includes numerous verses by Graves. Graves wrote the thirtieth number (on grumbling) in the Rev. Thomas Monro's ‘Olla Podrida.’ In the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1815, pt. ii. p. 3, are some ‘Lines written by him under an hour-glass in the grotto at Claverton.’

[Rudder's Gloucestershire, pp. 545–7; Collinson's Somerset, i. 146–50; Nash's Worcestershire, i. 198–9; Hewett's Hundred of Compton, pp. 96–152; R. Warner's Lit. Recollections, ii. 18–21; Lady Luxborough's Letters, pp. 19–20; Peach's Bath Houses, ii. 87–100, Baker's Biog. Dram.; Monkland's Lit. of Bath, pp. 18–20; Bonar's Malthus, pp. 403–4; Sir T. Phillipps's Pedigree of Graves Family; J. C. Smith's Portraits, i. 241; Censura Literaria, vi. 218–19; Foster's Alumni Oxon. vol. ii.; Boswell (Hill's ed.), i. 75; Boswell (1835 ed.), x. 244; Gent. Mag. 1804, pt. ii. pp. 761, 1083, 1165–6; Nichols's Lit. Hist. vii. 79; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 132–5, 746, v. 633–4, viii. 485; Memoir by the Rev. F. Kilvert, published separately in 1858, and included in Remains in Verse and Prose of the Rev. F. Kilvert, pp. 91–115.]

W. P. C.