Keate, George (DNB00)

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KEATE, GEORGE (1729–1797), miscellaneous writer, son and heir of George Keate of Isleworth, Middlesex, who married Rachel Kawolski, daughter of Count Christian Kawolski, was great-grandson of Sir George Hungerford, by Lady Frances Ducie, only daughter of Francis, lord Seymour, and was thus descended from Catherine Seymour, sister of Lady Jane Grey (Hoare, Hungerfordiana, pp. 23–4). He was born at Trowbridge in Wiltshire, where his father had property, on 30 Nov. 1729, though, according to Lysons, his baptism is not entered in the Isleworth register until 29 Nov. 1730. Together with Gilbert Wakefield, Hayley, Baron Maseres, and others, he was educated by the Rev. Richard Wooddeson of Kingston-on-Thames. On leaving school he was articled as clerk to Robert Palmer, steward to the Duke of Bedford, and in the dedication to his ‘Distressed Poet’ he pays a tribute of respect to his old master (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ix. 495). He entered himself at the Inner Temple in 1751, was called to the bar in 1753, and made bencher of his inn in 1791, but never practised. For some years he lived abroad, mainly at Geneva, where he formed an intimate acquaintance with Voltaire, and in 1755 he was at Rome. His correspondence with Voltaire and Dr. Young is now in the British Museum Addit. MSS. 30991–2. After settling in England Keate devoted himself to literature and kindred pursuits. He was in turn poet, naturalist, antiquary, and artist. He published a volume yearly with great regularity, and between 1766 and 1789 he exhibited six pictures at the Society of Artists and thirty at the Royal Academy. Some of his water-colour drawings of views in continental towns and one or two of Margate in 1770 are now the property of Mr. R. W. Henderson. One is in the South Kensington Museum. Miss Burney describes him in her ‘Early Diary’ (i. 52, 305–7), dwelling especially on the frequency with which he was in the habit of talking of his own works. He was elected F.S.A. and F.R.S. in 1766. During the last few years of life his health visibly declined, and he died suddenly at 10 Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury, on 28 June 1797. He was buried at Isleworth on 6 July, and a white marble monument, with bust by Nollekens, was placed to his memory on the north side of the east window, near the spot where he and his wife, who died 18 March 1800, aged 70, were buried. He married in February 1769 Jane Catharine, daughter of Joseph Hudson, sometime Dutch consul at Tunis, and only sister of Sir Charles Grave Hudson, bart., of Wanlip, Leicestershire.

Their issue was one daughter, Georgiana Jane Keate afterwards Mrs. Henderson (1770–1850), who appears to have inherited her father's taste for art, as she exhibited four pictures at the Society of Artists in 1791, and painted from memory a portrait of Prince Lee Boo, fifteen months after his death, for her father's account of the Pelew islands. She married, on 9 June 1796, John Henderson, B.C.L. (1764–1843), of Adelphi Terrace, London, one of the early patrons of Girtin and Turner, and himself an amateur artist. Their children were Charles Cooper Henderson [q. v.], John Henderson (1797–1873) [q. v.], and three daughters, who died unmarried. Two portraits of the mother—one by Angelica Kauffmann, dated 1779, and the other by John Russell, R.A., dated 1792—now belong to her grandson, Colonel Kennett Henderson, C.B. She died 8 Jan. 1850, and was buried in her husband's grave at Kensal Green.

Keate wrote for pleasure, not for profit. His published works were: 1. ‘Ancient and Modern Rome’ [anon.], 1760; a poem in blank verse, written in that city in 1755. 2. ‘Short Account of the Ancient History, present Government and Laws of the Republic of Geneva,’ 1761; dedicated to Voltaire in return for ‘many marks of esteem’ and ‘hours of social mirth and refined entertainment.’ 3. ‘Epistle [in verse] from Lady Jane Grey to Lord Guilford Dudley,’ supposed to have been written in the Tower a few days before they suffered, 1762. 4. ‘The Alps, a Poem,’ 1763; it was dedicated to Dr. Young, and has been praised ‘for truth of description and vigour of imagination.’ 5. ‘Netley Abbey, an Elegy,’ 1764; 2nd edit. 1769, and many times reprinted with Bullar's ‘Visit to Netley Abbey.’ 6. ‘The Temple Student, an Epistle to a Friend,’ 1765, showing the hardness of his lot, doomed to pore over law-books. 7. ‘Poem to the Memory of the celebrated Mrs. Cibber’ [anon.], 1766. 8. ‘Ferney; an Epistle to Voltaire,’ 1768. In praise of Voltaire and his works, but with compliments to Shakespeare, for which the author was rewarded, in the jubilee year 1769, by the mayor and corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon, with an ink-standish made out of a mulberry-tree planted by Shakespeare, and with the freedom of the town. 9. ‘The Monument in Arcadia,’ a dramatic poem in two acts, 1773; suggested by Poussin's picture of the Arcadian shepherds and shepherdesses contemplating a monument with the words ‘Et in Arcadia ego.’ 10. ‘Sketches from Nature, taken and coloured in a Journey to Margate,’ 1779, 2 vols.; an imitation of Sterne, which passed through several editions, and was translated into French. 11. ‘Poetical Works,’ 1781, 2 vols.; they were dedicated to Dr. Heberden, and to them was prefixed Keate's portrait, engraved by J. K. Sherwin from a painting by his intimate friend J. Plott, a pupil of Nathaniel Hone. This included all his published poems, with many additions, the chief of which was one canto of the ‘Helvetiad,’ written at Geneva in 1756, and intended for a description of the famous revolution in Switzerland in the fourteenth century. He was dissuaded by Voltaire from completing it. 12. ‘Epistle to Angelica Kauffman,’ 1781. 13. ‘The Distressed Poet, a Serio-comic Poem,’ 1787; describing his troubles through a protracted suit at common law with his architect, Mr. Adam. 14. ‘Account of the Pelew Islands, from the Journals of Captain Henry Wilson and some of his officers, shipwrecked there in the Antelope in August 1783,’ 1788; it was often reprinted (the best edition being that with a supplement by J. P. Hockin in 1803), and was translated into French (1793) and German (1800). The French translation has been attributed to Mirabeau.

Some of Keate's poems are in Pearch's ‘Collection,’ iii. 269–74; and he wrote prologues and epilogues for the dramatic representations at Newcome's Hackney school, besides adapting Voltaire's ‘Semiramis’ for the stage. Keate also contributed ‘Observations on some Roman Earthenware’ to the ‘Archæologia,’ vi. 125–9.

A few stories of Keate are in Peake's ‘Memoirs of the Colman Family,’ ii. 326–7, and Mrs. Delany in her ‘Autobiography’ describes her pleasure in visiting his museum in 1779. His specimens of shells were sold by auction after his death. Douce's gift of coins to the Bodleian Library included the collection of Keate.

[Gent. Mag. vol. lxvii. pts. i. ii., vol. lxx. pt. ii.; Monthly Mag. for 1797, pp. 153, 192; Benchers of Inner Temple, p. 85; Smith's Nollekens, ii. 300–1; Aungier's Isleworth, pp. 150–2; Lysons's Environs, v. 204–5; Wakefield's Memoirs, i. 43; Graves's Dict. of Artists, p. 132; information from G. B. Henderson, esq., of Bloomsbury Place and Colonel Kennett Henderson, C.B.]

W. P. C.