portraits include one of Lady Mary Bertie in 1788, and one of Mr. King, master of the ceremonies at Bath, in 1790. In 1794 he was appointed portrait-painter to the Duke of Clarence, and exhibited for the last time in 1796. Ralph appears to have obtained considerable employment in the provinces, notably in the eastern counties. His portraits are well and straightforwardly painted, but lack distinction.
[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Royal Academy Catalogues; information from G. Milner-Gibson-Cullum, esq., F.S.A.]
RALPH, JAMES (1705?–1762), miscellaneous writer, born about 1705, probably in Pennsylvania, was a merchant's clerk in Philadelphia when he became intimate with Benjamin Franklin, then a journeyman printer. Franklin says of him (Autobiography, Works, i. 48), ‘Ralph was ingenious, genteel in his manners, and extremely eloquent; I think I never knew a prettier talker.’ He was a diligent versifier and dreamt of making his fortune by poetry. Franklin reproaches himself with unsettling Ralph's religious opinions. Ralph had a wife and child, but having some disagreement with her relatives he resolved to leave her on their hands, accompany Franklin to England, and abandon America for ever. With just money enough to pay his passage he arrived in London with Franklin in December 1724, and lived at his expense for some time. Ralph is the ‘Mr. J. R.’ to whom Franklin inscribed, in 1725, his ‘Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain’ (Parton, i. 132). Ralph formed an illicit connection with a milliner, on whom he lived for a time. Unable to find in London employment of even the humblest kind, he became teacher of a village school in Berkshire, where he assumed Franklin's name, and wrote to him, recommending to his care the mistress who had lost her friends and her business through her connection with Ralph. Franklin admits regretfully that he made improper advances to her, which she rejected. On this account, when Ralph returned to London, ‘he let me know,’ Franklin says (ib. p. 59), ‘he considered all the obligations he had been under to me as annulled, from which I concluded I was never to expect his repaying the money I had lent him, or that I advanced for him. This, however, was of little consequence, as he was totally unable, and by the loss of his friendship I found myself relieved from a heavy burden.’ It is doubtful if Ralph and Franklin met again.
Returning to London, Ralph became a hack-writer, and in 1728 published ‘The Touchstone, or … Essays on the reigning Diversions of the Town,’ a work graver than its title would denote. It was reissued in 1731, with a new title-page, as ‘The Taste of the Town, or a Guide to all Public Diversions.’ In 1728 also appeared his ‘Night: a Poem,’ dedicated in fulsome terms to the Earl of Chesterfield. ‘Night’ was a descriptive poem in blank verse, and not without merit. Unfortunately for himself, on the appearance of the first edition of the ‘Dunciad’ (1728), Ralph, somewhat officiously, since he had not been attacked, came forward as the champion of Pope's victims, in a satire in blank verse (with a prose introduction), entitled ‘Sawney, an heroic poem occasioned by the “Dunciad,”’ Sawney standing for Pope. The performance was a vehement and coarse attack on Pope, Swift, and Gay. Pope avenged himself by a dexterous use of the title of Ralph's poem, in the second edition of the ‘Dunciad’ (book iii. line 165):
Silence, ye Wolves, while Ralph to Cynthia howls,
And makes night hideous—Answer him, ye Owls!
In a note (of 1729) Pope spoke contemptuously of Ralph as a ‘low writer.’ Ralph complained that Pope's distich and note prevented the booksellers for a time from employing him (Johnson, Life of Pope, Works, ii. 276).
Ralph now tried the stage, but none of his pieces were successful. In 1730 he wrote the prologue to Henry Fielding's ‘Temple Beau,’ and when in 1736 Fielding took the Haymarket Theatre, Ralph is said to have been a shareholder with him [see Fielding, Henry]. Certainly when, in 1741, Fielding started the ‘Champion,’ an anti-ministerial paper, Ralph acted as a kind of co-editor, and continued to edit it after Fielding's connection with it ceased. He had already (1739–41) edited the ‘Universal Spectator,’ and was engaged on the parliamentary debates. But he remained in pecuniary distress, and in the Birch MSS. (Brit. Mus. vol. xviii.) there are appeals from him to Dr. Birch for assistance (cf. Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ix. 590). Ralph's connection with the ‘Champion’ probably procured him the notice of George Bubb Dodington [q. v.], after his desertion of Sir Robert Walpole. In 1742 Ralph brought out ‘The Other Side of the Question,’ professing to be by ‘A Woman of Quality,’ intended as a confutation of Hooke's ‘Account of the Conduct’ of the Duchess of Marlborough [see under Churchill, John, first Duke of Marlborough]. Ralph's criticism is one of the most spirited of his