Relph, Joseph (DNB00)

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RELPH, JOSEPH (1712–1743), Cumberland poet, was born on 3 Dec. 1712 at Churchtown, a small estate belonging to his father in the parish of Sebergham, Cumberland. His father, though a freeholder or ‘statesman’ of very small means, procured for his son an excellent education at the celebrated school of the Rev. Mr. Yates of Appleby. At fifteen Josiah went to Glasgow, but soon returned to fill the post of master in the small grammar school of his native village. Taking holy orders, he also succeeded to the incumbency of the parish of Sebergham, a perpetual curacy. This, it is said, was hardly worth 30l. a year; and it is probable that his income at no time exceeded 50l. a year. After working energetically to reform the rough manners of his parishioners and to educate their children, he died at the early age of thirty-two, on 26 June 1743, at his father's house, Churchtown. He was buried at Sebergham, and there is a monument with an inscription to his memory in the church.

Relph's poetical works were first published in 1747 under the title of ‘A Miscellany of Poems,’ Glasgow, 8vo. They were edited by Thomas Sanderson, who supplied a life of the author and a pastoral elegy on his death. A second edition appeared at Carlisle in 1798, with the life of the author, and engravings by Thomas Bewick. Relph's best verses are in the dialect of his native county; they show talent and appreciation of natural beauties.

[Hutchinson's Hist. of Cumberland; Gent. Mag. 1790 ii. 1166, 1791 i. 520, 1805 ii. 1212, 1820 i. 228, 1823 ii. 486; Memoir in Poems.]

A. N.