Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Richards, George

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RICHARDS, GEORGE (1767–1837), poet and divine, son of James Richards, eventually vicar of Rainham, Kent, was baptised on 15 Sept. 1767. He was admitted at Christ's Hospital, London, in June 1776, and was then described as from Hadleigh in Suffolk. Charles Lamb knew him at school, and calls him ‘a pale, studious Grecian.’ On 10 March 1775 he matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, becoming a scholar of his college in 1786. He gained two chancellor's prizes: in 1787 for Latin verse, on the subject ‘Rex, a violentâ Regicidæ manu ereptus, cum Reginâ Oxoniam invisens,’ and in 1789 for an English essay ‘On the characteristic Differences between Ancient and Modern Poetry’ (Oxford, 1789, and in Oxford Prize Essays, 1836, i. 241–76). In 1791 George Simon, earl Harcourt, gave anonymously a prize for an English poem on the ‘Aboriginal Britons.’ This Richards won, and the donor of the prize became his lifelong friend. The poem was printed separately and in sets of ‘Oxford Prize Poems.’ It was called by Charles Lamb ‘the most spirited’ of these poems, and lauded by Byron (English Bards and Scotch Reviewers); De Morgan described it as ‘a remarkable youthful production’ (Budget of Paradoxes, pp. 431–2).

Richards graduated B.A. on 4 Nov. 1788, M.A. on 11 July 1791, and B.D. and D.D. in 1820. In 1790, when he took holy orders, he was elected to a fellowship at Oriel College, and remained there until 1796. He was appointed Bampton lecturer in 1800, and select preacher in 1804 and 1811. From 1796, when he married, to 1824 he was one of the vicars of Bampton, and rector of Lillingstone Lovel in Oxfordshire. In July 1824 he was appointed to the more valuable vicarage of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, Westminster. There he erected at his sole cost a new vicarage, largely contributed towards the erection of the church of St. Michael in Burleigh Street, Strand, and served for some years as treasurer of Charing Cross Hospital. He became in 1822 a governor of Christ's Hospital, and founded there the Richards gold medal for the best copy of Latin hexameters. In 1799 he was elected F.S.A. He died at Russell Square, London, on 30 March 1837, and was buried in a special vault in the churchyard of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 6 April. He married, on 6 Oct. 1796, Miss Parker of Oxford. His portrait was painted by C. Ross, and was engraved, at the expense of the members of St. Martin's-in-the Fields vestry, by C. Turner in 1832.

Richards published, besides the works already noticed: 1. ‘Songs of the Aboriginal Bards of Britain,’ 1792. 2. ‘Modern France: a Poem,’ 1793. 3. ‘Matilda, or the Dying Penitent,’ a poetical epistle, 1795. 4. ‘The Divine Origin of Prophecy illustrated and defended’ (Bampton Lectures), 1800. 5. ‘Odin,’ a drama, 1804. 6. ‘Emma,’ a drama on the model of the Greek theatre, 1804. 7. ‘Poems,’ 1804, 2 vols.; the first volume was dedicated to Lord Harcourt, the second to the Rev. William Benwell [q. v.]; most of the poems which he had previously published were reprinted in this collection. 8. ‘Monody on Death of Lord Nelson,’ 1806.

[Lockhart's Christ's Hospital Exhibitioners, p. 35; Trollope's Christ's Hosp. p. 304; Giles's Bampton, pp. 39–40; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Gent. Mag. 1796 ii. 878, 1837 i. 662–3; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816.]

W. P. C.