Richmond, Legh (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

RICHMOND, LEGH (1772–1827), evangelical divine, born at Liverpool, 29 Jan. 1772, was son of Henry Richmond, M.D., by his wife Catherine, daughter of John Atherton of Walton Hall, near Liverpool. The father, at one time fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, practised as a physician at Liverpool, and afterwards at Bath. He died at Stockport in Cheshire in 1806. Legh Richmond was named after his grandfather, who was rector of Stockport from 1750 to 1769, and married Mary, eldest daughter of Henry Legh of High Legh.

Legh's early education was impeded by an accident in childhood which rendered him permanently lame. After some time spent at Reading, where he was placed, in 1784, in care of a Mr. Breach, and at a school at Blandford in Dorset, he in 1789 entered Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming a scholar on the foundation in the same year. At Cambridge he obtained considerable proficiency in the practice and theory of music. His health was weak, and he took an ægrotat degree as B.A. in 1794; he resided in Cambridge until 1799, when he proceeded M.A., and was ordained to the curacy of the parishes of Brading and Yaverland in the Isle of Wight. He took up his residence at Brading.

Shortly afterwards Richmond first adopted those strictly evangelical views with which his name was thenceforth associated. He attributed the change to the influence of William Wilberforce's ‘Practical View of Christianity,’ which led him to examine thoroughly the writings of the British and foreign reformers. While in the Isle of Wight, too, he collected, from local experiences, materials for his three famous tales of village life. These were called, respectively, ‘The Dairyman's Daughter,’ ‘The Young Cottager,’ and ‘The Negro Servant.’ The heroine of the first tale, Elizabeth Wallbridge, lies buried at Arreton; the cottage of the second tale's heroine, ‘Little Jane,’ is still shown at Brading; and Sandown is the scene of the third narrative. Richmond wrote out the stories in 1809, after leaving the Isle of Wight, and they were all originally contributed by him, under the signature ‘Simplex,’ to the ‘Christian Guardian’ between 1809 and 1814. Their simple pathos and piety won for them instant popularity, and they were reprinted by the Religious Tract Society in 1814 under the general title of ‘The Annals of the Poor.’ Of ‘The Dairyman's Daughter,’ which Richmond greatly enlarged after its first publication, two editions of twenty thousand copies each were printed in 1816. The book was translated into the French, Italian, German, Danish, and Swedish languages, and it obtained a very wide circulation in America. It was calculated that in the lifetime of the author the number of copies printed in the English language alone amounted to two millions. In 1822 Richmond revisited the Isle of Wight, and was present at the erection of memorials to the cottagers whom he had commemorated.

After eight years spent in the Isle of Wight, Richmond became in the spring of 1805 assistant chaplain to the Lock Hospital in London. Thenceforth the permanent chaplain, Thomas Fry, afterwards rector of Emberton, near Newport Pagnell, was his closest personal friend. But Richmond's stay in London was short. On 30 July 1805 he was inducted into the rectory of Turvey in Bedfordshire, in succession to Erasmus Middleton [q. v.] He commenced his residence in the following October. At Turvey he speedily became popular as a preacher. Clergymen of ability holding evangelical views were rare, and many residents in neighbouring towns and villages attended his church. In the matter of parochial work he is largely remembered as an organiser of village benefit or friendly societies, agencies which he was among the earliest clergymen to initiate and encourage.

As Richmond's reputation extended, his services as a preacher were sought after beyond his own parish. He interested himself deeply in the establishment of the great evangelical societies like the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, and the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. He lent all of them powerful aid, and frequently arranged extended and successful preaching tours in order to collect money for them. Of the Religious Tract Society he acted for a time as joint secretary.

In 1806 Richmond undertook the editorship of a series of selections from the writings of the English reformers, in order to bring the principles of the Reformation more prominently before the public. The substance of the writings of Tindal, Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer, Hooper, Bradford, Jewell, and others was thus presented to the English reader in eight large octavo volumes, which were published, at intervals between 1807 and 1812, under the general title of ‘Fathers of the English Church.’ The outlay was considerable, and the venture proved unremunerative. In 1814 Richmond was with some difficulty relieved by his friends of heavy pecuniary embarrassments. In the same year the Duke of Kent, who sympathised with his literary and religious views, appointed him his chaplain. In 1820 he made a preaching tour in Scotland in behalf of the religious societies with which he was connected. During its course he visited the island of Iona, which, although abounding in ruins of cathedrals and churches, lacked a church of any kind and had no resident Christian minister. Richmond earnestly exerted himself to remove this anomaly, and raised a considerable sum of money. But the Duke of Argyll, who owned the island, took the matter into his own hands, and built a church, minister's house, and school. Richmond's fund was consequently expended in establishing a free library for the island, which is still called the Legh Richmond library.

The death in 1825 of Richmond's younger son Wilberforce, at Turvey, was immediately followed by the loss of his eldest son, Nugent, who died at sea on his way home from India. These bereavements affected Richmond's health, and he died at Turvey on 8 May 1827. He was buried in Turvey church, where an epitaph was placed to his memory. On 22 July 1797 he was married to Mary, daughter of James William Chambers of Bath. Eight children survived him. There are memorials of all of them in Turvey church.

[The Life of Legh Richmond, with portrait 1828, written by his friend the Rev. T. S. Grimshawe, vicar of Biddenham, near Bedford, has passed through many editions. The demand of the public for more information was shortly afterwards met by a second book, called Domestic Portraiture (1833). This was a description of Richmond's principles, as exemplified in his education of his family, and principally relates to his sons Wilberforce and Nugent. It was compiled by his friend, the Rev. T. Fry, and published, with a preface, by the Rev. E. Bickersteth, rector of Watton. It has passed through at least nine editions. A summary of the Life, with some account of the village of Turvey, will be found in Turvey and Legh Richmond, with an Account of the Mordaunts, by G. F. W. Munby and T. Wright (2nd edit. Olney, 1894). See also Simms's Bibliotheca Staffordiensis, p. 375; Three Days at Turvey, South Shields, 1848; Life of J. Pratt, p. 88; Life of Tho. Jones, pp. 136, 344; Hamst's Fictitious Names, pp. 212–213.]

G. F. W. M.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.234
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
259 i 19-23 Richmond, Legh: omit A library designed . . . Uxbridge Road, London.