Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Twiss, Richard

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TWISS, RICHARD (1747–1821), miscellaneous writer, born at Rotterdam on 26 April 1747, was the son of an English merchant residing in Holland. Francis Twiss [q. v.] was his younger brother. Having an ample fortune, he devoted himself to travelling, and visited Scotland. He afterwards went on the continent, and journeyed through Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Bohemia till 1770, when he returned to England. In 1772 he went to Spain and Portugal, returning the following year. Of this journey he published an account, entitled ‘Travels through Portugal and Spain in 1772 and 1773,’ London, 1775, 4to; the volume contains a fine print of ‘Our Lady of the Fish,’ drawn by Cypriani and engraved by Bartolozzi, and was pronounced by Dr. Johnson ‘as good as the first book of travels you will take up.’ The work appeared the same year in 12mo in Dublin, and French and German editions were issued the following year. In 1775 he visited Ireland, and then wrote his ‘Tour in Ireland in 1775,’ London, 1776, 8vo, of which there were several Irish editions. In the appendix he states he had taken sixteen sea voyages and travelled altogether about twenty-seven thousand miles. This book was very unpopular in Ireland. It evoked ‘An Heroic Epistle’ from Donna Teresa Pinna y Ruiz of Murcia, a lady whose acquaintance he formed when in that town, humorously complaining in the stilted verse then fashionable that he had deserted his Pinna for Hibernia. Twiss published the lines with explanatory notes, and responded in similar strain with ‘An Heroic Answer from R. Twiss, esq., to Donna Teresa,’ Dublin, 1776, 12mo.

He subsequently devoted himself to literature and fine arts and to speculations in endeavouring to manufacture paper out of straw, whereby he seriously impaired his fortune. He, however, revisited France during the revolution, the account of which appeared as ‘A Trip to Paris in July and August 1792,’ London, 1793, 8vo, which was also issued in two vols. 12mo in Dublin.

Twiss was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1774, but withdrew from it in 1794. He died in Somers Town on 5 March 1821.

In addition to the works already named, he wrote two volumes of miscellaneous notes on ‘Chess,’ published anonymously, London, 1787–89, 8vo; and was author of ‘Miscellanies,’ London, 1805, 2 vols. 8vo.

[English Cyclop.; Gent. Mag. 1821, i. 284; Georgian Era, iii. 465; Annual Biogr. and Obituary, 1823, pp. 446–50; J. G. Alger's Englishmen in the French Revolution, pp. 129–30; information kindly supplied by R. Harrison, esq., assist. sec. Roy. Soc.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

B. B. W.