Warner, Richard (1713?-1775) (DNB00)

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WARNER, RICHARD (1713?–1775), botanist and classical and Shakespearean scholar, was born in London, probably in 1713, being the third son of John Warner, goldsmith and banker, in business in the Strand, near Temple Bar. John Warner, sheriff of London in 1640, and lord mayor in 1648, in which year he was knighted, was probably Richard Warner's great-grandfather. John Warner, Richard's father, was a friend of Bishop Burnet. John Warner and his son Robert, a barrister, purchased property in Clerkenwell, comprising what was afterwards Little Warner Street, Cold Bath Square, Great and Little Bath Streets, &c. (Pink, History of Clerkenwell, p. 124). John Warner seems to have died about 1721 or 1722, and in the latter year his widow purchased Harts, an estate at Woodford, Essex, which, at her death in 1743, she left to her son Richard (cf. Gent. Mag. 1789, ii. 583).

Richard entered Wadham College, Oxford, in July 1730, and graduated B.A. in 1734. He was, says Nichols (Lit. Anecd. iii. 75), ‘bred to the law, and for some time had chambers in Lincoln's Inn; but, being possessed of an ample fortune, resided chiefly at a good old house at Woodford Green, where he maintained a botanical garden, and was very successful in the cultivation of rare exotics.’ He was ‘also in his youth, as is related of the great Linnæus, … remarkably fond of dancing; nor, till his passion for that diversion subsided, did he convert the largest room in his house into a library’ (Pulteney, Sketches of the Progress of Botany, ii. 283).

In 1748 Warner received a visit from Pehr Kalm, the pupil of Linnæus, then on his way to North America (Lucas Kalm's account of his Visit to England, 1892). Warner took Kalm to London, to Peter Collinson's garden at Peckham, to visit Philip Miller at Chelsea, and to see the aged Sir Hans Sloane.

Soon after Kalm's visit Warner received from the Cape of Good Hope the so-called Cape jasmine, which flowered for the first time in his stove. This John Ellis (1710?–1776) [q. v.] in a letter to Linnæus (J. E. Smith, Correspondence of Linnæus, i. 99), dated 21 July 1758, proposed should be called Warneria. Warner, however, objected (ib. p. 101), and it was named Gardenia.

Previous to 1766 Warner had ‘been long making collections for a new edition of Shakespeare; but on Mr. Steevens's advertisement of his design … he desisted’ (Nichols, op. cit. iii. 75). In 1768 he published ‘A Letter to David Garrick, Esq., concerning a Glossary to the Plays of Shakespeare. … To which is annexed a Specimen.’ Although turning aside to other studies, Warner was employed ‘to the last hour of his life’ upon this glossary, and bequeathed all papers relating to it to his ‘friend David Garrick, esq. of Adelphi Buildings,’ that they might be published, and the profits, if any, applied to a fund for decayed actors. In a codicil, however, he left the papers absolutely at Garrick's disposal, and gave forty pounds to the fund. Two manuscripts of this glossary, one in fifty-one quarto volumes, and the other in twenty octavo volumes, with an interleaved copy of Tonson's edition of Shakespeare (1734, 12mo), with numerous manuscript notes by Warner, the original manuscript of the ‘Letter to Garrick,’ and an alphabetical index of words requiring explanation in the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, are now in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 10464–543).

Warner also translated several plays of Plautus into prose, and the ‘Captives’ into verse, before the announcement of Bonnell Thornton's version. In the preface to the two volumes published in 1766 Thornton writes that Warner, ‘to whom I was then a stranger, was pleased to decline all thoughts which he had before conceived of prosecuting the same intention … communicating to me whatever he thought might be of service. … The same gentleman also took upon himself the trouble of translating the life of our author from Petrus Crinitus.’ On Thornton's death in May 1768, Warner issued a revised edition of the two volumes (1769), and then continued the work, translating fourteen plays and issuing them in three additional volumes, two published in 1772, and the last in 1774, the continuation being dedicated to Garrick.

Meanwhile he had, in 1771, printed his best known work, ‘Plantæ Woodfordienses: Catalogue of … Plants growing spontaneously about Woodford’ (pp. 238, 8vo). This little book had its origin in the ‘herborisations’ of the Apothecaries' Company, to the master, wardens, and court of assistants of which it is dedicated (Pulteney, op. cit. pp. 281–282). An index of Linnæan names is added. Though by no means free from blunders, the ‘Plantæ Woodfordienses’ served as a model for Edward Jacob's ‘Plantæ Favershamienses’ (1777), and in 1784 Thomas Furly Forster [q. v.] thought it worth while to print some thirteen pages of ‘Additions,’ wrongly attributed by Mr. B. D. Jackson (Literature of Botany, p. 262) to his brother, Edward Forster. In his own copy of the book, now at Wadham College, Warner had made several additions for an intended reissue.

Warner died unmarried on 11 April 1775, at Harts, and was buried on the 20th in Woodford churchyard, being probably, as stated in the register, ‘aged 62,’ and not, as stated on his tomb, sixty-four. He bequeathed the bulk of his property to Jervoise Clark, the widower of his niece Kitty, only child of his brother Robert. Having been elected a director of the East India Company in 1760, he leaves ‘as is customary,’ a hundred pounds to their hospital at Poplar, fifty pounds to Garrick, and all books and drawings relating to botany and natural history to Wadham College, with three hundred pounds to found a botanical exhibition at the college tenable for seven years by the presentation of fifty dried plants and a certificate of proficiency from the professor of botany. The capital of this legacy is now merged in the general exhibition fund. Warner's books, now at Wadham, comprise, besides several valuable botanical works, interleaved copies of Shakespeare, the works of Spenser, Milton, Beaumont and Fletcher, and some small collections of dried plants of little intrinsic value; and a collection of mosses and lichens made by him was presented by the late Sir Jervoise Clark Jervoise to the Essex Field Club. At Idsworth, Hampshire, the seat of Sir Arthur Jervoise, the present representative of the family, there is a portrait of Richard Warner, besides other pictures and books collected by him. Philip Miller dedicated a genus to him in 1760, but it had been given the name Hydrastis by Linnæus in the previous year, so that it must still bear that name.

[Information by the late Sir J. C. Jervoise, the warden of Wadham College, and F. G. H. Price, F.S.A., and the works above cited.]

G. S. B.