This ingenious Divine was the second son of Richard Graves, esq. of Mickleton in Gloucestershire, where he was born, May 4, 1715. He was great-nephew to Professor Graves of Oxford, and to Sir Edward Graves, bart. physician to Charles II. His Father was esteemed a learned man, and was well versed in Antiquities. [Some account of him and the Family may be seen in Dr. Nash's Worcestershire, vol. I. pp. 198, 199.] The Rev. Mr. Graves received the first rudiments of his classical education under the Curate of the parish. About the age of 13, he was sent to Abingdon school in Berkshire, then a public seminary of note. At the age of sixteen, he was chosen scholar of Pembroke college, Oxford, where he soon after went to reside. Here, he informs us, in his Life of Shenstone, he joined a party of young men, who amused themselves in an evening in reading Greek, and drinking water; and that they read over several Greek Authors seldom read in School. It was about this time he commenced an acquaintance with Mr. Shenstone, which continued till his death. In 1736, Mr. Graves was elected Fellow of All Souls College; but, instead of pursuing his Theological studies, as he at first intended, formed the idea of studying physick; and, as preparatory to it, attended two courses of Anatomy in London. About this time he was attacked with a nervous fever, which left him in so languid a state, that he gave up all thought of proceeding farther in that pursuit; and soon after resumed the study of Divinity. He was elected Fellow of All Souls in 1736; and in 1740 received the degree of M.A. and took orders. Some time after, he went to reside with Mr. Fitzherbert, at Tissington, in Derbyshire, he having a donative in his gift, and wishing a Clergyman with him in the house as a companion. After spending about three years in Derbyshire in a very agreeable manner, he came by turn into office in the College, which induced him to get a curacy nearer Oxford; where he boarded with a gentleman-farmer, whose youngest daughter, an amiable and beautiful person, so far captivated him, that he soon after married her. This circumstance is beautifully related in the second volume of the Spiritual Quixote, under the character of Rivers. About 1750, Mr. Graves was presented to the rectory of Claverton in Somersetshire; and in 1763, to the vicarage of Kilmersden, in addition to that of Claverton, through the interest of Mr. Allen, esq. of Prior park, who likewise procured for him a scarf from Lady Chatham. Mr. Graves for many years, we believe, more than 30, kept a reputable Academy for young gentlemen; and many of his pupils have made a respectable figure in life. His earliest publication was, The Festoon; or a Collection of Epigrams, with an Essay on that Species of Composition, 1767. In 1772, he produced The Spiritual Quixote, in 3 vols; which, in these days of Religious Quixotism, should be read by every one who regards the Established Religion of his Country. In 1773, The Love of Order, a Poetical Essay, in three Cantos. He published, two volumes of Poems, under the title of Euphrosyne, a Collection of Poems, in 1776 and 1780, which have gone through several editions. Columella, or the distressed Anchoret, in 2 vols. 1778; to shew the consequence of a person of education and talents retiring to solitude and indolence in the vigour of youth: in this, it is thought, he alluded to his friend Shenstone. Then appeared his Eugenius; or Anecdotes of the Golden Vale, in 2 vols. A Translation from the Italian of Galateo; or a Treatise on Politeness, by De la Casa, Archbishop of Benvenuto. In 1788 appeared, Recollections of some Particulars in the Life of William Shenstone, Esq. in a Series of Letters from an intimate Friend of his to William Seward, esq. F.R.S. This was published to vindicate the character of his friend from the criticisms and censure of Dr. Johnson, Mr. Gray, and Mr. Mason. Plexippus; or the aspiring Plebeian, in 2 vols; The Meditations of Antoninus, translated from the Greek, 1792; Hiero on the Condition of Royalty, from the Greek of Xenophon, 1793; Fleurettes, a Translation of Fenelon's Ode on Solitude, and other French Authors; The Life of Commodus, from the Greek of Herodian; The Rout, from a young man in Town to his friend in the Country; The Reveries of Solitude, consisting of pieces of prose and verse; The Coalition; or, Opera reversed, a Comedy in three Acts, 1794; The Farmer's Son, a moral tale, in the ballad metre; Sermons on various Subjects, in one volume, 8vo, 1799; Senilities, consisting of pieces in prose and verse; The Invalid, with the obvious Means of enjoying Life, the Panacea, the Parting, and the Ode to a Young Lady somewhat too solicitous about her Manner of Expression, in Dodsley's Collection of Poems, vol. IV. p. 330-7. The above, it is believed, is a tolerably correct list of the publications of Mr. Graves; whose Works will always be read with pleasure, there being a sprightliness and epigrammatic turn in his writings which was peculiar to himself, and which he retained to the last. He purchased the advowson of Claverton from the Trustees of the late Ralph Allen, esq. in 1767, who had partly built the parsonage-house, a very good substantial building, which was much enlarged and improved by Mr. Graves. The garden, though not large, is a pretty rural spot, strongly marked by that classic elegance of taste which distinguished the late proprietor as an author. He was always remarkably well, and wrote his Essay on his Manner of preserving Health, but a short time before his death; which happened at Bath, Nov. 23, 1804, aged 90.
In Claverton church, in a niche, stands a handsome festooned urn, on a small pedestal, bearing this inscription:
Luciae Conjugi carissimae Ricardi Graves,
Conjux infelicissimus fecit, et sibi.
Ob. Cal. Maii, 1777, aet. 46.
In Mr. Graves ended the bright associates of their time, composed of Shenstone, Whistler, and Jago. If Mr. Graves's friends would publish his Letters to the above gentlemen, it would certainly be a great gratification to his acquaintance, and would not by any means diminish his literary reputation.