1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Graves

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 74 (November, December 1804) 1083, 1165.



23. At Bath, aged 90, the Rev. Richard Graves, rector of Claverton, Somerset. He was of All Souls college, Oxford; M.A. 1740; and late fellow of the college, and chaplain to the Countess-dowager of Chatham. He published, in 1792, a translation of the Meditations of the Emperor M. Aurelius Antoninus; and, next year, Xenophon's Hiero, a Conversation on the Condition of Royalty, the Spiritual Quixote, and various other works. He was always remarkably well, and very lately wrote his Essay on his Manner of preserving Health. He purchased the advowson from the trustees of the late Ralph Allen, esq. in 1767, who had partly built the parsonage-house, a very good substantial building, 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 proprietor as an author. (Collinson's Somerset, vol. I. p. 147.)...

The Rev. Richard Graves was the second son of Richard Graves, esq. of Mickleton, in Gloucestershire, where he was born May 4, 1715. 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, Warwickshire, 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 Abington 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, that 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; soon after resumed the study of Divinity; and in 1740 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. G. was presented to the rectory of Claverton, in Somersetshire; and, in 1763, to the living of Kilmersdon, in addition to that of Claverton, through the interest of Ralph Allen, esq. of Prior Park, who likewise procured him a scarf from Lady Chatham. Mr. G. 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. Mr. G.'s first publication was The Festoon; or, a Collection of Epigrams, with an Essay on that Species of Composition. In 1772, he produced The Spiritual Quixote, in three vols.; which, in these days of religious Quixoticism, should be read by every one who regards the Established Religion of his country. He next published A Translation from the Italian of Galates; or, a Treatise on Politeness, by De la Casa, Archbishop of Benevento. He soon after published Columella, or the distressed Anchoret, in 2 vols. to show 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. He published two volumes of poems under the title of Euphrosyne, which have gone through several editions. Then appeared his Eugenius; or Anecdotes of the Golden Vale, in 2 vols. In 1778 appeared, Recollections of some Particulars in the Life of William Shenstone, esq. in a Series of Letters to W. Seward, esq. F.R.S. This was published to vindicate the character of his friend from the illiberal criticisms and unjust censure of Dr. Johnson, Mr. Gray, and Mr. Mason. The following is a list of his subsequent publications, which we are not certain are in chronological order. Plexippus; or, the aspiring Plebeian, in 2 vols.; Hiero on the Condition of Royalty, from the Greek of Xenophon; Fleurettes, a Translation of Fenelon's Ode on Solitude, and other French Authors; The Life of Commodius, from the Greek of Herodian; The Rout, from a young man in town to his friend in the country: The Meditations of Antoninus, translated from the Greek; The Reveries of Solitude, consisting of pieces of prose and verse; The Coalition; or Opera Rehearsed, a comedy in three acts; The Farmer's Son, a moral tale, in the ballad metre; Sermons on various Subjects, in 1 vol.; Senilities, consisting of pieces in prose and verse. His last publication, a few months since, is The Invalid, with the obvious Means of enjoying Life, by a Nonagenarian. The above, we believe, 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. In Mr. Graves ended the bright associates of their time, composed of Shenstone, Whistler, and Jago. If Mr. G'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.