On the 23d of November, 1804, died, in the ninetieth year of his age, after an illness of a few days, the Rev. Richard Graves, Rector of Claverton and Crosscombe; whom to know was to love, admire, and reverence; whom to remember, is to cherish in the bosom a continual lesson of benevolence and piety. He held the rectory of Claverton fifty-five years; during which period he was never absent from his parish for the space of a month at any one time. On the day preceding his dissolution, he received the sacrament from the hands of a neighbouring Clergyman, and awaited the approaches of death with that earnest spirit of religious peace and cheerfulness, which gave the characteristic form to his conduct and manners, and distinction to every part of his life.
Mr. Graves possessed from nature an extraordinary vivacity of constitution, to which the active employments of his choice and station gave a full scope, and which a rigid temperance maintained unimpaired to the end of a long life. His mind was highly cultivated at a very early period, not from the severity of precept, but from its own spontaneous efforts to trace the sources of refined and virtuous pleasure. At College he was the intimate associate of Shenstone, Jago, Sir W. Blackstone, and whomsoever else of distinguished character the University of Oxford then contained; and he approved himself in no respect their inferior, either in the vigour of his talents, the rectitude of his heart, or the fervency of his projects for future utility.
The example of his life has been uniformly of that kind, from which society derives its essential advantages and actual comforts. His attention was not devoted to any speculative reforms of human nature, but was exerted, minutely and continually, in the department immediately subject to his inspection, to check the progress of errors that lead imperceptibly to calamity, and to direct the listening proselyte to his own profit and happiness.
In his view of worldly affections, he contemplated the vices of mankind with the most minute strictness of discrimination; and when called on by his duty, he investigated them with severity, reproved them with earnestness, but corrected them with lenity. A first offence met his compassion, not his anger; but he was slow to pardon its repetition.
A natural politeness, a simplicity of manners, equally unassumed and unassuming, covered (and from his ordinary acquaintance almost concealed) an ardent and energetic spirit, which never submitted to unjust aggression, and never stooped to dissimulation, or dependence. He endured affliction with the courage of a mind conscious of its own uprightness, and frequently diverted the thoughts of sorrow by the exercise of his literary pursuits.
He had many of the eccentric habits of genius, but "the love of order" was the prevailing principle of his mind. The familiar intercourse of his domestic hours exhibited an unvarying tenor of affectation, cheerfulness, and piety. He was in his heart, as in his profession, attached to the truths of Revelation. It was his declaration to an intimate friend, that after all the researches of reading or speculative inquiry, he thought "No man" (to use his own words,) "could help being a Christian."
Mr. Graves was born in the year 1715, of an ancient family at Mickleston, in Gloucestershire. He was designed for the practice of Medicine, but afterwards turned his thoughts to the Church, in the doctrines of which he was uncommonly skilled. He established a school at Claverton, and continued it for many years with the highest credit. He was first distinguished in the literary world as the author of the Spiritual Quixote, to which he successively added a great number of ingenious and interesting publications in verse and prose, in a clear, familiar, and lively style, partaking of the graces of Addison and Goldsmith. — His Sermons are written in the same unaffected manner, and find an easy access to the heart. They are the only work to which he affixed his name; but there is no volume in the long catalogue of his writings, which does not bear the marks of his genius, philanthropy, and virtue.