Graves. - PA Criticism Archive

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Anna Letitia Barbauld

THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR [Richard Graves]. [1] 

THIS ingenious novel was the production of the Rev. Richard Graves, rector of Claverton in Somersetshire; a gentleman who has been considerably distinguished in the literary world for above half a century. His father was Richard Graves, Esq. of Mickleton in Gloucestershire, who died in 1729, and was a man of learning, particularly in the history and antiquities of his country.

The author of this work was born at Mickleton, the seat of his father and grandfather, on May 4, 1715, and received his early education under the Rev. Mr. Smith, [2]  the curate of the parish. About the age of thirteen he was removed thence to the school of Abingdon in Berkshire; the reputation of which, at that time, stood very high. At the age of sixteen, he was chosen scholar of Pembroke college, Oxford, where he was soon distinguished for uncommon proficiency.

Such was his eagerness for classical knowledge, that he had not been long at Oxford before he join-
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ed a small party of young men, who assembled in the evenings to read Epictetus, Theophrastus, and such Greek authors as were not, at that time, recommended in the common course of study; and it is much to the credit of this party, that their only beverage at these meetings, was water. It was about this time that he became acquainted with Shenstone the poet; and their intimacy, which continued till the death of the latter, was frequently renewed by epistolary correspondence, part of which has been published. There does not appear to have been a perfect coincidence of sentiment between them in matters of taste; but in general there was a congeniality, and a harmony of opinion and friendship, which added not inconsiderably to the happiness of both.

In 1736, Mr. Graves having left Pembroke, was elected a fellow of All Souls; but, instead of pursuing theological studies, as he first intended, he was led to the study of physic, and attended two courses of anatomical lectures in London. From this, however, he was diverted by a long and dangerous illness, which left him in a very languid state; and on his recovery, he resumed his original intention, and was admitted to holy orders in 1740, at which time also he took his master's degree.

Some time after he went to reside with Mr. Fitzherbert, at Tissington in Derbyshire, who had a donative in his gift, and was desirous of the company of a clergyman. In this house, Mr. Graves enjoyed the advantage of elegant society for nearly


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three years. While making a tour in the north, he accidentally met with a relation at Scarborough, Dr. Samuel Knight, archdeacon of Berkshire, by whose recommendation he obtained a curacy near Oxford; which, at this time, became necessary, as he had come into office in his college, and was obliged to reside within a convenient distance. For this purpose he lodged with a gentleman farmer in the neighbourhood, whose youngest daughter, a very amiable young lady, so far captivated him, that he resigned his fellowship and married her. [3]  This incident, with some fictitious circumstances, is supposed to be related in the present work, in the history of Mr. Rivers.

About the year 1750, he was presented by Mr. Skrine to the rectory of Claverton, on which he resided very constantly during the whole of his life; and filled up his time, as well as improved his circumstances, by taking a few pupils to be educated with his children. In 1763 he was presented to the living of Kilmersdon, through the interest of his steady friend Ralph Allen, Esq. of Prior Park, who likewise procured him a scarf [4]  from Lady Chatham.

Although Mr. Graves frequently employed his pen on light and gay subjects, he did not commence author until the year 1765, when he published The Festoon, a collection of Epigrams, chosen with great judgment, and prefaced by a valuable critical essay on that species of composition, for which he received a silver medal, offered by
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the proprietors of a periodical work for the best essay on that subject. The success of The Festoon was, however, not great; although, perhaps, as much as he expected. It was followed, at short intervals, by Lucubrations in Prose and RhimeThe Spiritual QuixoteA Treatise on Politeness, translated from the Italian of De la Casa, archbishop of Benevento — Columella, or the Distressed AnchoriteEuphrosyne, consisting of poetical pieces — Eugenius, or Anecdotes of the Golden ValeRecollections of some Particulars in the Life of Mr. ShenstonePlexippus, or the Aspiring PlebeianThe Rout-Fleurettes, a translation of Archbishop Fenelon's Ode on Solitude, &c. — The Life of Commodus, from the Greek of Herodian — Hiero, on the Condition of Royalty, from XenophonThe Meditations of Antoninus, from the Greek — The Reveries of SolitudeThe Coalition, or Rehearsal of the Pastoral Opera of Echo and Narcissus — Sermons on various Subjects — The Farmer's Son, as a counterpart to Mr. Anstey's Farmer's DaughterThe Invalid, with the obvious Means of enjoying Long Life, by a Nonagenarian — and Senilities.

The merit of these compositions is various; but the general character of all Mr. Graves's works resolves itself into benevolence, instruction, and harmless amusement. He was himself the amiable character he frequently portrays; and, by habits of cheerfulness and temperance, prolonged his life free from blame and care, until his ninetieth year, when he expired after a very short illness.


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Of the works now enumerated, the Spiritual Quixote, has been by far the most popular. Independent of the design, which at the time of publication, was an object of some importance, the execution of it made it soon be ranked among those productions which are chiefly admired for ingenuity of fiction. By occasionally introducing real characters and authenticated narratives, he has also diffused a charm over the whole, by which curiosity is excited and gratified in the most pleasing manner.
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Notes

[1] The British Novelists; with an Essay; and Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Mrs. Barbauld, 50 Vols. (London: Printed for F.C. and J. Rivington; W. Otridge and Son; A. Strahan; T. Payne; G. Robinson; W. Lowndes; Wilkie and Robinson; Scatcherd and Letterman; J. Walker; Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe; R. Lea; J. Nunn; Lackington and Co.; Clarke and Son; C. Law; Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; Cadell and Davies; E. Jeffery; J.K. Newman; Crosby and Co.; J. Carpenter; S. Bagster; T. Booth; J. Murray; J. and J. Richardson; Black, Parry, and Kingsbury; J. Harding; R. Phillips; J. Mawman; J. Booker; J. Asperne; R. Baldwin; Mathews and Leigh; J. Faulder; Johnson and Co.; W. Creech, Edinburgh; and Wilson and Son, York, 1810), 32: 1-5. This essay appears prefaced to The Spiritual Quixote; or, The Summer's Ramble of Mr. Geoffry Wildgoose. A Comic Romance. To Which is Prefixed The Life of the Author. which is the Graves' novel featured in the British Novelists series. Rachel Dejmal and Mary A. Waters co-edited this essay for The Criticism Archive. BACK

[2] David Oakleaf writes, "Educated at the school run by the local curate, William Smith, [Richard Graves] read Hesiod and Homer at the age of twelve." (Oakleaf, David. "Graves, Richard (1763-1829)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Vol. 23. New York: Oxford UP, 2004. 390.) BACK

[3] In late 1746 or early 1747 Graves eloped with Lucy Bartholomew, the daughter of an Aldworth farmer. BACK

[4] In token of Graves's appointment as Lady Chatham's chaplain. BACK


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