Portraits Francis Grose, Esq., Antiquary
The Print of the celebrated antiquary, Captain
"A fine fat fodgel
wight, of stature short, but genius bright,"
represents him in the act of copying an
inscription from an ancient ruin, and was done during his visit to
Edinburgh in 1789.
He was exceedingly
corpulent, and used to rally himself with the greatest good humour on
the singular rotundity of his figure. The following epigram, written in
a moment of festivity, by the celebrated Robert Burns, the Ayrshire
bard, was so much relished by Grose, that he made it serve as an excuse
for prolonging the convivial occasion that gave it birth to a very late
"The Devil got
notice that Grose was a-dying, So whip! at the summons, old Satan
came flying; But when he approach'd where poor Francis lay moaning,
And saw each bed-post with its burthen a-groaning, Astonished
confounded, cries Satan, '------, I'd want him, ere take such
It may be noticed
that Grose acknowledges his obligations to the poet in the following
terms, in his Antiquities of Scotland:"To my ingenious friend, Mr.
Robert Burns, I have been variously obligated: he not only was at the
pains of making out what was most worthy of notice in Ayrshire, the
county honoured by his birth, but he also wrote expressly for this work,
the pretty tale annexed to Alloway Church." This "pretty tale" is Burns'
inimitable "Tarn o' Shanter."
Grose was born in the year 1731, and was the son of Mr. Francis Grose of
Richmond, jeweller, who fitted up the coronation crown of George the
Second, and died in 1769. By his father he was left an independent
fortune. In early life he entered the Surrey militia, of which he became
Adjutant and Paymaster; but so careless was he, that he kept no vouchers
either of his receipts or expenditure. He used himself to say he had
only two books of accounts, viz., the right and left hand pockets. The
results may be easily anticipated, and his fortune suffered severely for
his folly. His losses on this occasion roused his latent talents; with a
good classical education, a fine taste for drawing, encouraged by his
friends, and impelled by his situation, he commenced the " Antiquities
of England and Wales," the first number of which was published in 1773,
and the fourth volume completed in 1776. In 1777 he resumed his pencil,
and added two more volumes to his English Views, in which he included
the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, in 237 views, with maps of the
counties, besides a general one. The work was reprinted in eight volumes
The success of this work induced
Grose to illustrate in a similar manner "The Antiquities of Scotland."
This publication, in numbers of four plates each, commenced in the
beginning of 1789, and was finished in 1791, forming two volumes, with
190 views, and letterpress. Before the plates of the latter numbers were
out of the engraver's hands, the author " turned his eyes to Ireland,
who seemed to invite him to her hospitable shore, to save from impending
oblivion her mouldering monuments, and to unite her, as she should ever
be, in closest association with the British Isles. The Captain arrived
in Dublin in May, 1791, with the fairest prospect of completing the
noblest literary design attempted in this century." Such are the words
of Dr. Ledwich, to whom Grose had applied for assistance, and by whom
the work was completed, in two volumes, in 1795. But, while in Dublin,
at the house of Mr. Hone, Grose was suddenly seized with an apoplectic
fit, and died, in the fifty-second year of his age, upon the 12th of
May, 1791. The following epitaph proposed for him, was inserted in the
St. James's Chronicle, May 26:
Here lies Francis Grose: On Thursday, May 12,
1791, Death put an end to His views and prospects.
Upon occasion of his marriage, Grose took up his
residence in Canterbury, where he remained several years, during which
period his wit and vivacity made him many friends. No one possessed more
than himself the faculty of setting the table "in a roar," but it was
never at the expense of virtue or good manners. He left several sons and
daughters; one of the latter married Anketil Singleton, Esq.,
Lieut.-Governor of Sandguard Fort. His son, Daniel Grose, F.A.S.,
Captain of the Royal Eegiment of Artillery, was, after several campaigns
in America, appointed Depute-Governor of the new settlement at Botany
Besides the works above
noticed, he published"A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons;
illustrated by plates taken from the original armour in the Tower of
London, and other arsenals, museums, and cabinets." Loud. 1785. 4to. A
Supplement was added in 1789."A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar
Tongue." Lond. 1785. 8vo."A Guide to Health, Wealth, Honour, and
Riches." Lond. 1785. 8vo. This is a most amusing collection of
advertisements, principally illustrative of the extreme gullibility of
the citizens of London. A very humorous introduction is
prefixed."Military Antiquities, respecting a History of the English
Army, from the Conquest to the Present Time." 2 vols. Lond. 178C-88.
4to. With numerous plates. This work was published in numbers."The
History of Dover Castle. By the Rev. William Darrell, Chaplain to Queen
Elizabeth." 1781. In 4to, the same size as the large and small editions
of the Antiquities of England and Wales; with ten views engraved from
drawings by Captain Grose."A Provincial Glossary; with a Collection of
Local Proverbs and Popular Superstitions." Lond. 1788. 8vo."Rules for
Drawing Caricatures; the subject illustrated with four copperplates;
with an Essay on Comic Painting." Lond. 1788. 8vo. A second edition
appeared in 1791, 8vo, illustrated with twenty-one copper-plates,
seventeen of which were etched by Captain Grose. After his demise, was
published "The Olio; being a collection of Essays, Dialogues, Letters,
Biographical Sketches, &c. By the late Francis Grose, Esq., F.R.S. and
A.S.; with a portrait of the author. Lond. 1796. 8v.
There are dissertations by him in the Arch
apologia, the one "On an Ancient Fortification at Christchnrch, Hants,"
and the other " On Ancient Spurs."
Although the verses written by Burns during Captain Grose's
peregrinations through Scotland collecting its antiquities are
sufficiently well known, we cannot refrain from concluding this article
Hear, Land o'
Cakes, and brither Scots, Frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groats, If
there's a hole in a' your coats, I rede you tent it; A chiel's
amang you takin notes, And, faith, he'll prent it.
If in your bounds ye chance to light Upon a fine, fat, fodgel wight,
0' stature short, but genius bright, That's he, mark weel And
wow! he has an unco slight O' cauk and keel.
some auld, houlet-haunted biggin, Or kirk deserted by its riggin,
It's ten to ane ye'll find him snug in Some eldrich part, Wi'
deils, they say, -------- safe's! colleaguin' At some black art.
Ilk ghaist that haunts anld ha' or chamer, Ye gipsy-gang, that deal
in glamor, And you deep-read in hell's black grammar, Warlocks and
witches, Ye'll quake at his conjurin hammer, Ye midnight
It's tauld he was a sodger bred, And ane
wad rather fa'n than fled; But now he's quat the spurtle-blade,
An' dogskin wallet, And taen the------Antiquarian trade, I think
they call it.
He has a fouth o' auld nick-nackets,
Rusty aim caps, an' jingling jackets, Wad baud the Loudians three in
tackets A towmond gude, And parritcb pats, an' auld saut-backets,
Before the flood.
O' Eve's first fire he has ae
cinder; Auld Tubal Cain's fire-shool and fender; That which
distinguished the gender 0' Balaam's ass; A broom-stick o' the
witch o' Endor, Weel shod wi' brass.
shape you aff fu' gleg, The cut o' Adam's philibeg, The knife that
nicket Abel's craig He'll prove you fully, It was a fauldin
jocteleg, Or lang kail-gully.
But wad ye see him in
his glee, For meikle glee and fun has he, Then set him down, and
twa or three Gude fellows wi' him; And port, O port! shine thou a
wee, And then ye'll see him!
Now, by the powers o'
verse and prose! Thou art a dainty chiel, O Grose! Whae'er o'
thee shall ill suppose, They sair misca' thee, I'd tak the rascal
by the nose Wad say, Shame fa' thee.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.