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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Francis Grose, Esq., Antiquary


The Print of the celebrated antiquary, Captain Grose,

"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 hour:—

"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 a------------load.' "

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."

Captain 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 in 1787.

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 Bay, 1790.

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 with them:

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.

By 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.

Forbye, he'll 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.


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