Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cradock, Joseph

CRADOCK, JOSEPH (1742–1826), man of letters, was the only surviving son of Joseph Cradock of Leicester and Gumley, and was born at Leicester 9 Jan. 1741–2. He was inoculated in spite of the prevailing prejudice. His father was threatened by the mob, and had to pay the surgeon 100l. His mother died in 1749, and his father afterwards married Anne Ludlam (d. 1774), sister of two well-known mathematicians. Cradock was educated at the Leicester grammar school. He lost his father in 1759, and was soon afterwards sent to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, of which Richard Farmer, his schoolfellow, was then tutor. He had already acquired a taste for the stage and for London society, and left Cambridge without daring to face the examination for a degree. In 1765 he married Anna Francesca, third daughter of Francis Stratford of Merivale Hall, Warwickshire. During his honeymoon the Duke of Newcastle, as chancellor, conferred upon him the M.A. degree. He took a house in the fashionable quarter, Dean Street, Soho; became known to the wits, and an enthusiastic playgoer. In 1766 Farmer dedicated to him the well-known essay on the ‘Learning of Shakespeare.’ Cradock soon afterwards settled at a mansion which he had built at Gumley, and upon a scale which led to embarrassment. He was high sheriff of Leicestershire in 1766 and 1781. In 1768 he was elected F.S.A. He gave private theatricals at Gumley, where Garrick offered to play the Ghost to his Hamlet, and in 1769 took a conspicuous part at the Stratford jubilee. He collected a fine library and amused himself with landscape gardening. A little book, called ‘Village Memoirs’ (1774), gives his views upon this subject, and upon religion and life in general. His musical skill procured him a welcome at Lord Sandwich's seat at Hinchinbroke, where Miss Ray sang in oratorios, while Lord Sandwich performed on the kettledrum. He was a patron of the music meetings at Leicester, originated in 1771 for the benefit of the infirmary. There was a great performance in 1774, when an ode written by Cradock, set to music by Boyce, was performed, and among the audience were Lord Sandwich and Omai, the native of Otaheite. In 1771 a tragedy by Cradock, called ‘Zobeide,’ founded on Voltaire's ‘Les Scythes,’ was performed at Covent Garden with success. Voltaire acknowledged the work in a note dated Ferney, 9 Oct. 1773, in which he says:—

Thanks to your muse, a foreign copper shines,
Turned into gold and coined in sterling lines.

In 1773 he wrote a pamphlet called ‘The Life of John Wilkes, Esq., in the manner of Plutarch,’ a Wilkite mob having broken his windows in Dean Street. In 1777 he published ‘An Account of some of the most Romantic Parts of North Wales,’ having ascended Snowdon in 1774. From 1783 to 1786 he travelled through France and Holland, his wife's health having failed. After his return his own health compelled him to withdraw from society, though he took part in various local movements. In 1815 he published ‘Four Dissertations, Moral and Religious.’ His wife died 25 Dec. 1816. In his later years he was very intimate with John Nichols, the antiquary. In 1821 he published a little novel against gambling, called ‘Fidelia.’ In 1823 growing embarrassments induced him to sell his estate and library and retire to London on a small annuity. In 1824 he published his tragedy, ‘The Czar,’ which had got as far as a rehearsal fifty years before. Its reception was good enough to induce him to publish in 1826 his ‘Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs,’ followed by a second volume including his travels. He died in the Strand 15 Dec. 1826. He is described as being ‘a sort of twin brother’ of Garrick, both in mind and body. He had a talent for acting, and was a lively, cultivated, and volatile person. His friend, George Dyer, speaks favourably of the generosity of his feelings, and adds that he was strictly temperate, living chiefly on very small quantities of turnips, roasted apples, and coffee, and never drinking wine. He was ‘cupped sometimes twice a day;’ yet he lived to be eighty-four.

[Brief Memoirs, prefixed by John Bowyer Nichols to Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs by J. Cradock, 4 vols. 1828. The four volumes include all Cradock's works as mentioned above. His own Memoirs in the first volume are a rambling collection of reminiscences, some of which, especially of Goldsmith and Johnson, are interesting.]

L. S.