Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Edgcumbe, Richard (1716-1761)

EDGCUMBE, RICHARD second Baron Edgcumbe (1716–1761), was the second son of Richard, the first baron [q. v.] He entered the army, and ultimately rose to the rank of major-general, but saw little service. He represented the borough of Plympton from 1742 to 1747, and of Lostwithiel from November 1747 to 1754, when he was returned for the borough of Penryn. In December 1755 he was appointed a lord of the admiralty, but resigned his seat on that board in November 1756 on being constituted comptroller of his majesty's household, when he was also sworn of the privy council. (His accounts for 1759–1760 are in the British Museum Addit. MS. 29266.) In 1758 he succeeded as second baron on the death of his father, and on 23 Feb. 1759 he was constituted lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of the county of Cornwall. He died unmarried on 10 May 1761. By his mistress, Mrs. Ann Franks, alias Day, he was the father of four children, and he made Horace Walpole her trustee (Walpole's ‘Short Notes’ in Cunningham's edition of the Letters, i. p. lxxi, and Lord Edgcumbe's will proved P.C.C. May 1761). The connection was the subject of a sufficiently dull satire entitled ‘An Epistle from the Hon. R[ichard] E[dgcumbe] to his dear Nanny [Day],’ said to be by Charles Jones, and published in 1752 by R. Sim, near St. Paul's. Mrs. Day subsequently became Lady Fenouilhet, and her portrait by Reynolds, painted in 1760, is in the possession of Lord Northbrook (Hamilton, Catalogue Raisonneé of the Works of Sir J. Reynolds).

Dick Edgcumbe, for so he was invariably styled, was one of the choicest spirits of his time. He was the close friend of Horace Walpole, George Selwyn, and ‘Gilly’ Williams, and numerous passages in ‘Horace Walpole's Letters’ prove him to have been a man of wit (especially vol. ii. of Cunningham's edition, pp. 415, 506, 512). But he threw away his life at the gambling-table (ib. iii. 396, 402, 474–5). Of his poetic works all that remain are two sets of verses, ‘The Fable of the Ass, Nightingale, and Kid,’ and an ‘Ode to Health,’ preserved in the ‘New Foundling Hospital for Wit,’ vi. 107–10 (1786). They are of little merit, though they have gained for Dick Edgcumbe a notice in Walpole's ‘Royal and Noble Authors’ (iv. 242–3, Park's edition). He was also an accomplished draughtsman, and designed a clever coat of arms for the ‘Old and Young Club’ at Arthur's, which was purchased at the sale at Strawberry Hill by Arthur's Clubhouse (Walpole's Letters, iii. 10, and note); it has since disappeared. It was engraved by Grignon. He also painted a portrait of the convict, Mary Squires (Bromley, Catalogue, p. 457). It is greatly to his credit that he should have been among the first to recognise the genius of Reynolds (Leslie and Taylor, Life of Reynolds, i. 48), who painted for Horace Walpole a group of George Selwyn, Edgcumbe, and Williams, entitled ‘Conversation,’ which was purchased at the Strawberry Hill sale by the Right Hon. Henry Labouchere, lord Taunton. Edgcumbe's services to art are also recognised in Müntz's dedication to him of his treatise on ‘Encaustic or Count Caylus's method of Painting in the Manner of the Ancients.’

[Collins's Peerage of England, 9th ed. vii. 354; Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, i. 131, iii. 1167; Gent. Mag. xxxi. 237 (1761).]

L. C. S.