Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Franck, Richard

FRANCK, RICHARD (1624?–1708), captain in the parliamentary service, was born and educated at Cambridge, but probably was not a member of the university, unless it be thought (with Sir W. Scott) that 'some degree of learning was necessary to have formed so very uncommon and pedantic a style' (Memoir, p. 1). When the civil war broke out he left Cambridge to 'seek umbrage in the city of London,' and became a Cromwellian trooper, when he probably obtained the rank of captain, for he is addressed in one of the recommendatory poems prefixed to his Scotch travels as 'my honoured friend, Captain Richard Franck.' He has indeed been thought to have served in the royalist army, but his panegyric on the Protector, his enumeration of the six great patriots of the English nation, Ireton, Vane, Nevill, Martin, Marvell, and Cromwell, together with his flouting of the cavalier angler, Izaak Walton, forbids the supposition. Nor does his name appear among the army lists of the king. In the uncertainty and religious confusions which ensued upon the rise of Cromwell to power, Franck left England for a tour in Scotland. This must have been about 1656 or 1657, and his love of travel led him to the extreme north of the kingdom, 'when,' he says, 'to admiration I inspected that little artick world and every angle of it.' He returned to Nottingham, where he seems to have lived many years. About 1690 he went to America, where his second book was written, and in 1694 was in London at the Barbican. It may be gathered that he had a wife, whom in his 'Northern Memoirs' he calls Constantia. He wrote to her during his journey north. Of his death nothing can be learnt.

The book which has made Franck famous is an excellent specimen of euphuistic literature. Its title runs 'Northern Memoirs, calculated for the Meridian of Scotland. Wherein most or all of the Cities, Citadels, Sea-ports, Castles, Forts, Fortresses, Rivers, and Rivulets are compendiously described. Together with choice Collections of various Discoveries, Remarkable Observations, Theological Notions, Political Axioms, National Intrigues, Polemick Inferences, Contemplations, Speculations, and several curious and industrious Inspections, lineally drawn from. Antiquaries and other noted and intelligible Persons of Honour and Eminency. To which is added the Contemplative and Practical Angler by way of Diversion,' with more of the same character. 'By Richard Franck, Philanthropus. Plures necat Gula quam Gladius, 1694.' The rest of the work is equally cumbrous. No less than four dedications must be confronted, a preface, an address in rhyme to his book, four recommendatory poems by as many writers, and then another poem 'to the poet' by the author, before the book itself is reached. It is in the form of a dialogue between Theophanes, Agrippa (a servant), Aquila (a friend), and himself, under the name Arnoldus, and the style is bombastic, stilted, and pedantic to a degree, 'drawn from the rough draught of a martial pen,' as Franck himself describes it. The author was evidently a mystic, deeply tinged with Böhm's tenets, and not improbably deranged on certain subjects. Sir W. Scott compares his style with that of Sir Thomas Urquhart's translation of 'Rabelais,' but in verbosity and affectation Franck exceeds Urquhart. 'Northern Memoirs' was written in 1658, put together in 1685, and not published till 1694. Its main interest centres in the places which Franck visited in Scotland, and the account of them which he gives. His route was by Carlisle and Dumfries to Glasgow; thence to Stirling, Perth, Forfar, and Loch Ness; Sutherlandshire and Caithness, Cromarty, Aberdeen, Dundee, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Berwick, were next seen, and he made his way home by Morpeth. For anglers the book possesses great attraction. Franck is the first to describe salmon-fishing in Scotland, and both in that and trout-fishing with artificial fly he proves himself an excellent practical angler. His rules for fly-fishing, and especially for salmon-fishing, cannot be improved at present. Internal evidence shows that he had read the 'Compleat Angler;' indeed he tells us that he had argued with Walton at Stafford on the fact related by the latter of pickerel weed breeding pike, and that Walton laid it on Gesner and then 'huffed away.' Franck loses no opportunity of scoffing at him. He incidentally mentions Nottingham as being even in his time the nursery of many good anglers, describes their famous 'pith bait' and the breeding of salmon, and commends the dressing of a fly which could not be improved upon at the present day. He is the first angler to name that curious fish of the Trent, the burbot, and highly commends the salmon of the Thames, especially those caught below bridge. The rudiments of angling he learnt in the Cam, but perfected himself in the Trent. His puritanism frequently breaks out while discoursing of angling. He says of religion after the Restoration, 'It is worn so threadbare that nothing save the name is left to cover it.' It is plain that he read Shirley's poems.

Franck's second book is entitled 'A Philosophical Treatise of the Original and Production of Things. Writ in America in a time of solitude,' London, 1687. The running head title of the work is 'Rabbi Moses.' It is written in the same high-flown language as 'Northern Memoirs,' but is devoid of interest. Franck also probably wrote 'The Admirable and Indefatigable Adventures of the Nine Pious Pilgrims … to the New Jerusalem. Written in America in a time of Solitude and Divine Contemplation. By a Zealous Lover of Truth … ' London (Morphew), 1708. The introductory matter is signed 'Philanthropes' as in Franck's other books. The style supports the ascription.

[Memoir by Sir W. Scott, prefixed to an edition of the Northern Memoirs, 1821, see Lockhart's Life, v. 134, ed. 1837; Westwood and Satchell's Bibliotheca Piscatoria, p. 100; Retrospective Review, viii. 170; Censura Literaria, vi. 11; West-wood's Chronicle of the Compleat Angler, 1864, p. 13; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vi. 27.]

M. G. W.