Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grose, Francis

GROSE, FRANCIS (1731?–1791), antiquary and draughtsman, born about 1731 at Greenford, Middlesex, was the eldest son of Francis Grose or Grosse (d. 1769) by his wife Ann, daughter of Thomas Bennett of Kingston, Oxfordshire. The elder Grose, a native of Berne in Switzerland, came to England early in the eighteenth century (pedigree in the College of Arms), and was a well-to-do jeweller living at Richmond in Surrey. He fitted up the coronation crown of George III, and collected prints and shells, which were sold in 1770. The younger Grose received a classical education, but did not proceed to a university. He studied art in Shipley's drawing school, and was in 1766 a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, and in 1768 exhibited with the society a stained drawing, 'High Life below Stairs.' In 1769 and following years he exhibited at the Royal Academy tinted drawings, chiefly of architectural remains. Grose illustrated many of his own works, and some of his original drawings are in the British Museum (Fagan, Handbook to Dept. of Prints, p. 193). From 12 June 1755 till 1763 he was Richmond herald. He then became adjutant and paymaster in the Hampshire militia. He said his only account-books were his right and left hand pockets: into one he put what he received, and from the other he paid out. His father left him a fortune, which he soon spent. From 1778 (or earlier) till his death he was captain and adjutant of the Surrey militia. In 1773 he published the first number of his 'Antiquities of England and Wales,' &c., and completed the work in 1787 (London, 4 vols. folio; new ed. 8 vols., London [1783-] 1797, 4to). Many of the drawings were made by himself, but in the letterpress he was helped by other antiquaries. In the summer of 1789 he set out for a tour in Scotland. He was kindly entertained by Robert Riddell, the antiquary, and at his seat, Friars Carse, made the acquaintance of Burns. The poet wrote on Grose's 'Peregrinations through Scotland, collecting the Antiquities of that kingdom,' the genial verses 'Hear, Land o' Cakes, and brither Scots,' in which occur the lines:

A chield's amang you taking notes,
And, faith, he'll prent it.

Burns also wrote the verses 'Ken ye ought o' Captain Grose?' and a rather coarse 'Epigram on Captain Francis Grose.' The 'Antiquities of Scotland' was published by Grose in 1789-91, London, 2 vols. 4to. In the spring of 1791 he set out for an antiquarian tour in Ireland, but died on 12 May of that year from an apoplectic fit while at dinner in the house of his friend Nathaniel Hone, at Dublin. The 'St. James's Evening' for 26 May suggested the epitaph 'Here lies Francis Grose … Death put an end to his Views and Prospects.' He was buried on 18 May in Drumcondra Church, near Dublin.

The 'Antiquities of Ireland' begun by him was published, with additions, by his friend Dr. Edward Ledwich, London, 1791-5, 2 vols. 4to. Grose's other publications are:

  1. 'The Antiquarian Repertory,' 1775, 4to (originally compiled by Grose; new ed., with continuations, 4 vols. 1807, &c.)
  2. 'Advice to the Officers of the British Army,' 1782, 8vo; reprint of the 6th London edition, New York, 1867, 8vo (attributed also to Captain Williamson and to Lord Townshend, but apparently by Grose).
  3. 'A Guide to Health, Beauty, Riches, and Honour,' 1783, 8vo; 1796, 8vo.
  4. 'A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,' 1785, 8vo; 1788, 8vo; 1796, 8vo; reissued as 'Lexicon Balatronicum. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence,' 1811, and edited by Pierce Egan [q. v.], 1823.
  5. 'Military Antiquities respecting a History of the English Army from the Conquest to the Present Time,' London, 1786-8, 2 vols. 4to; also London, 1801, 4to; and 1812, 4to.
  6. 'A Treatise on Ancient Armour,' &c., with supplement, London, 1786-9, 4to (plates from the armour in the Tower, &c.)
  7. W. Darrell's 'History of Dover Castle,' edited and illustrated by Grose, 1786, 4to and 8vo.
  8. 'A Provincial Glossary' (local proverbs and superstitions), London, 1787, 8vo; 1790, 8vo.
  9. 'Rules for Drawing Caricatures,' 1788, 8vo; French translation, Paris, 1802, 8vo.
  10. 'The Grumbler' (sixteen essays), London, 1791.
  11. 'The Olio' (essays, dialogues, &c.), London, 1793, 8vo; 1796, 8vo (posthumous, probably only partially by Grose). Parodies of Milton and Homer, often attributed to Grose, were probably by Thomas Bridges [q. v.]

Grose was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (elected 31 March 1757), and contributed to the 'Archæologia,' v. 237, 'On an Ancient Fortification at Christchurch, Hants,' and viii. 111, 'On Ancient Spurs.' Some of his letters to George Allan, F.S.A., and to William Hutchinson, the antiquary, are printed in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes,' viii. 691 f., and 'Literary Illustrations,' i. 447 f.

Grose has been described as a sort of antiquarian Falstaff. He was immensely corpulent, full of humour and good nature, and 'an inimitable boon companion' (Noble, Hist. of the College of Arms, pp. 434-8; Gent. Mag. 1791, vol. lxi. pt. ii. p. 660.) There is a full-length portrait of him, drawn by N. Dance and engraved by F. Bartolozzi, at the beginning of his 'Antiquities of England,' vol. i. 1st ed. (for other portraits, see Noble, pp. 436-7; and Gent. Mag. 1791, vol. lxi. pt. i. pp. 493-494). Grose lived chiefly at Mulberry Cottage, Wandsworth Common (Brayley, Surrey, iii. 499). He married Catherine, daughter of Mr. Jordan of Canterbury, by whom he had two sons and five daughters. The eldest son, Colonel Francis Grose, was deputy-governor of Botany Bay (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. ii. 47, 257, 291).

[Gent. Mag. 1791, vol. lxi. pt. i. pp. 492-4, 581, pt. ii. p. 660; Noble's Hist. of College of Arms, pp. 434-8; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 656-9, and see indices; Nichols's Lit. Illustr., references in index in viii. 47; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; W. West's Fifty Years' Recollections of an Old Bookseller, p. 77 ff.; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ix. 350, 3rd ser. i. 64, xi. 280-1, 5th ser. xii. 148; Hone's Every-day Book, i. 655.]

W. W.