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

VALPY, RICHARD (1754–1836), schoolmaster, was the eldest son of Richard and Catherine Valpy, on whose estate in St. John's parish, Jersey, he was born on 7 Dec. 1754. Edward Valpy [q. v.] was his younger brother. The family is of great antiquity in the island (Payne, Armorial of Jersey). In 1764 Valpy was sent to a school at Valognes, Normandy, and five years later to Southampton grammar school. He removed to Guildford grammar school, and while still a pupil there he published by subscription a volume of verses entitled ‘Poetical Blossoms.’ On 1 April 1773 he entered Pembroke College, Oxford, as a Morley scholar. He graduated B.A. in 1776, took orders in 1777, and was appointed second master of Bury St. Edmunds school. He proceeded M.A. in 1784 and B.D. and D.D. in 1792. In 1788 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

In 1781 Valpy was appointed headmaster of Reading school, then in a depressed condition. Under his guidance, which continued through fifty years, the school was raised to the highest standard it ever reached. In 1790 Valpy built a house, at his own expense, to receive pupils from a distance, who previously had been lodged in the town. He also added largely to the master's house. Among his pupils were Peter Paul Dobree [q. v.], Sir William Bolland [q. v.], Sir John Keane [q. v.], John Merewether [q. v.], Henry Alworth Merewether [q. v.], Bulkeley Bandinel [q. v.], John Jackson (1811–1885) [q. v.], Francis Jeune [q. v.], and Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd [q. v.] (Registers of Reading School).

Valpy inspired his pupils with an intense personal affection (see especially the notice prefixed to Talfourd's Ion, 4th edit.), and had the reputation of being one of the hardest floggers of his day. His school-books, especially his grammars, achieved a wide popularity in England. He was an enthusiastic lover of English and Latin poetry, and possessed considerable literary taste, combined with the faculty of inspiring his boys with admiration for English literature, at a time when such a taste was rare in schools. He adapted several English, Latin, and Greek plays for performance by his boys, and on the occasion of the triennial visitation of the school these were acted in the town-hall for the benefit of local charities (Star, London, 1818 and 1821; Darter, Memoirs of an Octogenarian; Reading School Poems, ed. Valpy, 1804). His adaptation of Shakespeare's ‘King John’ was performed at Covent Garden in 1803.

In 1787 Valpy was collated to the rectory of Stradishall, Suffolk. He retired from the headmastership in 1830, his youngest son succeeding him; but he still retained partial control, and took the upper sixth. He died at Earl's Terrace, Kensington, on 28 March 1836, and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery. It is said that he twice refused a bishopric.

Valpy married, first, in 1778, Martha, daughter of John Cornelius of Caundé, Guernsey; secondly, in 1782, Mary, daughter of Henry Benwell of Caversham, Oxfordshire. By his first wife he had one daughter, and by his second wife a family of ten children. His second son, Abraham John Valpy [q. v.], is separately noticed. His publications, in addition to sermons, plays, and contributions to Young's ‘Annals of Agriculture,’ were:

  1. ‘Poetical Blossoms,’ 1772.
  2. ‘Greek Grammar,’ 1809.
  3. ‘Latin Grammar,’ 1809.
  4. ‘Elements of Mythology,’ 1815.
  5. ‘Greek Delectus,’ 1815.
  6. ‘Latin Delectus,’ 1816.

$ ‘Poetical Chronology of History,’ 1816; and several other school-books. There is a fine portrait of Valpy, painted by Opie and engraved by C. Turner, in the possession of Canon Valpy of Winchester; and his pupils placed a bust of him in St. Lawrence's Church, Reading.

Valpy's youngest son, Francis Edward Jackson Valpy (1797–1882), born at Reading on 22 Feb. 1797, was educated at Reading and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a Bell scholar, and graduated B.A. in 1819, and M.A. in 1824. He succeeded his father in 1830 as headmaster of Reading school; but under him the number of scholars sank in a few years from nearly two hundred to thirty. He inherited his father's scholarship and eloquence, but lacked his powers of organising and teaching. He resigned, and was for a time master of Burton-on-Trent school. In 1854 he purchased the advowson of Garveston rectory, Norfolk. He died on 28 Nov. 1882, and is buried at Garveston. He married, first, in 1825, Eliza, daughter of John Pullen of Canonbury; and, secondly, in 1866, Mary, daughter of John Champion of Guernsey. He was a good Greek scholar, and published several school-books, etymological dictionaries of Greek and Latin, and editions of Sophocles's ‘Ajax’ and ‘Electra.’

[Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; information from the Rev. W. Charles Eppstein and others; Gent. Mag. 1836, i. 553; Literary Gazette, 1854, p. 254; Coates's Reading, p. 346; Times, 5 April 1836; Macleane's Hist. of Pembroke College (Oxford Hist. Soc.), 1897, p. 387; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Baker's Biogr. Dram.]

E. C. M.