Stonehewer, Richard (DNB00)


STONEHEWER or STONHEWER, RICHARD (1728?–1809), friend of Thomas Gray, born about 1728, was the son of Richard Stonehewer (d. 29 Oct. 1769), rector of Houghton-le-Spring, Durham, from 1727 to 1769. After a rudimentary education at the Kepyer grammar school in Houghton parish, he was admitted pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 4 Nov. 1745, ‘aged 17,’ and obtained a scholarship on 2 May 1747. He at once became known to Gray, probably through the introduction of Thomas Wharton, M.D., of Old Park, near Durham, the poet's lifelong friend. He graduated B.A. in 1749–50, being eighth wrangler in the mathematical tripos; was elected a fellow of Peterhouse on 29 Oct. 1751, and proceeded M.A. in 1753. While residing on his fellowship in Cambridge he was the tutor of Augustus Henry Fitzroy, third duke of Grafton (1735–1811) [q. v.] When the duke threw himself into politics, Stonehewer became his private secretary, and remained throughout life his confidential friend. In April 1761 and until June 1763 he was ‘interpreter of oriental languages.’ On 19 July 1765 he was the duke's under-secretary of state for the northern department, and on 28 June 1766 he became under-secretary for the southern department to the Duke of Richmond (Calendars of Home Office Papers). Through the Duke of Grafton he obtained for Gray the professorship of modern history and languages at Cambridge, and was himself made permanent auditor of the excise. In 1768 he was living at Queen Street, Mayfair, London, where Mason paid him a visit, and he afterwards lived at 14 Curzon Street, a house nearly opposite the chapel (Wheatley and Cunningham, London, i. 486–7). He was elected F.S.A. on 17 May 1787. Gray called him in 1769 his ‘best friend,’ and left him 500l. in his will. William Burke deemed him ‘a gentleman of great worth, extreme good understanding, and of the politest manners’ (Cal. Home Office, 22 April 1766). He was friendly with Horace Walpole, and in 1773 made a trip to the English lakes with Mason (Mitford, Correspondence of Walpole and Mason, ii. 372–5). In May 1782 he was ‘very ill of the influenza,’ but he lived to a good old age, dying on 30 Jan. 1809, aged 81. His portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1775 for the Duke of Grafton, and is in the possession of the present duke at Wakefield Lodge, Stony Stratford. A replica of it is at Middleton Park, Bicester, the seat of the Earl of Jersey. They are in excellent preservation, half length; a black fur hangs round his neck, and the costume is dark red.

The manuscripts which Gray left, together with his library, to Mason, were left by Mason to Stonehewer, who bequeathed to Pembroke College, Cambridge, Gray's commonplace books and holograph copies of most of his poems (Gray, Works, ed. Gosse, vol. i. pp. xiii–xiv). The correspondence of Gray and Mason, published by Mitford in 1853, was left by Mason to Stonehewer, and passed from him to his relative, Mr. Bright of Skeffington Hall, Leicestershire. So did a part of Gray's library, the subsequent fate of which is described by Mr. Austin Dobson in ‘Eighteenth-century Vignettes’ (1892, p. 138). Stonehewer presented a manuscript by Gray on Aristophanes to Mathias. Letters to him are in Mr. Gosse's edition of Gray's ‘Works,’ ii. 277–9, 373–5, iii. 46–8, 342, 351 (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, viii. 568).

[Leslie and Taylor's Sir Joshua Reynolds, ii. 146; Corresp. of Gray and Mason, p. v; Gent. Mag. 1769 p. 559, 1809 pt. i. p. 188; Gray's Works, ed. Gosse, ii. 197–8, 241, 395, iii. 317, 322; Gray's Works, ed. Mathias, pp. 585–6, 589; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, v. 117, 128, 501, viii. 229; Surtees's Durham, i. 157; information from the Earl of Jersey and Mr. W. Aldis Wright.]

W. P. C.