Thursday, May 12, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
On 12 May 1791 Captain Francis Grose, age fifty-two, died in Dublin of apoplexy. He’s familiar to Regency researchers as the author of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785), a sample page of which is at left.
This was all I knew about him. I’d been unaware that he had written a number of other works, educational and satirical or that he was a hefty fellow whose friends included the poet Robert Burns.
Among his other writings were several works on British antiquities aimed at a general audience, Rules for drawing caricaturas (1788), a history of the English army, A provincial glossary (1787), and Advice to the officers of the British Army (1783). An excerpt from the last-named seemed apropos, in light of our recent blogs about troublesome dueling army officers and class distinctions.
To General Officers, commanding in Chief.
. . .
As you probably did not rise to your present distinguished rank by your own merit, it cannot reasonably be expected that you should promote others on that score.
Above all, be careful never to promote an intelligent officer ; a brave, chuckle-headed fellow will do full as well to execute your orders. An officer, that has an iota of knowledge above the common run, you must consider as your personal enemy ; for you may be sure he laughs at you and your manœuvres.
. . .In distributing justice, you must always incline a little to the strongest side. Thus, if a dispute happens between a field officer and a subaltern, you must, if possible, give it in favour of the former.—Force is, indeed, the ruling principle in military affairs ; in conformity to which the French term their cannon, the ratio ultima regum.*
And here, from another collection, is an excerpt from a Poetical Sketch of Grose by his friend Mr. Davis:
When to my house he deigns to pass
Through miry ways, to take a glass,
How gladly ent'ring in I see
His belly's vast rotundity!
But though so fat, he beats the leaner:
In ease, and bodily demeanour;
And in that mass of flesh so droll
Resides a social, gen'rous soul.
—The olio: being a collection of essays, dialogues, letters, biographical sketches, anecdotes, pieces of poetry, parodies, bon mots, epigrams, epitaphs, &c., chiefly original, 1792
*Last argument of kings; resort to arms; war.
Portrait of Francis Grose courtesy Wikipedia.