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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Grose, Captain Francis (1731 — 91)

His father came from Switzerland and set up as a jeweller in London, where he fashioned George II's coronation crown. Francis, who was probably his eldest son, served in the Army, and retired with the rank of captain. He also studied art, was at one time Richomond Herald in the College of Arms, but resigned his tabard to Henry Pugolas for 600 guineas. Next he became Paymaster and Adjutant of the Surrey Militia, a position he was equally unsuited for, since he kept no books and gave no receipts, with the result that the private fortune he had inherited from his father had to be used to make up deficits. He published his Antiquities of England and Wales in 6 volumes between 1773 — 87 and The Antiquities of Scotland in 2 volumes, in 1789 and 1791. Burns met him while he was in Scotland collecting material for his Scottish work.

Writing to Mrs Dunlop from Ellisland on 17th July 1789, Burns told her: 'Captn Grose, the well known Author of the Antiquities of England and Wales has been through Annandale, Nithsdale and Galloway, in the view of commencing another publication, The Antiquities of Scotland. As he has made his headquarters with Captn Riddel my nearest neighbour, for these two months, I am intimately acquainted with him; and I have never seen a man of more original observation, anecdote and remark. Thrown into the army from the Nursery, and now that he is the father of a numerous family who are all settled in respectable situation in life, he has mingled in all societies and known everybody. His delight is to steal thro' the country almost unknown, both as most favorable to his humor and his business... if you discover a cheerful looking grig of an old, fat fellow, the precise figure of Dr Slop, wheeling about your avenue in his own carriage with a pencil and paper in his hand, you may conclude: "Thou art the man!"'

Burns took to this fat, jovial man with an inexhaustible fund of stories, and suggested to him that he should include Alloway Kirk in his forthcoming volume. Grose agreed, but, Gilbert Burns recorded on condition that Burns provided a witch tale to go with his drawing. In June 1790, Burns sent Grose a prose witch tale with a variant in a letter to Grose, following it up with a rhymed version, the superb 'Tam o' Shanter'. Grose naturarlly preferred the poetic version, and 'Tam o' Shanter' was published in the second volume of Grose's The Antiquities of Scotland. It had, however, already appeared in the Edinburgh Magazine for March 1791. Grose also inspired Burns to write the witty lines 'On Captain Grose's Peregrinations through Scotland':

"Hear, Land o' Cakes, and brither Scots,
Frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groat's —
If there's a hole in a' your coats,
I rede you tent it:
A chield's amang you takin' notes,
And faith he'll prent it!
If in your bounds ye chance to light
Upon a fine, fat, fodgel wight
O' stature short but genius bright,
That's he, mark weel —
And wow! He has an unco sleight
O' cauk and keel...."

Grose also inspired 'On Captain Grose' and the epigram, 'On Captain Francis Grose'.

Grose left Scotland to visit Ireland to continue his work there, but died soon afterwards of an apoplectic fit. He is buried near Dublin.

Grose's works were certainly well in advance of their kind at the time they were published, and are still of considerable interest. His A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785) was of some importance in the development of lexicography.

Buy the Burns Encyclopedia online
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Complete Burns Songs

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