Epigram on Captain Francis Grose, The Celebrated Antiquary

Actually By Robbie Burns

Curator’s Comment: Originally we thought that the anniversary of Grose’s death, which the present post celebrates, was this Friday, June 12th. Wikipedia says so.[1] However, both The Scots Magazine (V. 53) and The Gentleman’s Magazine (V. 69) [2] published an obituary for Grose in 1791 which state his actual death date was May 12th. So it seems based on these primary sources we’re a month late in celebrating our hero. Nevertheless…

As we’ve mentioned oft times a’fore, Francis Grose, antiquarian, humorist, and butterball, is our hero. It is with that in mind that we thought to honor the anniversary of his death this year with a little something. It was recently the 224th anniversary of the Captain’s death. Grose’s dedication to research was such that he was in Ireland on an antiquing trip when he died.

This poem, written before his death but published afterwards in the June 1791 Scots Magazine, was written by Grose’s friend, occasional dinner companion, and well-known Scotsman, Robbie Burns.

The Devil got notice that Grose was a-dying,
So whip! at the summons, old Satan came flying;
But when he approach’d where poor Francis lay moaning,
And saw each bed-post with its burthen a-groaning,
Astonish’d, confounded, cries Satan, by God,
I’d want him, ere take such a damnable load.

Seems only fair that someone poke a little fun at Grose, as he did it to his fellow antiquarians.

_______________________

 

1. The “Death” section seems to have the correct burial date

2. A third source, Dodsley’s Annual Register, includes the virtually the same text as the Gentleman’s Magazine because plagiarism was OK back then

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About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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