Granger, James

, a well-known biographer, but who has been himself left without any memorial, was the son of Mr. William Granger, by Elizabeth Tutt, daughter of Tracy Tutt. Of the condition of his parents, or the place of his education, we have not been able to recover any particulars. He studied, however, for some time at Christ-church, Oxford, which he probably left without taking a degree; and having entered into holy orders, was presented to the vicarage of Shiplake, in Oxfordshire, a living in the gift of the dean and chapter of Windsor. He | informs us, in the dedication of his “Biographical History,” that his name and person were known to few at the time of its publication (1769), as he had “the good fortune to retire early to independence, obscurity, and content.” He adds, that “if he has an ambition for any thing, it is to be an honest man and a good parish priest,” and in both those characters he was highly esteemed by all who knew him. To the duties of his sacred office, he attended with the most scrupulous assiduity and zeal, and died in the performance of the most solemn office of the church. Such was his pious regard for the day appointed for religious observances, that he would not read the proofs of his work while going through the press on that day j and with such an impression of what was his duty, found no great difficulty in resisting the arguments of his bookseller, Tom Davies, who endeavoured to persuade him that this was a “work of necessity.” It appears that some time before his death he was anxious to obtain a living within a tenable distance of Shiplake, but did not succeed. In 1773 or 1774 he accompanied lord Mountstuart, now earl of Bute, on a tour to Holland, where his lordship made an extensive collection of portraits. In 1772 he published a sermon entitled “An Apology for the Brute Creation, or Abuse of Animals censured.” This was preached in his parish^church, Oct. 18, 1772, and, as we are informed in a postscript, gave almost universal disgust; “the mention of horses and dogs was censured as a prostitution of the dignity of the pulpit, and considered as a proof of the author’s growing insanity;” but more competent judges, and indeed the public at large, applauded him for exerting his humanity and benevolence in a case which is so often overlooked, the treatment of the brute creation. Mr. Granger, who was a man of some humour, and according to the evidence of his friend and correspondent the rev. Mr. Cole, a frequent retailer of jokes, dedicated this sermon “To T. B. Drayman,” for which he gives as a reason that he had seen this man exercise the lash with greater rage, and heard him at the same time swear more roundly and forcibly, than he ever heard or saw any of his brethren of the whip in London. Mr. Granger appears to have taken some pains with this man, but to little purpose. He was, however, afterwards killed by a kick from one of the horses whom he delighted to torment, which gave Mr. Granger an opportunity of strength-. | cning his arguments with his parishioners by a warning like this, which could not fail, for sorneaime at least, to make an impression on their minds. In 1773 he printed another sermon, entitled “The nature and extent of Industry,” preached before his grace Frederic, archbishop of Canterbury, July 4, 1775, in the parish church of Shiplake. This was gravely dedicated, “To the inhabitants of the parish of Shiplake who neglect the service of the church, and spend the Sabbath in the worst kind of idleness, this plain sermon, which they never heard, and probably will never read, is inscribed by their sincere wellwisher and faithful minister J. G.” Both these discourses were favourably received by the public, and many clergymen and others purchased quantities of them for distribution. His memory, however, is best preserved by his “Biographical History of England from Kgbert the Great to the Revolution,” at which he employed himself for many years, and lived to see two editions sold, and a taste created for collections of portraits, which is indeed the principal intention of the author, his biography including only those persons of whom some engraved portrait is extant. It was first published in 4 thin 4to vols. in 1769, but the second and subsequent editions have been printed in 8vo. The preparation of such a work could not fail to yield the author much amusement, and likewise procured him the correspondence of many eminent scholars and gentlemen who were either collectors of portraits, or conversant in English biography. He had amassed considerable materials for a continuation of this work, which was prevented by his sudden and much-lamented death. On Sunday April 14, 1776, he read prayers and preached apparently in good health, but while afterwards at the communion-table, in the act of administering the sacrament, he was seized with an apoplectic fit, and notwithstanding immediate medical assistance, died next morning. This affecting circumstance was happily expressed by a friend in these lines:

"More happy end what saint e’er knew?

To whom like mercy shown

His Saviour’s death in rapturous view,

And unperceived tis own."

He was, if we mistake not, about sixty years old. His brother John died at Basingstoke in 1810, aged 80. His very numerous collection, of upwards of fourteen thousand portraits, was sold by Greenwood in 1773, but the sale is | said to have been not very productive. That his celebrated work, the “Biographical History,” is an amusing one, cannot well be denied; and its principal excellence consists in the critical accuracy and conciseness with which he has characterized the persons who are included in his plan; but, as he includes all persons without distinction, of whom any portrait is extant, we find him preserving the memory of many of the most worthless and insignificant of mankind, as well as giving a value to specimens of the art of engraving which are beneath all contempt. Mr. Waipole said that Granger had drowned his taste for portraits in the ocean of biography; and though he began with elucidating prints, he at last only sought prints that he might write the lives of those they represented. His work was grown, and growing so voluminous, that an abridgment only could have made it useful to collectors. Perhaps a more serious objection might be offered, which the author could not hare foreseen. While this work has excited a taste for collecting portraits not only harmless, but useful, when confined to men of probity, it has unfortunately at the same time created a trade very little connected with the interests of literature or common honesty, a species of purveyors who have not only lessened the value of books by robbing them of their portraits, but have carried their depredations into our public libraries, and have found encouragement where they ought to have met with detection and punishment. 1

1

Granger’s Hist. Correspondence published by Mr. Malcolm. Continuation of his History by the Rev. Mark Noble, 1806, 3 vols. 8vo. Cole’s ms Correspondence, in the British Museum, —Gent. Mag. vols. XLVI. LII. LXXIII and LXXX.