Wood, Robert

, a polite scholar, and under-secretary of state in 1764, has a right to a place here, for his very curious “Essay on the original Genius of Homer.” Of the particulars of his life, the proper subject for our pages, we reluctantly confess ourselves ignorant; but shall observe, that in 1751, he made the tour of Greece, Egypt, and Palestine, in company with Mr. Dawkins and Mr. Bouverie; and at his return published a splendid work, in folio, entitled “The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor in the Desert,” being an account of the ancient and modern state of that place; with a great number of elegant engravings of its ruins by Fourdrinier, from drawings made on the spot. This was followed by a similar work respecting Balbec. Speaking of the abovementioned friends, he says, “Had I been so fortunate as to have enjoyed their assistance in arranging and preparing for the public the substance of our many friendly conversations on this subject (Homer) I should be less anxious about the fate of the following work: but, whatever my success may be in an attempt to contribute to the amusement of a vacant hour, I am happy to think, that, though I should fail to answer the expectations of public curiosity, I am sure to satisfy the demands of private friendship; and that, acting as the only sur^ vivor and trustee for the literary concerns of my late fellow-r travellers, I am, to the best of my judgment, carrying into execution the purpose of men for whose memory I shall ever retain the greatest veneration; and though I may do injustice to those honest feelings which urge me to this pious task, by mixing -an air of compliment in an act of duty, yet I must not disown a private, perhaps an idle consolation, which, if it be vanity to indulge, it would be | ingratitude to suppress, viz. that, as long as my imperfect descriptions shall preserve from oblivion the present state of the Troade, and the remains of Balbec and Palmyra, so long will it be known that Dawkins and Bouverie were my friends.

Mr. Wood was meditating future publications relating to other parts of his tour, especially Greece, when he was called upon to serve his country in a more important station, being appointed under-secretary of state in 1759, by the earl of Chatham; during the whole of whose prosperous administration, as well as in those of his two immediate successors, he continued in that situation.

Mr. Wood had drawn up a great part of his “Essay on Homer” in the life-time of Mr. Dawkins, who wished it to be made public. “But,” says Mr. Wood, “while I was preparing it for the press, I had the honour of being called to a station, which for some years fixed my whole attention upon objects of so very different a nature, that it hecame necessary to lay Homer aside, and to reserve the farther consideration of my subject for a time of more leisure. However, in the course of that active period, the duties of my situation engaged me in an occasional attendance upon a nobleman (the late earl Granville), who, though he presided at his majesty’s councils, reserved some moments for literary amusement. His lordship was so partial to this subject, that I seldom had the honour of receiving his commands on business, that he did not lead the conversation to Greece and Homer. Being directed to wait upon his lordship a few days before he died, with the preliminary articles of the treaty of Paris, I found him so languid, that I proposed postponing my business for another time^ but he insisted that I should stay, saying,” it could not prolong his life, to neglect his duty:“and, repeating a passage out of Sarpedon’s speech, dwelt with particular emphasis on a line which recalled to his mind the distinguishing part he had taken in public affairs. His lordship then repeated the last word several times with a calm and determined resignation; and, after a serious pause of some minutes, he desired to hear the treaty read; to which he listened with great attention; and recovered spirits enough to declare the approbation of a dying statesman (1 use his own words) on the most glorious war, and most honourable peace, this country ever saw.| Mr. Wood also left behind him several Mss. relating to his travels, but not sufficiently arranged to afford any hopes of their being given to the public. The house in which he lived in Putney is situated between the roads which lead to Wandswprth and Wimbledon, and became the residence of his widow. Mr. Wood purchased it of the executors of Edward Gibbon, esq. whose son, the celebrated historian, was born there. The farm and pleasuregrounds which adjoin the house are very spacious, containing near fourscore acres, and surrounded by a gravel-walk, which commands a beautiful prospect of London and the adjacent country. Mr. Wood was buried in the cemetery near the upper road to Richmond. On his monument is the following inscription, drawn up by the hon. Horace Walpole, earl of Orford, at the request of his widow:

To the beloved memory of Robert Wood, a man of supreme benevolence, who was born at the castle of Riverstown near Trim, in the county of Meath, and died Sept. 9, 1771, in the fifty-fifth year of his age; and of Thomas Wood his son, who died August 25th, 1772, in his ninth year; Ann, their once happy wife and mother, now dedicates this melancholy and inadequate memorial of her affection and grief. The beautiful editions of Balbec and Palmyra, illustrated by the classic pen of Robert Wood, supply a nobler and more lasting monument, and will survive those august remains.1

1 Nichols’s Bowyer. Tysons’s Environs, vol, I.