Francis Grose (c. 1730-1791), English antiquary, was born at Greenford in Middlesex, about the year 1730. His father was a wealthy Swiss jeweller, settled at Richmond, Surrey. Grose early showed an interest in heraldry and antiquities, and his father procured him a position in the Heralds' College. In 1763, being then Richmond Herald, he sold his tabard, and shortly afterwards became adjutant and paymaster of the Hampshire militia, where, as he himself humorously observed, the only account-books he kept were his right and left pockets, into the one of which he received, and from the other of which he paid.
This carelessness exposed him to serious financial difficulties; and after a vain attempt to repair them by accepting a captaincy in the Surrey militia, the fortune left him by his father being squandered, he began to turn to account his excellent education and his powers as a draughtsman. In 1757 he had been elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In 1773 he began to publish his Antiquities of England and Wales, a work which brought him money as well as fame. This, with its supplementary parts relating to the Channel Islands, was not completed till 1787.
In 1789 he set out on an antiquarian tour through Scotland, and in the course of this journey met Burns, who composed in his honour the famous song beginning "Ken ye aught o' Captain Grose," and in that other poem, still more famous, "Hear, land o' cakes, and brither Scots," warned all Scotsmen of this "chield amang them taking notes." In 1790 he began to publish the results of what Burns called "his peregrinations through Scotland;" but he had not finished the work when he bethought himself of going over to Ireland and doing for that country what he had already done for Great Britain. About a month after his arrival, while in Dublin, he died in an apoplectic fit at the dinner-table of a friend, on the 12th of June 1791.
Grose was a sort of antiquarian Falstaff—at least he possessed in a striking degree the knight's physical peculiarities; but he was a man of true honour and charity, a valuable friend, "overlooking little faults and seeking out greater virtues," and an inimitable boon companion. His humor, his varied knowledge and his good nature were all eminently calculated to make him a favourite in society. As Burns says of him-
"But wad ye see him in his glee,
For meikle glee and fun has he,
Then set him down, and twa or three
?Gude fellows wi' him;
And port, O port! shine thou a wee,
?And then ye'll see him!"
Grose's works include The Antiquities of England and Wales (6 vols., 1773-1787); Advice to the Officers of the British Army (1782), a satire in the manner of Swift's Directions to Servants; A Guide to Health, Beauty, Riches and Honour (1783), a collection of advertisements of the period, with characteristic satiric preface; A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785); A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons (1785-1789); Darrell's History of Dover (1786); Military Antiquities (2 vols., 1786-1788); A Provincial Glossary (1787); Rules for Drawing Caricatures (1788); The Antiquities of Scotland (2 vols., 1789-1791); Antiquities of Ireland (2 vols., 1791), edited and partly written by Ledwich. The Grumbler, sixteen humerous essays, appeared in 1791 after his death; and in 1793 The Olio, a collection of essays, jests and small pieces of poetry, highly characteristic of Grose, though certainly not all by him, was put together from his papers by his publisher, who was also his executor.
A capital full-length portrait of Grose by N. Dance is in the first volume of the Antiquities of England and Wales, and another is among Kay's Portraits. A versified sketch of him appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, lxi. 660. See Gentleman's Magazine, lxi. 498, 582; Noble's Hist. of the College of Arms, p. 434; Notes and Queries, 1st ser., ix. 350; 3rd ser., i. 64, x. 280-281; 5th ser., xii. 148; 6th ser., ii. 47, 257, 291; Hone, Every-day Book, i. 655.
1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 12. pg. 616.