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Garnett, Richard (1789-1850)

Garnett, Richard (1789-1850)

British philologist who maintained a secret interest in astrology. He was born July 26, 1789, in Otley, Yorkshire, and educated at Otley Grammar School. In time he mastered several languagesFrench, Italian, German, Latin, and Greek and became a curate at Blackburn and assistant master of the grammar school. He also contributed articles to the Protestant Guardian. After the death of his first wife and their infant daughter, he moved to Lichfield, where he became priest-vicar of Lichfield Cathedral in 1829 and absorbed himself in the study of comparative philosophy. He contributed important papers to the Quarterly Review dealing with English lexicography, dialects, and the Celtic languages. In 1834 he married his second wife, Rayne Weaks.

In 1838 he became assistant keeper of printed books at the British Museum Library. He became a member of the Philological Society and contributed important papers to its Transactions. He died September 27, 1850.

Few suspected that this eminent scholar of philology and important official at the august British Museum Library was secretly fascinated by astrology. However, he not only studied early accounts of this subject but also experimented himself with research on the association of planetary positions with mental illness. He published his findings under the pseudonym A. G. Trent (an anagram of his own name).

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Garnett, Richard

Richard Garnett, 1835–1906, English librarian and author. From 1851 until his retirement in 1899 he was connected with the British Museum, which he served with great distinction. Besides writing voluminous essays, biographies, and novels, he discovered hitherto unpublished poems by Shelley (Relics of Shelley, 1862). His works include the novel Twilight of the Gods (1888), Essays in Librarianship and Bibliography (1899), Poems (1893), and The Age of Dryden (1895). His son was Edward Garnett, 1868–1937, critic and author. Although his own work never achieved great distinction, Edward encouraged and guided many writers, including Conrad and Galsworthy, and published their letters to him. Constance (Black) Garnett, 1862–1946, Edward's wife, was famous for her translations from the Russian, including the great novels of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. The son of Edward and Constance, David Garnett, 1892–1981, novelist, won acclaim for the imaginativeness of such works as Lady into Fox (1923) and A Man in the Zoo (1924).

See C. G. Heilbrun, The Garnett Family (1961).

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