Deverell, Robert (DNB00)

DEVERELL, formerly PEDLEY, ROBERT (1760–1841), an eccentric author, son of Simon Pedley of Bristol, was born in that city in 1760. After being educated in the school there under Mr. Lee he was admitted a pensioner of St. John's College, Cambridge, on 27 June 1777. He proceeded B.A. in 1781, being seventh wrangler and second chancellor's medallist. In the following year he obtained the member's prize for a Latin essay on the theme, ‘Utrum ad emendandos magis, an corrumpendos, civium mores conferat Musica?’ Sir Robert Heron, who was admitted a fellow-commoner of St. John's in 1783, remarks: ‘Sir Richard Heron consulted the present Lord Harrowby, who had just left Cambridge, for a tutor for me. He could not entirely recommend any, but on the whole preferred Mr. Pedley, afterwards Deverell. He had some learning and much ignorance, but being a little mad, his strange ideas taught me to think for myself. We spent two summers together in France, Germany, and Holland.’ On 30 March 1784 Pedley was admitted a fellow of St. John's on the Lady Margaret's foundation as a native of Gloucestershire, and in the same year he commenced M.A. Subsequently he changed his name to Deverell, and was in 1802 elected M.P. for Saltash, being, it seems, a whig, but an advocate of the slave trade. He died in New Norfolk Street, London, on 29 Nov. 1841. Under the erroneous date of 1842 Sir Robert Heron thus records his tutor's death: ‘This year died my old tutor Robert Deverell, formerly Pedley. He wrote works which decidedly proved insanity, and his conduct was also sometimes such as to admit of no other excuse; yet he was the best tutor I could have had; for with a private education, without companions of any ability, I was in need of his strange and active imagination to excite my reasoning faculties.’

His works, most of them privately printed, are: 1. ‘Alter et Idem, a new Review,’ No. I. Reading, 1794. 2. ‘A Guide to the Knowledge of the Ancients,’ 1803. 3. ‘Andalusia; or notes tending to show that the Yellow Fever of the West Indies and of Andalusia in Spain was a disease well known to the Ancients,’ Lond. [1805] 4to. 4. ‘A Supplement to notes on the ancient method of treating the Fever of Andalusia, deduced from an explanation of the Hieroglyphics painted on the Cambridge Mummy,’ Lond. 1805, 4to. 5. ‘Two Letters addressed to the Right Hon. William Pitt on the subject of the Ancient Aries, or Battering Ram,’ Lond. 1805, 4to. 6. ‘Letter to Mr. Whitbread on two bills pending in Parliament,’ 1807, 8vo. 7. ‘A new view of the Classics and Ancient Arts; tending to show their connection with the Sciences,’ Lond. [1806] 4to. 8. ‘Hieroglyphics and other Antiquities. In treating of which many favourite pieces of Butler, Shakespeare, and other great writers are put in a light entirely new,’ 6 vols. 1813, 8vo; 2nd edit. 6 vols. Lond. 1816, 8vo. The author endeavours to show that all the phrases, characters, and incidents in Shakespeare's plays are merely allusions to the appearances of the moon, a representation of which, and of Shakespearean characters, bearing supposed resemblance to its lights and shadows, form the staple of the illustrations.

[Gent. Mag. new ser. xvii. 112; Heron's Notes, 2nd edit. pp. 263–5, 290; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), 634; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i. 469, ii. 61, ix. 577, x. 236, 2nd ser. v. 466, 4th ser. iv. 503; Martin's Privately Printed Books, 2nd edit. 128, 159, 161, 167; Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors (1816), 92.]

T. C.