Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Daniel, William Barker

DANIEL, WILLIAM BARKER (1753?–1833), author of ‘Rural Sports,’ was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, taking the degree of B.A. in 1787 and that of M.A. in 1790. It does not appear that he was ever beneficed, although he took holy orders in the English church, and his name has no place in Gilbert's ‘List of Beneficed Clergy’ (1829). He seems to have indulged in sporting tastes to a degree which shocked even his tolerant age. A correspondent in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1802, lxxii. 621) writes contemptuously of him as though he had no benefice, and adds, ‘I cannot help thinking he is fitter to act the character of Nimrod than that of a dignitary in the church of England,’ but is rebuked by the editor in a note. At the end of 1833 he died, at the reputed age of eighty, in Garden Row, within the rules of the King's Bench, where he had resided for twenty years. No particulars of his character or habits have been preserved.

Daniel's ‘Rural Sports’ were the delight of sportsmen at the beginning of the century. The book appeared in 2 vols. 4to 1801, dedicated to J. H. Strutt, M.P., confessedly a compilation in great part, but with much new matter. Hunting, coursing, shooting, &c., are fully described, and the plates in both volumes are excellent. A new edition in 3 vols. 8vo was issued in 1812, and a supplementary 4to vol. in 1813, dedicated to the Marquis of Blandford. This volume contains a miscellaneous collection of anecdotes and receipts, with a bibliography of angling (transferred from Sir H. Ellis's list), ‘to entertain the sportsman and give a hint to the naturalist.’ It is written altogether in a more careless style than the rest of the book. ‘This admirable work, now almost forgotten,’ says a writer in the ‘Quarterly Review’ (No. 235, vol. cxviii.), ‘has nevertheless been the basis of many a later book on field sports.’ Herein it has only shared the fate of many other old fishing and hunting treatises. The book will always be valued as a general record of sport before the introduction of modern guns and methods to kill game more speedily and surely. Sir R. P. Gallwey remarks (Moor and Marsh Shooting, 1886, p. 314) that it ‘contains one of the earliest, if not the earliest, authentic accounts of wildfowl shooting with punt and gun, besides many incidents connected with fowling, that are of great interest as records of the sport of catching and shooting ducks in past days.’

Besides this, Daniel published in 1822 ‘Plain Thoughts of Former Years upon the Lord's Prayer,’ in eight jejune and superficial discourses.

[List of Cambridge Graduates; Annual Register, 1833; Gent. Mag. 1833; Daniel's own works.]

M. G. W.