Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Davenport, Richard Alfred

DAVENPORT, RICHARD ALFRED (1777?–1852), miscellaneous writer, was born about 1777. We find him engaged in literary work in London at an early age, and here he seems to have spent the whole of a long and exceptionally laborious literary life (Britton, Autobiography, 1849–50, p. 93. Some scattered notices of Davenport will be found in this work). He wrote: ‘New Elegant Extracts,’ 2nd series, Chiswick, 12 vols. 1823–7; ‘The Commonplace Book of Epigrams,’ a collection of which many pieces are original, Edinburgh, 1825; ‘A Dictionary of Biography,’ 1831. To the ‘Family Library’ he contributed a ‘Memoir of the Life of Peter the Great,’ anon., 1832; ‘The Life of Ali Pasha of Tepeleni, Vizier of Epirus, surnamed Aslan or the Lion,’ 1837; ‘The History of the Bastile and of its principal Captives,’ 1838, several times republished; ‘Narratives of Peril and Suffering,’ 2 vols. 1840, new edition, New York, 1846; ‘Lives of Individuals who raised themselves from Poverty to Eminence and Fortune,’ 1841. He edited, with lives, a number of the British poets, the works of Robertson the historian, with life, 1824; Mitford's ‘History of Greece,’ with continuation to the death of Alexander, 1835; Pilkington's ‘General Dictionary of Painters,’ 1852; and some works like Guthrie's ‘Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar,’ and Enfield's ‘Speaker.’ Davenport also wrote large portions of the history, biography, geography, and criticism in Rivington's ‘Annual Register’ for several years, translated many works, and contributed to current literature ‘innumerable articles on biography, poetry, criticism, and other subjects.’ He also composed verses of some merit.

Davenport resided for the last eleven years of his life at Brunswick Cottage, Park Street, Camberwell, a freehold house of which he was the owner. Here he lived in seclusion, working hard and drinking large quantities of laudanum. No one was ever seen to visit him. The house was never cleaned, and all its windows were broken. On Sunday, 25 Jan. 1852, a passing policeman was attracted by some one moaning. He broke into the house and discovered Davenport insensible with a laudanum bottle in his hand. He died before anything could be done for him. The coroner's jury found the rooms ‘literally crammed with books, manuscripts, pictures, ancient coins, and antiques of various descriptions.’ These with the furniture were thickly covered with dust, and all that was perishable had fallen into decay. The verdict was that ‘deceased had died from inadvertently taking an overdose of opium.’

[Gent. Mag. May 1852, p. 525; Morning Post, 29 Jan. 1852, p. 4, col. 4; Globe, 29 Jan. 1852, p. 1, col. 4.]

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