Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Davenport, Robert

DAVENPORT, ROBERT (fl. 1623), poet and dramatist, published in 1623 ‘A Crowne for a Conquerour; and Too Late to call backe Yesterday. Two Poems, the one Divine, the other Morall,’ 4to. To the second poem, which has a separate title-page, is prefixed a dedicatory epistle ‘to my noble Friends, Mr. Richard Robinson and Mr. Michael Bowyer,’ two famous actors. From the epistle, which is signed ‘Rob. Davenport,’ we learn that the poems were written at sea. Davenport is also the author of a tragedy, ‘King John and Matilda,’ 1655, 1662, 4to, and of two comedies, (1) ‘A New Trick to cheat the Divell,’ 1639, 4to; (2) ‘The City Night-Cap,’ 1661, 4to. It appears from Sir Henry Herbert's ‘Office-Book’ that ‘The City Night-Cap’ was licensed for the stage as early as 1624. In the same year an unpublished play of Davenport, ‘The History of Henry I,’ was licensed by Herbert. It was among the plays destroyed by Warburton's cook, and in Warburton's list is attributed to Shakespeare and Davenport. Doubtless it is the play which was entered in the ‘Stationers' Registers,’ 9 Sept. 1653, as the work of Shakespeare and Davenport, under the title of ‘Henry I and Henry II.’ The tragedy, ‘King John and Matilda,’ which has considerable merit, was written in or before 1639; for it is mentioned in a list of plays that belonged at that time to the Cockpit Company. A copy in the Dyce Library of the 1662 edition has on the title-page ‘written by W. Daven. gent.’ To ‘A New Trick to cheat the Divell’ is prefixed by the publisher an address ‘to the courteous reader and gentle peruser,’ in which the play is described as ‘now an Orphant and wanting the Father which first begot it.’ From this statement it has been inferred that Davenport was dead at the time of publication; but the publisher may have merely intended to say that the author was at a distance. Davenport certainly seems to have been living in 1640; for commendatory verses by him are prefixed to two plays published in that year—Rawlins's ‘Rebellion’ and Richards's ‘Messalina.’ Indeed, it is probable that he was alive in 1651, when Samuel Sheppard published a collection of ‘Epigrams,’ one of which (Lib. ii. Epigr. 19) is addressed ‘To Mr. Davenport on his play called the Pirate.’ Sheppard had a high opinion of ‘The Pirate,’ a play which was never published, and declared, ‘Thou rival'st Shakespeare though thy glory's lesse.’ In the Cambridge University Library (D. d. x. 30) is a manuscript poem by Davenport entitled ‘Survey of the Sciences.’ A volume of manuscript poems addressed by Davenport to William earl of Newcastle was in Thorpe's ‘Catalogue of Manuscripts,’ 1836 (No. 1450). Hunter (Chorus Vatum) mentions a manuscript poem by Davenport entitled ‘Policy without Piety too Subtle to be Sound: Piety without Policy too Simple to be Safe,’ &c. Two unpublished plays, ‘The Fatal Brothers’ and ‘The Politic Queen, or Murther will out,’ were entered in the ‘Stationers' Registers,’ 29 June 1660, as the work of Davenport. Another unpublished play, ‘The Woman's Mistake,’ is ascribed in the ‘Stationers' Registers,’ 9 Sept. 1653, to Davenport and Drue. ‘The Bloody Banquet,’ a tragedy, 1620 (2nd ed. 1639), by ‘T. D.,’ has been assigned without evidence to Davenport. ‘The City Night-Cap’ is included in the various editions of Dodsley's ‘Old Plays.’

[Hunter's Chorus Vatum; Hazlitt's Dodsley, vol. xiii.; Variorum Shakespeare, 1821, iii. 229; Chalmers's Supplem. Apol. p. 219; Retrospective Review, iv. 87–100; Hazlitt's Bibliographical Collections.]

A. H. B.