Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Doran, John

DORAN, JOHN (1807–1878), miscellaneous writer, was born in London on 11 March 1807. Both his parents were Irish. His father, John Doran, was a native of Drogheda, county Louth. On the suppression of the rebellion of 1798 he found it expedient to pass from Ireland into England. He set up his abode in London, where he soon engaged in commerce as a contractor. A cutter in which he was visiting the fleet was taken by the French. He was detained in France for three years, and acquired a perfect knowledge of the language, which he imparted to his son. When very young the boy was sent to Matheson's Academy in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square. There in 1819 the Duke of Kent presented to him a silver medal (still preserved) having on its obverse ‘For being the first in French, geography, and elocution,’ and on its reverse, ‘To John Doran, aged twelve years.’ Before he was seventeen he had lost both father and mother. His intimate knowledge of French secured for him in the early part of 1823 an appointment as tutor to the eldest son of the first Lord Glenlyon. He travelled on the continent for five years with his pupil, George Murray, afterwards Duke of Atholl. Before leaving England Doran had begun writing on the London ‘Literary Chronicle’ (absorbed in the ‘Athenæum’ in 1828), to which during his sojourn abroad he became a regular contributor; a collection of his Parisian sketches and Paris letters, selected from its columns, appeared eventually in 1828 under the title of ‘Sketches and Reminiscences.’ At the age of seventeen he had written a melodrama, which, under the title of ‘Justice, or the Venetian Jew,’ was on 8 April 1824 produced at the Surrey Theatre. From 1828 to 1837 he was tutor to Lord Rivers, and to the sons of Lord Harewood and of Lord Portman. Doran began in 1830 to supply the ‘Bath Journal’ with lyrical translations from the French, German, Latin, and Italian, two of his favourite authors being Béranger and Catullus. On 3 July 1834 he married at Reading Emma, the daughter of Captain Gilbert, R.N., and settled down for a time in Hay-a-Park Cottage, at Knaresborough. In 1835 he published the ‘History of Reading.’ After giving up his last tutorship, Doran travelled on the continent for two or three years, and took his doctor's degree in the faculty of philosophy at the university of Marburg in Prussia. Returning to England he adopted literature as his profession, and settled in St. Peter's Square, Hammersmith. In 1841 he began his literary editorship of the ‘Church and State Gazette,’ receiving 100l. a year, with which till 1852 he appeared to be perfectly well satisfied. In 1852 he published the memoir of Marie Thérèse Charlotte, duchesse d'Angoulême, under the title of ‘Filia Dolorosa.’ The first 115 pages had been written by Mrs. Romer, who died, leaving the fragment. In 1852 he also edited a new edition of Charles Anthon's text of the Anabasis of Xenophon. In 1853 he prefixed a life of Young to a reissue of the ‘Night Thoughts,’ rewritten in 1854 for Young's complete works. Soon afterwards he became a regular contributor to the ‘Athenæum.’ He became closely connected with Hepworth Dixon, the editor, and during Dixon's absences acted as his substitute. At the same period Doran began a series of popular works. In 1854 he published ‘Table Traits and Something on Them,’ and ‘Habits and Men,’ both exhibiting his command of a great store of miscellaneous anecdotes. In 1855 he published in 2 vols. ‘The Queens of the House of Hanover.’ In 1856 appeared ‘Knights and their Days.’ In 1857 Doran published, in 2 vols. 12mo, his historical compilation entitled ‘Monarchs retired from Business.’ In 1858 he published his ‘History of Court Fools,’ 8vo, and edited the ‘Bentley Ballads,’ which have since passed through several editions. In 1859 he produced ‘New Pictures and Old Panels,’ 8vo, prefixed to which was his portrait engraved by Joseph Brown from a photograph. Nearly at the same time he published for the first time from the original manuscripts, in 2 vols., ‘The Last Journals of Horace Walpole.’ In 1860 appeared his ‘Book of the Princes of Wales,’ and in 1861 his ‘Memoir of Queen Adelaide,’ 12mo. In 1860 Doran published his most elaborate work, ‘Their Majesties' Servants,’ an historical account of the English stage, of which a new edition was issued in 1887, revised by Mr. R. W. Lowe. ‘Saints and Sinners, or in the Church and about it,’ appeared in 1868. In the same year he edited Henry Tuckerman's ‘The Collector,’ being a series of essays on books, newspapers, pictures, inns, authors, doctors, holidays, actors, and preachers. In August 1869, upon the death of Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, the first baronet, Doran for about a year succeeded Hepworth Dixon as editor of the ‘Athenæum.’ Immediately after the raising of the siege of Paris he brought out ‘A Souvenir of the War of 1870–1.’ On the retirement of Mr. William John Thoms, Doran was appointed to the editorship of ‘Notes and Queries.’ In 1873 he published ‘A Lady of the Last Century,’ 8vo, the well-known Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu. Three years later he published, in 2 vols. 8vo, ‘Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence, 1740–86,’ founded upon the letters of Sir Horace Mann to Horace Walpole. Another work from his hand, also in 2 vols. 8vo, appeared in 1877, entitled ‘London in the Jacobite Times.’ An amusing volume was produced by him in 1878, called ‘Memories of our Great Towns, with Anecdotic Gleanings concerning their Worthies and their Oddities,’ 8vo. His twenty-fourth publication was produced as a serial contribution to ‘Temple Bar,’ and published posthumously in 1885 as ‘In and about Drury Lane,’ a kind of appendix to ‘Their Majesties' Servants.’ Doran died at Notting Hill on 25 Jan. 1878, and was buried on 29 Jan. at Kensal Green. He left an only son, Alban Doran, F.R.C.S., and an only daughter, Florence, married to Andreas Holtz of Twyford Abbey, near Ealing.

[Information from Mr. Alban Doran; Times, 28 Jan. 1878; Illustrated London News, 9 Feb. 1878, with portrait; John Cordy Jeaffreson's paper in Temple Bar, April 1878, lii. 460–94; Annual Register for 1878, pp. 270–1.]

C. K.