Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drake, James

DRAKE, JAMES (1667–1707), political writer, was born in 1667 at Cambridge, where his father was a solicitor. He was educated at Wivelingham and Eton; admitted at Caius College, Cambridge, 20 March 1684; and graduated B.A. and M.A. with ‘unusual honours,’ it is said, ‘from men of the brightest parts.’ In 1693 he went to London, and was encouraged in the study of medicine by Sir Thomas Millington. He became M.B. in 1690 and M.D. in 1694. In 1701 he was elected F.R.S., and was admitted fellow of the College of Physicians 30 June 1706. In 1697 he had a share in a successful pamphlet called ‘Commendatory Verses upon the Author of Prince Arthur and King Arthur’ (Sir R. Blackmore). He became better known as a vigorous tory pamphleteer. In 1702 he published a pamphlet called ‘The History of the Last Parliament.’ It was written in the tory interest and accused the whigs of contemplating a ‘new model’ of ‘government’ and of systematically traducing the princess, now Queen Anne. The House of Lords had been investigating the report that William had plotted to secure the succession to the crown for the elector of Hanover. Drake's pamphlet was noticed in the course of the debate. He confessed the authorship and was summoned before the House of Lords, which ordered him to be prosecuted. He was tried and acquitted. In 1703 he published ‘Historia Anglo-Scotica,’ from a manuscript by an ‘unknown author.’ It was offensive to the presbyterians and was burnt at the Mercat Cross, Edinburgh, 30 June 1703. In 1704 he joined with Mr. Poley, member for Ipswich, in composing ‘The Memorial of the Church of England, humbly offered to the consideration of all true lovers of our Church and Constitution.’ This gave great offence to Marlborough and Godolphin, who were beginning to separate themselves from the tories. The book was also presented as a libel by the grand jury of the city on 31 Aug. 1705, and burnt by the common hangman. The queen mentioned it in her speech to the new parliament (27 Oct. 1705). After voting that the church was not in danger, both houses (14 Dec.) requested the queen to punish persons responsible for scandalous insinuations to the contrary. A proclamation was issued offering reward for the discovery of the authors of the memorial. The printer made a statement implicating three members of the House of Commons, Poley, Ward, and Sir Humphry Mackworth, but stated that the pamphlet was brought to him by two women, one of them masked, and the printed copies delivered by him to porters, some of whom were arrested. No further discoveries, however, were made. Drake escaped for the time, but was prosecuted in the following spring for some passages in the ‘Mercurius Politicus,’ a paper of which he was the author. He was convicted (14 Feb. 1706) of a libel, but a point was reserved, arising from a technical error. The word ‘nor’ had been substituted in the information for the word ‘not’ in the libel. Drake was acquitted upon this ground 6 Nov. 1706. The government then brought a writ of error; but meanwhile Drake's vexation and disappointments and ‘ill-usage from some of his party’ threw him into a fever, of which he died at Westminster, 2 March 1706–7.

Drake also wrote ‘The Sham Lawyer, or the Lucky Extravagant’ (adapted from Fletcher's ‘Spanish Curate’ and ‘Wit without Money’), acted in 1697 and printed, according to the title-page, ‘as it was damnably acted at Drury Lane.’ He is also said to have written ‘The Antient and Modern Stages Reviewed’ (1700), one of the replies to Jeremy Collier, and prefixed a life to the works of Tom Brown (1707). A medical treatise called ‘Anthropologia Nova, or a New System of Anatomy,’ was published just before his death in 1707. It reached a second edition in 1717, and a third in 1727, and was popular until displaced by Cheselden's ‘Anatomy.’ ‘Orationes Tres’ on medical subjects were printed in 1742. He contributed a paper upon the influence of respiration on the action of the heart to the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ xxiii. 1217. His portrait, by Thomas Foster, was engraved by Van der Gucht, and is prefixed to his ‘Anatomy.’

[Biog. Brit.; Boyer's Queen Anne, pp. 18, 19, 210, 218, 220, 221, 286; Life of Drake prefixed to ‘Memorial,’ 1711; Life (apparently very inaccurate) in Monthly Miscellany (1710), pp. 140–142; Hearne's Collections (Doble), i. 11, 59, 66, 155, 186, ii. 14; Biog. Dram. (Langbaine); Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 133, 340; Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 15; Bromley's Catalogue of Engraved Portraits, x. 233; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 272, 346.]