Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drury, Dru (1725-1803)

DRURY, DRU (1725–1803), naturalist, was born 4 Feb. 1725 in Wood Street, London. Drury claimed descent from Sir Dru Drury [q. v.] His father was a silversmith, and married four times. Mary Hesketh was the mother of Dru and of seven others, who all died young. The boy was carefully educated, and assisted his father in the business. When Dru was twenty-three his father resigned it to him, and he married, 7 June 1748, Esther Pedley, a daughter of his father's first wife by her former husband, and thus became possessed of several freehold houses in London and Essex, which brought him an annual income of between 250l. and 300l. In 1771 he purchased a silversmith's stock and shop at 32 Strand. Here he made nearly 2,000l. per annum for some years, but failed, as it seems from no fault of his own, in 1777. He behaved most honourably to his creditors, and by their assistance was able to recommence business in the next year. His wife died in 1787. He had by her seventeen children, of whom all except three, who survived him, died young. In 1789 he retired from trade and gave up the business to his son. From the time when he began life on his own account he had been an eager student of entomology, inserting advertisements in foreign papers which solicited specimens either by exchange or purchase. His cabinets soon became famous. Donovan speaks of his ‘noble and very magnificent collections.’ Smeathman (himself distinguished by his researches among the termites or white ants) was one of his most valued collectors. Thus he expended large sums in order to enrich his cabinets with new specimens. He now spent his time between Broxbourne, where he still amused himself collecting insects, and London. He was also a lover of gardening and of angling in the Lea and New River. His favourite amusements for several years consisted in making wines from different kinds of fruit, and conducting experiments in distillation. Always of an active mind, speculations connected with obtaining gold led him to engage many travellers, especially Lewin, to join his projects. These generally turned out disappointments to all parties. At length he removed to Turnham Green, but a complication of ailments began to weigh him down. He died of stone, 15 Dec. 1803, his love for insects continuing to the last, and was buried in the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London. His daughter married Mr. André (a relative of Major André), a merchant in the city.

Entomology was much advanced by Drury's writings, but even more by the excellent figures which accompanied them, the work of Moses Harris. His descriptions often lack scientific precision; but his notices of the libellulidæ and of the insects of Sierra Leone are specially valuable. Some of his papers came into Mr. Westwood's hands. Drury's collection was remarkably fine, many of the specimens being unique. It had taken thirty years in its formation. His cabinets were sold by auction at his death, and brought 614l. 8s. 6d., with about 300l. more for the cabinets, books, and copper-plates of the illustrations. One cabinet is said to have contained eleven thousand insects. Linnæus, Kirby, and Fabricius each held Drury in high estimation, and named insects after him. Together with Pallas, the younger Linnæus, and Haworth, they were wont to correspond with him. His ‘Exotic Entomology’ was in part translated into German, and annotated by G. W. F. Panzer, 1785.

Drury was a man of the highest honour, upright and religious, active both in mind and body, and devotedly attached to entomology. His works are: 1. ‘Illustrations of Natural History, exhibiting upwards of 240 figures of Exotic Insects,’ 3 vols. 4to, London, 1770–82. 2. ‘Illustrations of Exotic Entomology, with upwards of 650 figures and descriptions of new Insects.’ This was edited with notes by J. O. Westwood, 3 vols. 4to, London, 1837, the original volumes being very rare. 3. ‘Directions for Collecting Insects in Foreign Countries,’ about 1800, a flyleaf of three pages, which he sent all over the world, and which was translated into several languages. 4. ‘Thoughts on the Precious Metals, particularly Gold, with directions to Travellers, &c., for obtaining them, and selecting other natural riches from the rough diamond down to the pebble-stone,’ 1801, 8vo, London. He styles himself in this ‘goldsmith to her majesty,’ and was an F.L.S. Its directions are very miscellaneous, and range from clothing and diet to crystallography.

[Bibl. Zoologiæ, Agassiz and Strickland, ii. 266; Life by Lieutenant-colonel C. H. Smith in the Naturalists' Library, i. 17–71, from materials supplied by Drury's grandsons; Discourse on the Study of Natural History and Taxidermy and Biography, pp. 51, 171, by W. Swainson, in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia; Gent. Mag. 1804, vol. lxxiv. pt. i. p. 86; Memoir by J. O. Westwood prefixed to Exotic Entomology.]

M. G. W.