Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Duckett, William

DUCKETT, WILLIAM (1768–1841), United Irishman, born at Killarney in 1768, was sent to the Irish College at Paris, and gained a scholarship at Sainte-Barbe, then conducted by the Abbé Badnel. Returning to Ireland, he contributed to the revolutionary ‘Northern Star,’ under the signature of ‘Junius Redivivus.’ These letters, according to his own account, made it prudent for him to quit Ireland, and in 1796 he was in Paris. Tone, who was also in Paris, regarded him as a spy, and complained that he forestalled him by submitting to the French government several memorandums on the state of Ireland, that he constantly crossed his path in the ministerial antechamber, tried to force his conversation on him, and by addressing him in English betrayed his incognito. When, moreover, Tone arrived with Hoche at Brest, Duckett was there, intending to accompany them, but was not allowed to embark. In 1798 he was reported to Castlereagh as having been sent to Hamburg with money destined for a mutiny in the British fleet and for burning the dockyards. This, coupled with his outlawry by the Irish parliament, ought to have vouched for his sincerity, but he was suspected of betraying Tandy and Blackwell at Hamburg. The existence of traitors in the camp was so notorious that suspicion often fell on the innocent. He married a Danish lady attached to the Augustenburg family, returned to Paris about 1803, and became a professor at the resuscitated college Sainte-Barbe. Durozoir, one of his pupils, and himself a literary man, speaks in high terms of his classical attainments, his wonderful memory, and the interest which he imparted to lessons on Shakespeare and Milton by felicitous comparisons with the ancients. Duckett seems to have shunned, or been shunned by, Irish exiles in Paris, yet Durozoir testifies to his anti-English feeling and to his admiration of the French revolution. In 1819, no longer apparently connected with Sainte-Barbe, he conducted English literature classes, as also girls' classes on the Lancastrian system. Between 1816 and 1821 he published odes on Princess Charlotte's death, Greek and South American independence, &c., productions evidently confined to a small circle in Paris. In 1828 he issued a ‘Nouvelle Grammaire Anglaise.’ He died in 1841 in Paris after a long illness, quoting his favourite Horace on his deathbed, and receiving extreme unction. He left two sons, Alexander, a physician, accessit at the Val-de-Grace examination, 1828, and William (1803–1873), a French journalist, translator of German works, and editor or compiler of the ‘Dictionnaire de la Conversation,’ 52 vols., completed in 1843, to a large extent a translation of Brockhaus. This William had a son, William Alexander (1831–1863), who contributed to the new edition of the ‘Dictionnaire,’ and published an illustrated work on French monuments, also a daughter, Mathilde (1842–1884?), who studied under Rosa Bonheur, exhibited at the Paris Salon, 1861–8, and taught drawing in Paris.

[Moniteur Universel, 10 April 1841; supplement to Dict. de la Conversation; Memoirs of Castlereagh; Madden's United Irishmen; Life of Tone.]

J. G. A.