Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Doyle, John Andrew

DOYLE, JOHN ANDREW (1844–1907), historian, born on 14 May 1844, was son of Andrew Doyle (d. 1888), for some time editor of the 'Morning Chronicle,' and afterwards a poor law inspector. His mother (d. Dec. 1896) was the youngest of three daughters of Sir John Easthope, baronet [q. v.], through whom he inherited property which made him independent of a profession. At Eton from 1853 to 1862, Doyle, after a year of private tuition, matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, in October 1863. He graduated B.A. in 1867, with a first class in the school of literse humaniores, but continued to reside in Oxford for several terms in order to study history. In the spring of 1869 he obtained the Arnold prize for an essay on 'The English Colonies in America before the Declaration of Independence'; and in November of the same year he was elected to a fellowship at All Souls, which he retained until his death. Though he was not a continuous resident in Oxford, he spent much time in the college, and took a large part in college affairs, helping in the framing of the statutes made by the commissioners of 1887, in the management of the college library, of which he was librarian from 1881 to 1888, and in the work of general administration.

His home was with his parents at Plasdulas in Denbighshire until 1880, when they moved to a property on which they built a house at Pendarren near Crickhowell in Breconshire. There Doyle continued to live after his parents' death. He took an active interest in local affairs, more especially in what concerned the higher education in Wales. He served as high sheriff of Breconshire in 1892-3, and was an alderman of the county council from 1889 until his last illness. He was a member of the joint committee for Breconshire under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, of the Breconshire education committee under the Act of 1902, and of the council and agricultural committee of Aberystwyth College. He paid much attention to the development of agriculture in his own neighbourhood, which profited from his knowledge and interest in the breeding of stock and poultry.

The main literary work of his life was the 'History of the American Colonies down to the War of Independence,' an outcome of his studies for the Arnold essay. His aim was 'to describe and explain the process, by which a few scattered colonies along the Atlantic seaboard grew into that vast confederate republic, the United States of America.' After publishing in 1875 a 'Summary History of America' ('Historical Course for Schools') there followed the volumes 'The English in America' (1882), 'The Puritan Colonies' (2 vols. 1887), 'The Middle Colonies' (1907), and 'The Colonies under the House of Hanover' (1907). These books constitute the most complete authoritative account of the English colonies in America down to the conquest of Canada. The subject does not lend itself to continuous narrative or dramatic literary treatment; it is broken up by the necessary transition from the affairs of one colony to those of another. But the history is set forth in clear, vigorous style, with fulness of detail and judicial temper.

Doyle's literary work left him leisure for other interests besides those of local administration. He was a volunteer from the commencement of the volunteer movement; he was in the rifle corps as a boy at Eton and as an undergraduate at Oxford, and he took up rifle shooting with enthusiasm. He accompanied the Irish team which visited America in 1874; he shot in the Irish eight for the Elcho shield in 1875, and made the top score for the team, (147 out of a possible 180), and he was for many years adjutant of the Irish eight. He did much to encourage long-range rifle shooting at Oxford by getting up competitions with Cambridge teams, by offering and contributing to prizes, and by readiness to help with advice which was much valued. Though he was never very successful as a rifle shot, his knowledge was extensive and his judgment sound, as is apparent from an article on modern rifle shooting in the 'Quarterly Review' (1895). He was a constant attendant at Wimbledon and Bisley and was a member of the council of the National Rifle Association from 1889 to his death.

Doyle was also an authority on the breeding of dogs and of racehorses. He was one of the earliest members of the Kennel Club, founded in 1873, and was specially famous as a breeder and judge of fox-terriers. His knowledge of the pedigrees of racehorses was great and his judgment as to their breeding of recognised value. His own experiments in this line were not on a large scale, but Rosedrop, a filly foal, bred by him and sold with the rest of his stock after his death, was the winner of the Oaks in 1910. Doyle died, unmarried, at his house at Pendarren on 5 Aug. 1907.

Besides the literary work already mentioned, Doyle contributed chapters on American history to the 'Cambridge Modern History' and many memoirs of early colonists in America to this Dictionary. He also edited the 'Memoir and Correspondence (1782-1854) of Susan Ferrier' (1898) and 'Papers of Sir Charles Vaughan' (1902). A collection of his essays on various subjects (from the 'Quarterly,' the 'English Historical Review,' 'Baily's Magazine,' and the 'Kennel Encyclopaedia') was published in 1911, being edited by Prof. W. P. Ker with an introduction by the present writer.

[Doyle's Essays on Various Subjects, 1911, introd.; personal knowledge; The Times, 7 Aug. 1907.]

W. R. A.