Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Fry, Danby Palmer

1518665Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 2 — Fry, Danby Palmer1912Henry Benjamin Wheatley

FRY, DANBY PALMER (1818–1903), legal writer, born in Great Ormond Street, London, on 1 Dec. 1818, was second son in the family of four sons and four daughters of Alfred Augustus Fry, a good scholar and linguist, who was accountant and for some years a partner in the firm of Thomas de la Rue & Co., wholesale stationers. His mother was Jane Sarah Susannah Westcott. He was named after his father's friend, Danby Palmer of Norwich [cf. Palmer, Charles John]. The eldest son, Alfred Augustus Fry, was the first English barrister to practise in Constantinople.

Danby was educated at Hunter Street Academy, Brunswick Square, London, a well-known grammar school conducted by Jonathan Dawson, whose sons, George Dawson [q. v.] of Birmingham and Benjamin Dawson (subsequently proprietor of the school and long treasurer of the Philological Society), were Fry's schoolfellows. In 1836 he became a clerk in the poor law board, first at Somerset House and afterwards at Gwydyr House, Whitehall. On 1 April 1848, during the Chartist riots, he was officially deputed to report to headquarters the proceedings of the agitators on Kennington Common. Each hour he received messengers to whom he delivered his hastily written reports. Called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn on 30 Jan. 1851, he became in October 1871 inspector of audits, and on 15 Oct. 1873 assistant secretary to the local government board. From 1878 until his retirement in 1882 he was legal adviser to the board.

Fry made some reputation as author of legal handbooks. As early as 1846 he produced ‘Local Taxes of the United Kingdom’ (published officially). His ‘Union Assessment Committee Act’ (1862; 8th edit. 1897); his ‘Lunacy Acts’ (1864; 3rd edit. 1890); ‘The Law Relating to Vaccination’ (1869; 7th edit. 1890), and ‘The Valuation [Metropolis] Act’ (1869; 2nd edit. 1872) became standard works.

Through his father, whose circle of acquaintances included Lord Brougham, Leigh Hunt, and others interested in social and political reforms, Fry was friendly from an early age with Charles Knight and with Sir Rowland Hill's family. Economic and philanthropic problems occupied much of his attention, but his leisure was devoted to philology, and he became an expert student of both old English and old French. He helped his father in compiling in MS. an English dictionary with the words arranged according to roots. He was an original member of the Philological Society, founded in 1842, and its treasurer for many years, and was a contributor of well-informed papers on linguistic subjects to its ‘Transactions.’ He was one of the original committee of the Early English Text Society, founded by Dr. Furnivall [q. v. Suppl. II] in 1864. He was joint author with Benjamin Dawson of a small book ‘On the Genders of French Substantives’ (1876). His philological studies were pursued till his death. He died unmarried, on 16 Feb. 1903, at his house, 166 Haverstock Hill, and was buried at Highgate cemetery.

[Personal knowledge.]

H. B. W-y.