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

DUCKETT, GEORGE (d. 1732), author, of Hartham, Wiltshire, and Dewlish, Dorsetshire, was the second son and heir of Lionel Duckett (1651–1693). He was elected member for the family borough of Calne, Wiltshire, on 11 May 1705, and was again returned in 1708 and 1722. He married in 1711 Grace, the only daughter and heiress of Thomas Skinner of Dewlish. Duckett was on friendly terms with Addison and Edmund Smith [q. v.], both of whom were frequent visitors to Hartham, where Smith died in July 1710. About 1715, perhaps in conjunction with Sir Thomas Burnet (1694-1753) [q. v.], he published ‘Homerides, or a Letter to Mr. Pope, occasioned by his intended translation of Homer; by Sir Iliad Doggerel,’ and in 1716 the same authors produced ‘Homerides, or Homer's First Book modernised’ (1716). In 1715 also Curll published ‘An Epilogue to a Puppet Show at Bath concerning the same Iliad,’ by Duckett alone. According to Curll, several things published under Burnet's name were in reality by Duckett (Key to the Dunciad, p. 17). In 1717 appeared anonymously ‘A Summary of all the Religious Houses in England and Wales’ (pp. xxiv, 100), which contained titles and valuations at the time of their dissolution, and an approximate estimate of their value, if existing, in 1717. James West, in a letter dated 18 Jan. 1730, says: ‘George Duckett, the author of the “Summary Account of the Religious Houses,” is now a commissioner of excise’ (Rawl. MSS. R.L. ii. 168, and Hearne, MS. Diary, vol. cxxvii. f. 163, quoted in ‘Duchetiana,’ p. 245). Burnet was at the time considered part author of this interesting tract. Burnet and Duckett promoted two weekly papers, the ‘Grumbler’ and ‘Pasquin’ respectively. The first number of the former was dated 14 Feb. 1714–15 (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iv. 88, viii. 494). Nichols and Drake, through a careless reading of the notes to the ‘Dunciad,’ ascribe the ‘Grumbler’ to Duckett alone. Burnet is bracketed with him in the ‘Dunciad’ (iii. ll. 173–80). ‘Pope Alexander's Supremacy and Infallibility examined,’ in which Duckett co-operated with John Dennis, appeared in 1729. About twenty years after the death of Edmund Smith, Duckett informed Oldmixon that Clarendon's ‘History’ was before publication corrupted by Aldrich, Smalridge, and Atterbury, and that Smith before he died confessed to having helped them, and pointed out some spurious passages. A bitter controversy resulted; Duckett's charge entirely broke down, and it is now unknown who was primarily responsible. Duckett, who was one of the commissioners of excise from 1722–3 to 1732, and who is sometimes alluded to as Colonel (the title of his brother William), died 6 Oct. 1732 (Gent. Mag. ii. 1030), his wife surviving until 1755.

[Sir George F. Duckett's Duchetiana, pp. 46, 48, 55, 57, 59–62, 65, 66, 81, 106, 219, 245; Notes to Dunciad, bk. iii. ll. 173–80; Johnson's Lives of the Poets, ‘Edmund Smith’ and ‘Pope;’ The Curliad, p. 37; Remarks upon the Hist. of the Royal House of Stuart (1731), pp. 6, 7; Malone's Prose Works of Dryden, i. pt. i. p. 347. Some very interesting extracts from Duckett's note-books appear in Duchetiana, pp. 60–3.]

W. R.