Duffield, Alexander James (DNB01)

DUFFIELD, ALEXANDER JAMES (1821–1890), Spanish scholar and mining engineer, was born in 1821 at Tettenhall, near Wolverhampton in Staffordshire. After some study with a view to the clerical profession, he married and emigrated to South America. He remained some years in Bolivia and Peru engaged as a mining chemist, and acquired a knowledge of Spanish. During this period he interested himself in numerous enterprises, one of the most important of which was an attempt, which proved unsuccessful, to introduce alpacas into Australia. He several times visited Brisbane, and on one occasion made a six months' cruise on a vessel employed in the trade to supply coolie labour for the sugar plantations, and furnished the Queensland government with a report on that subject. Subsequently he travelled in Spain and other countries, and for some time held an appointment under the government of Canada.

In 1877 Duffield produced at London, in collaboration with Mr. Walter Herries Pollock, a novel entitled 'Masston: a Story of these Modern Days,' and in the same year appeared 'Peru in the Guano Age: being a short Account of a recent Visit to the Guano Deposits, with some Reflections on the Money they have produced and the Uses to which it has been applied;' a second monograph on Peru was published in 1881 under the title' The Prospects of Peru, the End of the Guano Age and a Description thereof, with some Account of the Guano Deposits and "Nitrate" Plains.' In 1880 he issued a work advocating a scheme by which English parishes might purchase land in Canada for the profitable employment of paupers and workhouse children; this was entitled 'Needless Misery at Home and abounding Treasure in the West under our own Flag; Old Town and New Domains, or Birmingham and Canada revisited.'

In the following year Duffield published a translation of 'Don Quixote.' Nearly twenty years before, during his travels in Spain, he had conceived the idea of the translation, and the work was begun in conjunction with Mr. H. Watts, but differences arose, with the result that the translators finished their labours independently, and two versions appeared. Duffield's version, which he dedicated to Gladstone, bore the title, 'The Ingenious Knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, a New Translation from the Originals of 1605 and 1608, with some Notes of Bowie, J. A. Pellicer, Clemencin, and others' (1881, 3 vols.) The rendering of the text was accurate and careful and was preceded by an elaborate introduction which compared the original text with previous translations of importance, and by a bibliographical account of the books of chivalry connected with the story. The passages in verse were rendered by James Young Gibson [q. v.] In the same year, 1881, Duffield published 'Don Quixote, his Critics and Commentators, with a brief Account of the Minor Works of Cervantes and a Statement of the Aim of the greatest of them all,' a treatise more remarkable for enthusiasm than for sound critical judgment.

Duffield's other works include 'The Beauty of the World: a Story of this Generation,' 1886 [1885], 3 vols.; and 'Recollections of Travels Abroad,' with a map, 1889. He also contributed a note on 'The Lost Art of Hardening Copper' to Dr. Heinrich Schliemann's 'Ilios; the City and Country of the Trojans' (Leipzig, 1880).

He died at the age of sixty-eight, after a brief illness, on 9 Oct. 1890.

[Works as cited above; Athenæum, 1890, ii. 514; Times, 11 and 17 Oct. 1890; Chambers's Biographical Dict. 1897.]

C. E. H.