PUCKLE, JAMES (1667?–1724), author of 'The Club,' born about 1667, was son of James Puckle (1633–1690), who was himself third son of Samuel Puckle (1588–1661), a prominent citizen of Norwich, and mayor of that town in 1656. James the younger took out on 16 June 1690 letters for the administration of the estate of his father, who had died a widower beyond sea. Adopting the profession of a notary public, he soon entered into partnership with one Jenkins in Pope's Head Alley, Cornhill. He seems to have aided professionally in the promotion of a company which sought to encourage the fishing industry of England, and was known as 'The Royal Fishery of England.' In order to recommend it to public notice, Puckle issued a pamphlet entitled 'England's Interests, or a Brief Discourse of the Royal Fishery in a Letter to a Friend.' This appeared late in 1696, and reached a second edition in the same year. It was reissued in a somewhat altered form in 1697 as 'A New Dialogue between a Burgermaster and an English Gentleman,' with a dedication addressed to the governor and officers of the 'Royal Fishery.' In 1697 Puckle subjected the work to further changes, and issued it as 'England's Way to Wealth and Honour, in a Dialogue between an Englishman and Dutchman,' with a dedication to the Duke of Leeds, governor of the 'Royal Fishery.' A later version bore the title 'England's Path to Wealth' (1700), of which 'a second edition with additions' was dated 1718, and was included among the 'Somers Tracts,' vol. ii. A Swedish translation was issued at Stockholm in 1723.
Puckle was also interested in mechanical inventions, and on 15 May 1718 took out a patent for a revolver, mitrailleuse, or Gatling gun of his own construction. He described it in a published broadside (1720?) as 'a portable gun or machine called a defence that discharges soe often and soe many bullets, and can be so quickly loaden as renders it next to impossible to carry any ship by boarding.' The broadside supplies an engraving of the machine. The breech of the gun, which was movable, had six chambers, which were discharged in turn through one long barrel. Puckle endeavoured to form a company to develop his invention during the bubble period of 1720, and incurred much unfavourable notice from catchpenny satirists, one of whom stated that the machine was only capable of wounding shareholders (Cat. of Satirical Prints in Brit. Mus. Nos. 1620, 1625; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. viii. 365).
Puckle's surest title to fame is as the author of 'The Club, or a Dialogue between Father and Son, in vino veritas,' London, printed for the author in 1711 (Gent. Mag, 1822, pt. i. p. 204). The volume is dedicated to two merchants, Micajah and Richard Perry, and to the memory of a third, Thomas Lane, who married Mary Puckle, a cousin of the writer. Puckle's book belongs to the class of collected character-sketches which Sir Thomas Overbury began and Earle brought to perfection in his 'Micro-Cosmographie.' A young man is represented by the author as having met one night at a friend's club, assembled at 'The Noah's Ark,' twenty-five typical personages, including an antiquary, buffoon, critic, quack, rake, and usurer, and he gives next morning a sprightly description of each of his companions to his father. At the close of each of the son's sketches the father interposes much sententious moralising on the habits of life of the person described. The work exhibits shrewd