Dancer, Daniel (DNB00)

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DANCER, DANIEL (1716–1794), miser, was born at Pinner in 1716. His grandfather and father were both noted in their time as misers, and are only less known to fame because their accumulation of wealth was not so great. The elder Dancer died in 1736, and Daniel, as the eldest of his four children, succeeded to his estate, which consisted of eighty acres of rich meadow land and of an adjoining farm called Waldos. Hitherto Dancer had given no manifestation of his miserly instincts, but now, in company with his only sister, who shared his tastes and lived with him as his housekeeper, he commenced a life of the utmost seclusion and most rigid parsimony. His lands were allowed to lie fallow so that the expense of cultivation might be avoided. He took but one meal a day, consisting invariably of a little baked meat and a hard-boiled dumpling. A quantity sufficient to supply the wants of the household through the week was prepared every Saturday night. His clothing consisted mainly of hay bands, which were swathed round his feet for boots and round his body for a coat, but it was his habit to purchase one new shirt every year; and on one occasion he brought, and lost, a lawsuit against a tradesman who, as he alleged, had cheated him out of threepence over one of these annual transactions. The only person who could be said to be at all intimately acquainted with the Dancers was a Lady Tempest, the widow of Sir Henry Tempest, a Yorkshire baronet. To this lady Dancer's sister intended to leave her own private property, amounting to some 2,000l., but she died in 1766 before she could sign her will, and there then arose a lawsuit among her three brothers as to the distribution of her money, the result of which was that Daniel was awarded two-thirds of the sum on the ground of his having kept her for thirty years. To fill his sister's place Dancer engaged a servant named Griffiths, a man whose manner of living was as penurious as his own, and to whom he paid eighteenpence a week as wages. The two lived together in Dancer's tumble-down house till the master's death, which took place 30 Sept. 1794. In his last moments he was tended by Lady Tempest, who had shown uniform kindness to the old man, and who was rewarded by being made the sole recipient of the miser's wealth, which amounted to a sum equal to 3,000l. per annum. This, however, she did not live to enjoy, as she died very shortly afterwards of a cold contracted while she watched over the miser's deathbed. Dancer is distinguished from the majority of misers in that, notwithstanding his miserable love of gold, he possessed many praiseworthy qualities. His business transactions were always characterised by the most rigid integrity; he never neglected to give practical proof of his gratitude for service rendered to him; and he even knew how to be generous on occasions.

[Biographical Curiosities, or various Pictures of Human Nature, containing original and authentic Memoirs of Daniel Dancer, esq., an extraordinary miser, 1797; Strange and Unaccountable Life of D. Dancer, esq., 1801; Wilson's Wonderful Characters, vol. ii. 1821; Gent. Mag. lxiv. 964.]

A. V.