Daniel, George (1789-1864) (DNB00)
|←Daniel, George (1616-1657)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 14
Daniel, George (1789-1864)
DANIEL, GEORGE (1789-1864), miscellaneous writer and book collector, born 16 Sept. 1789, was descended from Paul Danieli, a Huguenot who settled in England in the seventeenth century. His father died when he was eight years old, and his precocity declared itself in a copy of verses with which he is said to have commemorated his loss at the time. After receiving an education at Mr. Thomas Hogg's boarding school: at Paddington Green, he became clerk to a stockbroker in Tokenhouse Yard, and was engaged in commerce for the greater part of his life. But all his leisure was devoted to literature. He was always very proud to remember that Cowper the poet had patted him on the head when he visited the Deverells at Dereham, Norfolk, in 1799. At sixteen he printed 'Stanzas on Nelson's Victory and Death' (1805). Between 1808 and 1811 he contributed many poems to Ackerman's 'Poetical Magazine,' the chief of which was a mild satire in heroics entitled 'Woman.' In 1811 he issued anonymously, in a separate volume, a similar poem, entitled 'The Times, a Prophecy' (enlarged edit. 1813), and in 1812 he published under his own name 'Miscellaneous Poems,' which included 'Woman' and many more solemn effusions already printed in Ackerman's magazine. A prose novel in three volumes called 'Dick Distich,' which Daniel says he wrote when he was eighteen, was printed anonymously in 1812. It is an amusing story of the struggles of a Grub Street author, and displays a very genuine vein of humour. It was obviously Daniel's youthful ambition to emulate Churchill and Peter Pindar, and he found his opportunity at the close of 1811. According to his own version of the affair, it was then rumoured that Lord Yarmouth had horsewhipped the prince regent at Oatlands, the Duke of York's house, for making improper overtures to the Marchioness of Hertford, Yarmouth's mother-in-law. On this incident Daniel wrote a sprightly squib in verse, which he called 'R—y—l Stripes; or a Kick from Yar—th to Wa—s; with the particulars of an Expedition to Oat—ds and the Sprained Ancle: a poem, by P—— P——, Poet Laureat.' Effingham Wilson of Cornhill printed the poem and advertised its publication; but it was suppressed and bought up, before it was published, in January 1812, by order of the prince regent, and through the instrumentality of Lord Yarmouth and Colonel McMahon, a large sum being given to the author for the copyright. It was advertised and placarded, which drew public attention to it, and a copy was by some means procured by the parties above mentioned, who applied to the publisher before any copies were circulated. The author secured four copies only, one of which he sold to a public institution for five guineas. A man at the west end of the town who had procured a copy made a considerable sum by advertising and selling manuscript copies at half-a-guinea each' (Daniel's manuscript note in British Museum copy of R—y—l Stripes). But Daniel was not quieted, although his poem was suppressed. A large placard was issued announcing the issue of 'The Ghost of R—y—l Stripes, which was prematurely stifled in its birth in January 1812,' and under the pseudonym of P—— P——, poet laureate, he published other squibs on royal scandals, of which the chief were: 'Sophia's Letters to the B—r—n Ger—b [i.e, Geramb], or Whiskers in the Dumps, with old sighs set to new tunes' (1812); 'Suppressed Evidence on R—l Intriguing, being the History of a Courtship, Marriage, and Separation, exemplified in the fate of the Princess of ——, by P—— P——, Poet Laureat, Author of "R—l Stripes"' (1813) (suppressed), and 'The R—l First Born, or the Baby out of his Leading Strings, containing the Particulars of a P—y Confirmation by B—p of O—g, by P—— P——, Poet Laureat, Author of the suppressed poem,' 1814. Daniel next turned his attention to the poetasters and petty journalists of the day, and these he satirised with some venom in 'The Modern Dunciad, a satire, with notes biographical and critical,' 1814, 2nd edit. 1816. His denunciations are pointed and vigorous, but his applause of Byron, Crabbe, Cowper, and Southey, to whom in later editions he added Burns, showed little critical power. In 1819 he and J. R. Planché produced 'More Broad Grins, or Mirth versus Melancholy,' and in 1821 Daniel edited 'Chef d'Œuvres from French Authors, from Marot to Delille,' in two volumes.
In the 'Modern Dunciad' Daniel claims to live for 'old books, old wines, old customs, and old friends,' and his geniality and humorous conversation secured him a number of literary friends. He always lived at Islington, and in 1817 he made the acquaintance of Charles Lamb and of Robert Bloomfield, both of whom were his neighbours. Until Lamb's death in 1834 Daniel frequently spent the night in his society. Intercourse with actors Daniel also cultivated, and there is at the British Museum the white satin bill of the play which John Kemble on his last appearance on the stage presented to Daniel in the Covent Garden green-room, on the night of 23 June 1817. On 21 July 1818 a 'serio-comick-bombastick-operatick interlude' by Daniel, entitled 'Doctor Bolus,' was acted at the English Opera House (afterwards the Lyceum) with great success. The principal parts were filled by Miss Kelly, Harley, and Chatterley, and Harley was subsequently one of Daniel's most intimate friends. The piece was printed soon after its performance, and went through two editions. On 1 Dec. 1819 a musical farce, 'The Disagreeable Surprise,' by Daniel, was acted at Drury Lane, and in 1833 another of his farces, 'Sworn at Highgate,' was performed. Meanwhile he had undertaken the task of editing for John Cumberland, a publisher, his 'British Theatre, with Remarks Biographical and Critical, printed from the Acting Copies as performed at the Theatres Royal, London.' The first volume was issued in 1823, and the last (thirty-ninth) in 1831. For each of the plays of this edition, which numbered nearly three hundred, and included nearly all Shakespeare's works, and the whole eighteenth-century drama, Daniel, under the initial 'D———G,' wrote a preface. His remarks showed not only much literary taste and knowledge, but an intimate acquaintance with stage history, and an exceptional power of theatrical criticism. In 1831 and 1832 he prepared an appendix of fourteen volumes, which was known as Cumberland's 'Minor Theatre,' and in 1838 and later years these two series were republished consecutively in sixty-four volumes. Subsequently Daniel helped to edit portions of T. H. Lacy's 'Acting Edition of Plays' and Davison's 'Actable Drama, in continuation of Cumberland's Plays.' He was working at the latter series as late as 1862. His prefatory remarks never failed to interest, although little literary value attached to the pieces under consideration, and his sharpness of perception in theatrical matters was not blunted by age. He detected the talent of Miss Marie Wilton in 1862, when witnessing her performance of T. Morton's 'Great Russian Bear.' In 1838 he had commented in similar terms on Mrs. Stirling, when editing Mrs. Cornwell's 'Venus in Arms' for Cumberland. His appreciative remarks on Miss Mitford's 'Rienzi' in Cumberland's series were republished separately in 1828.
This large undertaking was Daniel's most considerable literary effort, but he found time to publish in 1829 a scurrilous attack on Charles Kean's domestic life, entitled 'Ophelia Kean, a dramatic legendary tale,' which was suppressed (cf. Daniel's manuscript notes in British Museum copy). In 1835 he collected and revised a few poems, 'The Modern Dunciad,' 'Virgil in London,' which had originally appeared in 1814, 'The Times,' and some short pieces. He also contributed to 'Bentley's Miscellany' a long series of gossiping papers on old books and customs, which he issued in two volumes in 1842, under the title of 'Merrie England in the Olden Time,' with illustrations by Leech and Cruikshank. This was followed by a religious poem, 'The Missionary,' in 1847, and by 'Democritus in London, with the Mad Pranks and Comical Conceits of Motley and Robin Goodfellow, to which are added Notes Festivous and the Stranger Guest,' in 1852. 'Democritus' is a continuation in verse of the 'Merrie England,' and the 'Stranger Guest' is another religious poem. His last published work was 'Love's Last Labour not Lost' (1863), and included his recollections of Charles Lamb and Robert Cruikshank, a reply to Macaulay's essay on Dr. Johnson, and many genial essays in prose and verse. The volume concludes, a little incongruously, with a very pious and very long poem named 'Non omnis moriar.'
Meanwhile Daniel had been making a reputation as a collector of Elizabethan books and of theatrical curiosities. About 1830 he had moved to 18 Canonbury Square, and the house was soon crowded with very valuable rarities. He secured copies of the first four folio editions of Shakespeare's works, and of very many of the quarto editions of separate plays. His collection of black-letter ballads was especially notable, and he issued in 1856 twenty-five copies of 'An Elizabethan Garland, being a Descriptive Catalogue of seventy Black-letter Ballads printed between 1559 and 1597.' Daniel exhibited great adroitness in purchasing these and seventy-nine other ballads of a Mr. Fitch, postmaster of Ipswich, for 60l.: he sold the seventy-nine to a bookseller acting for Mr. Heber for 70l. At the sale of his library, those retained by Daniel fetched 750l. On 22 Aug. 1835 he bought at Charles Mathews's sale, for forty-seven guineas, the cassolette, or carved casket made out of the mulberry-tree of Shakespeare's garden, and presented to Garrick with the freedom of the borough of Stratford-on-Avon in 1769. Daniel was very proud of this relic, and wrote a description of it, which was copiously illustrated, for C. J. Smith's 'Literary Curiosities' in 1840, together with a sketch of Garrick's theatrical career, entitled 'Garrick in the Green-room.' Garrick's cane was also his property, together with a rich collection of theatrical prints, a small number of water-colours by David Cox, Stansfield, Wilkie, and others. Daniel died suddenly of apoplexy, at his son's house at Stoke Newington, on 30 March 1864. By his will Garrick's cassolette passed to the British Museum, and is now on exhibition there. The rest of his literary collection was sold by auction on 20 July 1864 and the nine following days, and realised 15,865l. 12s. His first folio 'Shakespeare' fetched 716l. 2s. and was purchased by the Baroness Burdett Coutts.
Three interesting volumes of cuttings from printed works and of engravings, arranged by Daniel, together with some manuscript notes by him, are now in the British Museum. They are entitled : 1. 'An Account of Garrick's Cassolette.' 2. 'An Account from contemporary sources of the Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769.' 3. 'Accounts of the Sale of Shakespeare's House in 1847, of the subsequent Purchases made by the Public at Stratford-on- Avon, and of the Perkins Folio Controversy.'