Davies, John (1679-1732) (DNB00)

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DAVIES, JOHN, D.D. (1679–1732), president of Queens' College, Cambridge, was born in London on 22 April 1679. His father was a merchant or tradesman in that city, who died while he was young, and his mother a daughter of Sir John Turton, knight, justice of the court of king's bench. He was educated at the Charterhouse School, and on 8 June 1695 was admitted into Queens' College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1698, was elected a fellow of his college 7 July 1701, and commenced M.A. in 1702 (Cantabrigienses Graduati, ed. 1787, p. 111). In 1709 he was junior proctor of the university. He was collated in 1711 by Dr. John Moore, bishop of Ely, to the rectory of Fen Ditton, near Cambridge, and to a prebend in the church of Ely. In the same year he took the degree of LL.D. On the death of Dr. Henry James he was chosen to succeed him as president of Queens' College, 23 March 1716–17. He was created D.D. in 1717, when George I visited Cambridge. In 1718 he resigned the rectory of Glemsford, Suffolk, a benefice in the Bishop of Ely's patronage. In the dispute between Dr. Bentley and the university, Davies, although he was the doctor's particular friend, thought he had acted wrong, and condemned his behaviour. In 1725 Davies was elected vice-chancellor of the university. He died at Fen Ditton on 7 March 1731–2, and was buried in Queens' College chapel.

He published the following correct editions of Greek and Latin authors: 1. ‘Maximi Tyrii dissertationes, Gr. et Lat. ex interpretatione Heinsii,’ 1703, 8vo. 2. ‘C. Julii Cæsaris [et A. Hirtii] quæ extant omnia,’ Cambridge, 1706 and 1727, 4to; the latter is the best edition. 3. ‘M. Minucii Felicis Octavius. Accedit Commodianus, ævi Cyprianici scriptor,’ Cambridge, 1707 and 1712, 8vo. 4. He then projected new and beautiful editions of Cicero's philosophical treatises, by way of supplement to the works of that author edited by Grævius, and accordingly published the ‘Tusculanarum disputationum libri quinque,’ Cambridge, 1709, 8vo, and again in 1723, 1730, and 1738, with the emendations at the end of his friend Dr. Bentley. The other pieces appeared at Cambridge in the following order: ‘De Naturâ Deorum,’ 1718, 1723, 1733; ‘De Divinatione et de Fato,’ 1721, 1730; ‘Academica, 1725, 1736; ‘De Legibus,’ 1727; ‘De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum,’ 1728, 1741. Davies had also gone as far as the middle of the third book of Cicero's Offices, but being prevented by death from finishing it, he recommended it by his will to the care of Dr. Mead, who put it into the hands of Dr. Thomas Bentley, that he might prepare it for the press; but the house where Bentley lodged, in the Strand, London, being set on fire by his carelessness, as it is said, by reading after he was in bed, Davies's notes and emendations perished in the flames. 5. ‘Lactantii Firmiani epitome divinarum institutionum ad Pentadium fratrem,’ Cambridge, 1718, 8vo.

His editorial labours were commended both at home and abroad. Abbé d'Olivet, in particular, the French translator of ‘Cicero de Naturâ Deorum,’ praised his beautiful edition of that book, though he afterwards changed his opinion, as appears from the harsh judgment he passed upon Davies in the preface to his new edition of Cicero's works.

Dr. Styan Thirlby, in the preface to his edition of Justin Martyr (1722), acknowledges the assistance of Davies throughout the work, and has printed his notes at the end (p. 441).

His portrait has been engraved by Faber.

[Addit. MSS. 5808 p. 162, 5849 p. 265, 5867 p. 48 a; Bentham's Ely, p. 256; Full and Impartial Account of the late Proceedings in the Univ. of Cambr. against Dr. Bentley (1719), p. 5; Biogr. Brit. (Kippis); Blomer's Full View of Dr. Bentley's Letter to the Bishop of Ely, pref. p. x; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, 276; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy); Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iii. 520; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 343, 706, ii. 134, 142, iv. 276, 328, 329, 508; Paris's Miscellanea (1726), p. 200; Ward's Gresham Professors, p. 194; Ward's Life of Dr. H. More, pp. 213, 214.]

T. C.