Davy, David Elisha (DNB00)

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DAVY, DAVID ELISHA (1769–1851), Suffolk antiquary and collector, was son of a farmer at Rumburgh, Suffolk, and nephew of Eleazar Davy, of Yoxford, who was sheriff of the county in 1770, and acquired some local position by the marriage of his stepdaughter with Sir John Rous, afterwards earl of Stradbroke (see Peerage, under ‘Stradbroke’). David Elisha was born in 1769, was educated at Yoxford under Dr. Forster, who afterwards succeeded Samuel Parr as headmaster of Norwich grammar school, entered Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree as sixth senior optime in 1790, and in 1803, at the death of his uncle Eleazar, succeeded to his estate. Davy then took up his residence at Yoxford, where for years he was an active and useful magistrate and receiver-general of the county (Add. MS. 19188, f. 99, commission as receiver-general of transferred duties for Suffolk, 1795). Unforeseen embarrassments, resulting from depreciation in value, after the peace, of lands purchased in the war time, compelled him to retire from this position, and his estates were taken into possession by Messrs. Gurney, the Norwich bankers, as security for advances made by them, but were restored to the owner a few years before his death. After quitting Yoxford, Davy resided at Ufford, near Woodbridge, and devoted himself to genealogical and antiquarian studies. About the time he came into possession of the Yoxford property Davy commenced the collection of materials for a history of Suffolk, which he pursued in conjunction with a friend, Mr. H. Jermyn of Sibton, barrister-at-law, each receiving a copy of the other's work. Jermyn died in 1820, and his Suffolk manuscripts were bought by Mr. Herbert Gurney, and presented to the British Museum in 1830. They form Add. MSS. 8168–96. Davy continued to add to his collection up to his death, but long before had abandoned the idea of publication. He does not appear to have been a member of any learned society, and the only entry of his name as an author in the ‘British Museum Catalogue of Printed Books’ is in respect of a little volume entitled ‘A short Account of Leiston Abbey. By D. E. D.’ (with descriptive and illustrative verses by B. Barton and W. Fletcher). Edited by J. Bird (1823, 8vo). Under the signature D. A. Y., formed of the terminals of his name, Davy was a frequent contributor to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’ To the ‘Topographer and Genealogist,’ commenced in 1843, he contributed a series of notices of sepulchral monuments in Suffolk churches. Davy was not merely an antiquary, but a popular gentleman and a well-read scholar. He died unmarried and intestate at Ufford on 15 Aug. 1851, at the age of eighty-two. His estate went to his sister, the widow of the Rev. W. Barlee, rector of Wrentham, Suffolk, and at her death devised in accordance with the provisions of the will of Eleazar Davy.

Davy's Suffolk manuscripts, which are remarkable for their neatness and admirable arrangement, were purchased by the British Museum in 1852. They now form Add. MSS. 19077 to 19207, and include genealogical histories of Suffolk families, collections for the lives of Suffolk writers (Athenæ Suffolcenses), a number of volumes of ‘Illustrative Draw- ings’ (19176 to 19181), and a volume of ‘Arms of Suffolk Families’ (19159). Later acquisitions at the British Museum include Davy's ‘Collection of Epigrams,’ Add. MS. 19245; ‘Cat. of Library,’ 19247; ‘Commonplace Book,’ 19246; some letters from Davy, 24857 (to J. Hunter); 32570, ff. 204–5 (to J. Mitford in 1851), and Add. MSS. 32483–4, ‘Rubbings of Brasses’ by Davy. An index to ‘Suffolk Monumental Inscriptions’ in the Davy collection (1866) forms Add. MS. 29761.

[Gent. Mag. new ser. xxxvi. 543; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

H. M. C.