Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/437

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Combe
Combe
431

Street, St. James's, and was a visitor at the 'Coterie,' a fashionable and exclusive assembly-room of the day. He was to be seen at watering-places, and, says a contemporary, writing after his death, 'came to Bristol Hotwells about the year 1768. He was tall and handsome in person, an elegant scholar, and highly accomplished in his manners and behaviour. He lived in a most princely style, and, though a bachelor, kept two carriages, several horses, and a large retinue of servants. . . . He was generally recognised by the appellation of Count Combe' (Bristol Observer, 16 July 1823). With an indifferent reputation for honesty (Dyce, Recollections of the Table Talk of Samuel Rogers, 1856, p. 116), embarrassed by debt, his fortunes were now at the lowest ebb, and he is said to have been successively a common soldier, a waiter at Swansea, a teacher of elocution, a cook at Douai College, and a private in the French army. He returned to England about 1771 or 1772, and tried authorship as a profession. The ' Heroic Epistle to Sir Wm. Chambers ' of William Mason has been sometimes attributed to Combe, whose first known publication was ' A Description of Patagonia ' (1774), compiled from the papers of the Jesuit Father Falkner. He also wrote 'The Flattering Milliner, or a Modern Half Hour,' represented at the Bristol Theatre, 11 Sept. 1775, for the benefit of Mr. Henderson, but not printed. He is stated to have married about this time the mistress of Simon, lord Irnham, 'who promised him an annuity with her, but cheated him ; and in revenge he wrote a spirited satire' (Campbell, Life of Mrs. Siddons, i. 42). This was 'The Diaboliad, a poem, dedicated to the worst man in His Majesty's dominions' (1776), published at eighteenpence. It passed through several editions ; a second part was issued in 1778. Its popularity caused Combe to follow with ' Diabo-lady,' ' Anti-Diabolady,' and a number of other versified satires, published in 1777 and 1778. The early intimacy with Sterne gave rise to 'Letters supposed to have been written by Yorick and Eliza,' printed in 1779. He had been obliged to live within the 'rules' of the King's Bench prison before 1780, when he published 'The Fast Day : a Lambeth Eclogue.' In the same year appeared the first volume of the spurious ' Letters of the late Lord Lyttelton,' being those of Thomas, the second baron, famous as 'the wicked Lord Lyttelton,' and as the hero of a well-known ghost story. A writer in the 'Quarterly Review' (December 1851) contends for the genuineness of these letters, and partly bases upon them an argument identifying Junius as Lord Lyttelton. They are admirably written, and are in a much more elevated strain of thought than most of Combe's compositions. Moore (Memoirs, ii. 201) and Campbell (op. cit. i. 41) tell, in somewhat different terms, the story of a quarrel between Lyttelton and Combe with reference to a Lady Archer. During the next eight or nine years Combe produced nothing of importance with the exception of a new edition (enlarged and almost rewritten) of Anderson's ' Origin of Commerce.' In 1789 he made his first appearance as a political pamphleteer in a ' Letter from a Country Gentleman to a Member of Parliament,' with an answer by the writer himself, showing how speedily he had taken up the stock tricks of his new calling. His connection with Pitt and pension of 2001. may have commenced at this period. Other party pamphlets followed, besides Meares's ' Voyages ' (1790), and 'The Devil upon Two Sticks in England,' a prose tale, which was very successful. Between 1794 and 1796 Boydell produced two stately volumes on the Thames, to which the letterpress (six hundred pages) was contributed by Combe. He edited a number of publications, which are mentioned at the end of this article, and about 1803 became engaged on the staff of the 'Times,' losing his pension on the entry of the Addington ministry into power. 'Letters of Valerius,' contributed to that newspaper, were published in 1804. For the next five or six years he appears to have been fully occupied with journalism, and in 'Letters to Marianne ' there are constant references to late hours at the office. 'There is another person belonging to this period [1809],' says Crabb Robinson, 'who is a character certainly worth writing about ; indeed I have known few to be compared with him. It was on my first acquaintance with Walter that used to notice in his parlour a remarkably fine old gentleman. He was tall, with a stately figure and handsome face. He did not appear to work much with the pen, but was chiefly a consulting man. When Walter was away he used to be more at the office, and to decide in the dernier ressort. His name was W. Combe' (Diary, i. 292). On the death of Pitt, Combe's pay was again stopped, and he addressed a long letter (in March 1806, from 12 Lambeth Road) to Lord Mulgrave, offering, without success, his venal services to the new administration (Gent. Mag. May 1852). Between 1809 and 1811 Ackermann [q. v.] produced his 'Poetical Magazine,' for which Rowlandson offered him a series of plates depicting the varied fortunes of a touring schoolmaster. Ackermann applied to Combe to supply the letterpress to the illustrations, and this led to a connection between the author and artist which may be said to form