Shea, David (DNB00)

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SHEA, DAVID (1777–1836), orientalist, son of Daniel Shea, a farmer, was born in the county of Limerick in 1777. He entered Dublin University on 3 June 1793, and in 1797 obtained a scholarship in classics. Unfortunately several of his friends belonged to the Society of United Irishmen, and through them he acquired a knowledge of some of the secrets of that association. In April 1798 the Earl of Clare, vice-chancellor of the university, held a visitation, at which he required the students severally to take an oath that they would inform against any whom they knew to be connected with the society. Shea, refusing to comply, was expelled from the university. He came to England, and obtained a mastership in a private school. But his knowledge of Italian soon procured him the post of chief clerk in a large mercantile establishment at Malta. While there he mastered Arabic, acquiring a knowledge not only of the classical language, but also of the chief current dialects. A project on the part of his employers to open a factory on the east coast of the Black Sea induced him to study Persian also. But the firm being compelled to withdraw from the Levant altogether, he was recalled to England. There he made the acquaintance of Dr. Adam Clarke [q. v.], who found him employment as a private tutor in the house of Dr. Laurell, and afterwards by his interest procured him an assistant professorship in the oriental department of the East India Company's College at Haileybury. On the institution of the Oriental Translation Fund, Shea was made a member of committee, and applied himself to translating Mirkhond's ‘History of the Early Kings of Persia,’ which was published in London in 1832. He next essayed a more important task, the translation of ‘the Dabistán.’ Before its conclusion, however, he died at Haileybury College on 11 May 1836. The translation of the ‘Dabistán’ was completed by Anthony Troyer, and published in Paris in 1843, and in London in 1844.

[Private information; Athenæum, 1836, p. 346; Troyer's Introduction to the Dabistán, p. 91; Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, 1837, App. p. 18; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, p. 470.]

E. I. C.