Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Dawkins, James
DAWKINS, JAMES (1722–1757), archæologist and jacobite, born in Jamaica in 1722, was the eldest of four sons of Henry Dawkins of Jamaica, by Elizabeth, third daughter of Edward Pennant of Clarendon in Jamaica, chief justice of the island. He matriculated at St. John's College, Oxford, on 7 Dec. 1739, at the age of sixteen, and was made D.C.L. on 14 April 1749. After leaving the university he seems to have resided at Standlynch in Wiltshire. Enjoying great wealth, he spent his time chiefly in travelling in Italy and other places on the continent, and in 1748 was in Paris, where he made acquaintances among the jacobites. Subsequently he lived for a short period in Rome, and was one of those who assisted James Stuart (1713–1788) [q. v.] and Nicholas Revett [q. v.] in their project of taking practical measurements of remains of Greek architecture at Athens. In 1750 Dawkins arranged with John Bouverie to make a journey to the most remarkable places of antiquity on the coast of the Mediterranean, and Robert Wood [q. v.], who had already been to most of the places they intended to visit, was invited to join the party. Borra, an Italian artist, accompanied them as architect and draughtsman. Starting from Naples in the spring of 1751, they visited ‘most of the islands of the Archipelago, part of Greece in Europe, the Asiatic and European coasts of the Hellespont, Propontis, and Bosphorus, as far as the Black Sea, most of the inland parts of Asia Minor, Syria, Phœnicia, Palestine, and Egypt’ (Ruins of Palmyra), copying such inscriptions as they came upon, and carrying off marbles whenever it was possible. Bouverie died at Magnesia. The rest of the party left the ship at Beyrout, crossed Mount Lebanon to Damascus, proceeded to Hassia, set out thence on 11 March 1751 with an escort of Arab horsemen, and, advancing by way of Carietin, reached Palmyra on 14 March. The hiring of this escort was mentioned by Dr. Johnson as ‘the only great instance of the enjoyment of wealth’ (Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Birkbeck Hill, iv. 126). Leaving Palmyra on 27 March, they passed through Sudud and Cara, and arrived at Balbec on 1 April. The party returned to Athens about the beginning of May 1751. After an expedition to Thermopylæ with Wood and Stuart, Dawkins came back to England at the end of May. In 1752 Dawkins and Wood printed in London part of the ‘Proposals,’ first issued by Stuart and Revett in Rome in 1748, for publishing the ‘Antiquities of Athens.’ This work appeared in 1762, and Dawkins's assistance was acknowledged in most generous terms by Stuart in his preface. In 1753 Wood published his account of the ‘Ruins of Palmyra,’ and the ‘Ruins of Balbec’ followed in 1757; in the preparation of each of these works Dawkins gave valuable help.
In the meantime Dawkins had maintained his early interest in jacobite affairs. Apparently he rendered the cause pecuniary aid. Prince Charles, in a letter from Paris about 1751, mentions his want of money, and sends compliments to ‘Jemmy Dawkins,’ and in 1753 Dawkins is stated to have provided the prince with upwards of 4,000l (Lang, Pickle the Spy, pp. 192, 194). At the beginning of 1753 Dawkins was again in Paris concerning himself actively with a Jacobite plot, in association with Dr. King of Oxford and the Earl of Westmorland. Frederick the Great, whose relations with England were at this time sufficiently strained to render a rupture far from improbable, urged George Keith, tenth earl marischal [q. v.], who was then in Paris, to encourage the jacobite disaffection towards George II. On 7 May the earl sent Dawkins as envoy to Frederick at Berlin. Frederick saw him, but took no steps to further the plot beyond giving vague hopes of assistance. Meanwhile the Earl of Albemarle, the English ambassador at Paris, had got wind of Dawkins's visit to Berlin, and in July 1753 a warrant was out against him. The warrant, apparently, was never executed, and in August Dawkins appears to have regarded the jacobite cause as hopeless, owing to the irregular and debauched life of the prince. He accordingly returned to England soon afterwards, and took up his residence at Laverstock (or Laverstoke) in Hampshire. It seems that the English government, which had been fully notified of Dawkins's recent movements, either judged his intrigues to be unimportant or were satisfied of the sincerity of his motives in deserting the young pretender's party, for, on 15 April 1754, he was returned M.P. for Hindon Borough in Wiltshire, and held the seat till his death, more than three years later. In 1755 Stuart, who had returned to England early in the year, proposed Dawkins as a member of the Society of Dilettanti, and on 5 April he was duly elected. He died in December 1757. He left the society a legacy of 500l. In 1763 the society commissioned Stuart, their painter, who had already executed a mezzotint portrait of Dawkins, to paint a copy of his portrait for the society. The commission was not carried out.
[Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens, i. and iv. 1762-1814; Wood's Ruins of Palmyra, 1753, and Ruins of Balbec, 1757; Andrew Lang's Pickle the Spy; Burke's Landed Gentry; Cust and Colvin's Hist. of the Soc. of Dilettanti, 1898 (this erroneously gives 1759 as the date of Dawkins's death); Historical Notices of the Soc. of Dilettanti; Pococke's Travels through England;Foster's Alumni Oxon.1715-1886.]