Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blewitt, Octavian

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1311969Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 05 — Blewitt, Octavian1886Thompson Cooper

BLEWITT, OCTAVIAN (1810–1884), secretary of the Royal Literary Fund, was son of John Edwards Blewitt, by his marriage with Caroline, daughter of Peter Symons, sometime mayor of Plymouth. He was born on 3 Oct. 1810 in St. Helen's Place, Bishopsgate, London, where his father was settled as a merchant. Much of his early life was spent at Marazion House, in Cornwall, the residence of his great-uncle, Hannibal Curnow Blewitt; and he received his education at Plymouth grammar school. Entering the medical profession, he served the usual five years' apprenticeship, partly to his uncle, Mr. Dryden, assistant-surgeon of Devonport dockyard, and partly to Mr. Pollard of Torquay. In December 1833 he came to London, where he continued his medical studies in the infirmary of St. George's Hanover Square, and spent much of his time in the house of Sir James Clark, acting as tutor in classics to Clark's son and assisting him in preparing for the press his work on 'Phthisis.' Afterwards he visited the island of Madeira with a patient, remained at Funchal for eight months, and subsequently travelled much in Italy, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and other countries. In March 1839 he was elected secretary of the Royal Literary Fund, which office he continued to hold till his death. During his secretaryship the institution largely extended the sphere of its operations and attained a thoroughly safe and assured position. Blewitt spent many years in arranging the papers, literary, financial, and historical, which constituted the records of the association; and these documents, when classified, were stitched into covers so as to be read like a book, and are now preserved in 130 folio boxes. In 1872 the King of the Belgians presided at the annual banquet of the Literary Fund, and testified his sense of the secretary's services by creating him a knight of the order of Leopold. He died in London in November 1884.

He was the author of:

  1. 'A Panorama of Torquay,' Torquay, 1830, 12mo, which was so successful that the impression was speedily exhausted, and a second and enlarged edition, professing to be 'A Descriptive and Historical Sketch of the District between the Dart and Teign,' was published at London in 1833, 8vo.
  2. 'Treatise on the Happiness arising from the Exercise of the Christian Faith.'
  3. The preface to Glynn's 'Autograph Portfolio.'
  4. 'Handbook for Travellers in Central Italy, including the Papal States, Rome, and the Cities of Etruria,' London, 1843, 12mo (anon.); 2nd edition (with the author's name), 1850. This and the following work belong to the series known as Murray's guide-books.
  5. 'Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy,' London, 1863, 12mo.

For twenty-nine years Blewitt edited the newspaper portion of the 'Gardener's Chronicle,' and he contributed articles to the 'Quarterly Review,' 'Fraser's Magazine,' the 'St. Paul's Magazine,' and other periodicals.

[Biograph. V. 170; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornubiensis, iii. 1072; Times. 4 Nov. 1884; Athensæum, 16 Nov. 1884, p. 626; Anderson's Book of British Topography, 93; Davidson's Bibl. Devoniensis, 67; Men of the Time (1884), 137; Sir C. Dilke's Memoir of his Grandfather, Charles Wentworth Dilke, 79.]

T. C.