Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Daborne, Robert

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DABORNE, ROBERT (d. 1628), dramatist and divine, states in the preface to ‘A Christian turn'd Turke,’ 1612, that his descent was ‘not obscure but generous,’ and it is probable that he belonged to the family of Daborne of Guildford, Surrey. A warrant was granted to ‘Daborne and others the queen's servants, 4 Jan. 7 Jacobi, to bring up and practise children in plays by the name of The Children of the Queen's Revels’ (Collier, New Facts). Among the Dulwich MSS. are preserved many letters, chiefly written in 1613, from Daborne to Henslowe. It appears from this correspondence that he wrote in 1613 four unpublished plays: (1) ‘Machiavell and the Devil;’ (2) ‘The Arraignment of London,’ one act of which was by Cyril Tourneur; (3) ‘The Bellman of London;’ (4) ‘The Owl.’ In the spring of 1614 he was engaged upon a play called ‘The She Saint.’ He was constantly petitioning Henslowe for loans and advances, his necessities being partly due to some lawsuits in which he was involved. On more than one occasion he collaborated with Field and Massinger. There is extant an undated letter (circa 1613) in which the three friends implore Henslowe to help them in their ‘vnfortunate extremitie’ by the loan of five pounds, ‘whowt wch wee cannot be bayled.’ On 4 July 1615 Daborne and Massinger signed a bond to pay Henslowe ‘the full and intier somm of three powndes of lawfull mony of England, at or upon the first day of August next.’ Daborne seems to have had much influence with Henslowe and to have sometimes received for his plays a higher price than the penurious old manager was accustomed to give. It is not known at what date Daborne took orders, but he published in 1618, 8vo, ‘A Sermon on Zach. ii. 7,’ which he preached at Waterford. From one of his letters to Henslowe it appears that he enjoyed the patronage of Lord Willoughby, and to that nobleman he may have owed his clerical preferment. He became chancellor of Waterford in 1619, prebendary of Lismore in 1620, dean of Lismore in 1621, and died on 23 March 1627–8.

Only two of Daborne's plays are extant, and these have little interest:

  1. ‘A Christian turn'd Turke: or the Tragicall Liues and Deaths of the two famous Pyrates, Ward and Danseker,’ 1612, 4to, founded on Andrew Barker's prose narrative of the pirates' adventures.
  2. ‘The Poor-man's Comfort. A Tragi-comedy. As it was divers times Acted at the Cock-pit in Drury Lane with great applause. Written by Robert Dauborne, Master of Arts,’ 1655, 4to, of which there is a manuscript copy in Egerton MS. 1994.

Some commendatory verses by Daborne are prefixed to C[hristopher] B[rook]'s ‘Ghost of King Richard the Third,’ 1615. In ‘The Time Poets’ he is thus mentioned:

Dawborne I had forgot, and let it be:
He died amphibious by the ministry.

[Alleyn Papers, pp. 48, 56–83; Collier's Memoirs of Edward Alleyn, pp. 120–1; Hunter's Chorus Vatum, Addit. MS. 24489, ff. 262–4; Warner's Catalogue of the Dulwich Manuscripts, pp. 37–49, 51, 141, 339; Collier's New Facts regarding the Life of Shakespeare, p. 40; Cotton's Fasti Eccles. Hibern.]

A. H. B.