Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Deacon, William Frederick

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DEACON, WILLIAM FREDERICK (1799–1845), journalist and author, eldest son of a London merchant, was born on 26 July 1799 in Caroline Place, Mecklenburgh Square, and educated under Dr. Valpy at the Reading School, where he had Thomas Noon Talfourd [q. v.] as a schoolfellow. He was also at St. Catharine Hall, Cambridge, but did not graduate. Abandoning the intention of taking holy orders, he entered on a literary career and found a publisher in William Hone for his first poem, a production of promise, entitled ‘Hacho, or the Spell of St. Wilten.’ He next undertook the editorship of a daily journal, ‘The Déjeuné, or Companion for the Breakfast Table,’ which was issued every morning, price twopence, from 21 Oct. 1820 to 15 Dec. following, when the issue was changed to three times a week and shortly after ceased. This venture was published by Gold & Northouse, who also put forth a ‘London Magazine’ (1820–1) as a rival to the better known periodical of the same name, edited by John Scott and published by Baldwin, and they enlisted Deacon as a chief contributor. His health failing, he retired to Llangadock in South Wales, from which place he wrote for counsel and guidance to Sir Walter Scott, who sent him some kind and interesting letters. At this time his father tried in vain to turn his attention from literature to commerce. In 1823 he published a volume of clever sketches of Welsh manners and scenery, entitled ‘The Innkeeper's Album,’ and in 1824 appeared his ‘Warreniana, with Notes, Critical and Explanatory, by the Editor of a Quarterly Review,’ consisting of a series of burlesque imitations of popular authors in the style of the ‘Rejected Addresses,’ and in praise of Warren's blacking. It was published by Longman's and met with much success. It was reprinted in 1851. He also wrote ‘November Tales,’ a collection of tales and essays.

In 1829 he lost an annuity of 100l. hitherto received from a relative, and was driven to depend entirely on his literary efforts. After acting for a short period as assistant in a school at Dulwich, he joined the staff of the ‘Sun’ newspaper as contributor of its literary criticism, and became esteemed as a critic of sound judgment and taste. This engagement continued until his death. He wrote also in ‘Blackwood's Magazine,’ and one of his series of papers, ‘The Picture Gallery’ (1837–9), was subsequently reprinted. In 1835 he published his humorous tale in two volumes, ‘The Exile of Erin, or the Sorrows of a Bashful Irishman,’ which attained considerable popularity both at home and in America.

Deacon lived many years in comparative seclusion, happy in the society of his wife and children, in Malvern Terrace, Islington, where he died on 18 March 1845, in his forty-sixth year. He left behind him the manuscript of a novel called ‘Annette,’ which was published in three volumes in 1853, with a prefatory memoir by Sir T. N. Talfourd.

[Talfourd's preface to Annette; communication from Rev. A. W. N. Deacon.]

C. W. S.