Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Derrick, Samuel

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DERRICK, SAMUEL (1724–1769), author, was a native of Dublin, whose ancestors went to Ireland at an early period, and, after being long seated near Carlow, were finally scattered and ruined during the Irish disturbances of the seventeenth century. He served his apprenticeship with a linendraper, but leaving that calling went on the stage, where he was unsuccessful. He afterwards became a literary man, and published the following books: 1. ‘The Dramatic Censor,’ No. 1, 1752. 2. ‘Sylla,’ a dramatic entertainment, from the French of the king of Prussia, 1753, 8vo. 3. ‘A Voyage from the Moon,’ from the French of Bergerac, 1753, 8vo. 4. ‘Memoirs of the Count de Beauval,’ from the French of D'Argens, 1754, 12mo. 5. ‘The Third Satire of Juvenal,’ translated into English verse, 1755, 4to. 6. ‘A View of the Stage,’ 1759, published under the name of Wilkes. 7. ‘The Battle of Lora,’ a poem, &c., from Ossian, 1762, 4to. 8. ‘Dryden's Works, with a Life and Notes,’ 1760, 4 vols. 9. ‘A Collection of Voyages,’ 1762, 2 vols. 12mo. 10. ‘Letters written from Leverpoole, Chester, Corke,’ &c., 1767, 12mo, 2 vols., with the author's portrait prefixed.

He was acquainted with Dr. Johnson, who had a ‘great kindness’ for him, and, while acknowledging that he was a poor writer, was of opinion that his ‘Letters,’ if they had been written by one of a more established name, ‘would have been thought very pretty letters.’ On being asked, however, whether Derrick or Smart was the best poet, he said that there was ‘no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.’ He helped Johnson in getting materials for Dryden's ‘Life,’ and was Boswell's first tutor in the ways of London. Soon after the death of Beau Nash in 1761 he was appointed master of the ceremonies at Bath, which place he kept, along with a like position at Tunbridge Wells, until his death on 28 March 1769. A compilation entitled ‘Derrick's Jests, or the Wit's Chronicle,’ was published soon after his death.

[Chalmers's Dictionary (from Isaac Reed's manuscript anecdotes in possession of the editor); Boswell's Johnson, ed. Napier, i. 89, 314, 372–4, iv. 215; Derrick's Letters, i. 87; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Gent. Mag. 1769, p. 215; The New Bath Guide, 1798, p. 66; Monthly Review, vols. vi. ix. xii. xi. xii. xxviii. xxxvi.]

C. W. S.