Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Norcott, William

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NORCOTT, WILLIAM (1770?–1820?), Irish satirist, was born about 1770, and having entered Trinity College, Dublin, graduated B.A. in 1795, LL.B. in 1801, and LL.D. in 1806. He was called to the Irish bar in 1797, and practised with some success for a time, but preferred social enjoyment to his legal duties. During the viceroyalty of the Duke of Richmond he was very popular at Dublin Castle, and was generally a favourite in the best society of the city, partly on account of his excellent mimetic talent. With his friend, John Wilson Croker [q. v.], he was largely concerned in the production of the many poetical satires which appeared in Dublin after the passing of the union. The following pieces may be attributed to him with confidence: 1. ‘The Metropolis,’ an attack on various Dublin institutions, dedicated to John Wilson Croker, 12mo, 1805; 2nd ed. 12mo, 1805. 2. ‘The Metropolis,’ pt. ii., dedicated to Thomas Moore, 12mo, 1806; 2nd ed., 12mo, 1806. 3. ‘The Seven Thieves: a Satire, by the author of “The Metropolis,”’ dedicated to Henry Grattan, 12mo, 1807; 2nd ed., 12mo, 1807. 4. ‘The Law Scrutiny; or the Attornie's Guide,’ a satire, dedicated to George Ponsonby, lord chancellor of Ireland, 12mo, 1807. These effusions were published by Barlow of Bolton Street, the publisher of Croker's ‘Familiar Epistles,’ and caused considerable stir in Dublin. Besides Norcott, Croker and Grady were each suspected of their authorship, and Richard Frizelle was also credited with ‘The Metropolis.’ A writer in the ‘Dublin University Magazine’ (lviii. 725) unhesitatingly names Norcott as the author, and Barrington and Sheil both acknowledged his responsibility. Norcott, a reckless gambler and generally dissipated, soon fell into debt and disgrace; but, through the influence of Croker, obtained about 1815 an excellent appointment in Malta. He failed to hold it long, and fled from Malta entirely discredited. After much wandering he reached Smyrna, where he was reduced to selling opium and rhubarb in the streets, thence to the Morea, and ultimately to Constantinople. There he lived in destitution for some time, becoming a Mohammedan, and writing ‘most heartrending’ letters to his friends. In the end he recanted his Mohammedanism, and attempted to escape from Constantinople, but was pursued and captured. After being decapitated, his body was thrown into the sea. This took place about 1820. The story is told at some length in Sheil's ‘Sketches of the Irish Bar,’ and, with some modifications, in Barrington's ‘Personal Sketches.’ He is described by the latter as ‘a fat, full-faced, portly-looking person.’

[Haliday Pamphlets, Royal Irish Academy, 1805–7; Todd's Dublin Graduates; Watson's Dublin Directories, 1800–15; Barrington's Personal Sketches, i. 445–51; Notes and Queries, 8th ser.; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, pp. 177–8; authorities cited in text.]

D. J. O'D.