Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Duncombe, John

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DUNCOMBE, JOHN (1729–1786), miscellaneous writer, only child of William Duncombe [q. v.], was born in London on 29 Sept. 1729. He was first educated at two schools in Essex, then entered, 1 July 1745, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he proceeded B.A. 1748, M.A. 1752. He was afterwards chosen fellow of his college, ‘was in 1753 ordained at Kew Chapel by Dr. Thomas, bishop of Peterborough, and appointed, by the recommendation of Archbishop Herring, to the curacy of Sundridge in Kent; after which he became assistant-preacher at St. Anne's, Soho’ (Gent. Mag. March 1786, p. 188). Duncombe was in succession chaplain to Squire, bishop of St. David's, and to Lord Cork. In 1757 Archbishop Herring, his constant friend, presented him to the united livings of St. Andrew and St. Mary Bredman, Canterbury. He was afterwards made one of the six preachers in the cathedral, and in 1773 obtained from Archbishop Cornwallis the living of Herne, near Canterbury, ‘which afforded him a pleasant recess in the summer months.’ The archbishop also appointed him master of St. John's Hospital, Canterbury, and, as no emolument was annexed, gave him a chaplaincy, which enabled him to hold his two livings. Duncombe died at Canterbury 19 Jan. 1786. He married in 1761 Susanna [see Duncombe, Susanna], daughter of Joseph Highmore. She and an only daughter survived him.

Duncombe seems to have had some fame as a preacher, and to have been a man of varied if not high attainments. Of his many poems the best known were, ‘An Evening Contemplation in a College, being a Parody on the “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”’ (1753), ‘The Feminead’ (1754), ‘Translations from Horace’ (1766–7). His numerous occasional pieces, as ‘On a Lady sending the Author a Ribbon for his Watch,’ do not require notice (for full list see Gent. Mag. June 1786, pp. 451–2, and Biog. Brit. ed. Kippis, iv. 511). Of works connected with archæology, Duncombe wrote:

  1. ‘Historical Description of Canterbury Cathedral,’ 1772.
  2. A translation and abridgment of Battely's ‘Antiquities of Richborough and Reculver’ 1774.
  3. ‘History and Antiquities of Reculver and Herne,’ and of the ‘Three Archiepiscopal Hospitals at and near Canterbury’ (contributed to Nichols's ‘Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica,’ vols. i. and iv. 1780).

Duncombe edited:

  1. ‘Letters from Italy’ of John Boyle, first earl of Cork and Orrery, 1773.
  2. ‘Letters by several Eminent Persons deceased, including the Correspondence of J. Hughes, Esq.,’ 1773.
  3. ‘Letters from the late Archbishop Herring to William Duncombe, Esq., deceased,’ 1777.
  4. ‘Select Works of the Emperor Julian,’ 1784. He also published several sermons.

[Gent. Mag. 1786, pt. i., Biog. Brit. ed. Kippis, v. 509 et seq.; European Mag. ix. 66; Cantabr. Grad. (1659–1787), p. 124; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. viii. 243; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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