Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dunkin, William
DUNKIN, WILLIAM, D.D. (1709?–1765), poet, was left in early life to the charge of Trinity College, Dublin, by an aunt who bequeathed her property to the college with the condition that it should provide for his education and advancement in life. He took his B.A. degree in 1729, D.D. in 1744. As a young man he had a reputation for foolish acts and clever poems. One of these poems, ‘Bettesworth's Exultation,’ written in 1733, may be found among Swift's poems. Some time after this Dunkin was introduced to Swift, who became at once a very valuable patron to him. His ordination by the Archbishop of Cashel in 1735 and the increase of the annuity which he received from Trinity College from 70l. to 100l. in 1736 were both due to Swift's intercession, which caused his marriage and other imprudent acts to be overlooked. In 1739 Swift made a strenuous attempt to procure the living of Coleraine for him, but in this he was not successful. At that time Dunkin was keeping a school at Dublin, and in August 1746 Chesterfield, with whom he had some intimacy, appointed him to the mastership of Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, which he held till his death on 24 Nov. 1765. Swift speaks of him as ‘a gentleman of much wit and the best English as well as Latin poet in this kingdom’ (Letter to Ald. Barber, 17 Jan. 1737–8). Deane Swift, writing of the ‘Vindication of the Libel,’ a poem attributed to Jonathan Swift, says ‘that poem was, I know, written by my very worthy friend Dr. Dunkin, with whom I have spent many a jovial evening; he was a man of genuine true wit and a delightful companion’ (Nichols, Illustr. v. 384). Besides the two poems already mentioned Dunkin wrote: ‘Techrethyrambeia sive poëma in P. Murphorum Trin. Coll. subjanitorem,’ Dublin, 1730; a translation of ‘Techrethyrambeia,’ Dublin, 1730 (also published as an appendix to Delany's ‘Tribune,’ 1730); ‘Carbery Rocks’ (the English version of ‘Carberiæ Rupes’), published among Swift's poems; ‘The Lover's Web,’ Dublin, 1734; ‘Epistola ad Franciscum Bindonem arm., cui adjiciuntur quatuor Odæ,’ Dublin, 1741; ‘Hymen's Triumph,’ a poem in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1743 (xiii. 268); a prologue at the opening of a Dublin hospital, in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1745 (xv. 269); ‘Bœotia, a poem,’ Dublin, 1747; ‘The Bramin, an eclogue to Edm. Nugent, esq.,’ London, 1751 (Nugent was apparently an old pupil); ‘An Ode on the death of Frederick, P. of Wales, with remarks by P. H. M. D.,’ Dublin, 1752; ‘An Epistle to the Rt. Hon. Philip, Earl of Chesterfield,’ Dublin, 1760; ‘The Poet's Prayer,’ a poem in the ‘Annual Register’ for 1774 (vol. xvii. pt. ii. p. 223); ‘Select Poetical Works,’ Dublin, 1769–70; ‘Poetical Works,’ to which are added his ‘Epistles to the Earl of Chesterfield,’ Dublin, 1774, 2 vols.
[Swift's Correspondence and the notes thereto in Scott's edition; Dublin University Catalogue of Graduates; manuscript records at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen; deaths in Gent. Mag. for December 1765 (xxxv. 590); Brit. Mus. Cat. of Printed Books; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 427.]