Jesse, Edward (DNB00)

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JESSE, EDWARD (1780–1868), writer on natural history, born at Hutton-Cranswick, near Driffield, Yorkshire, on 14 Jan. 1780, was third son of the Rev. William Jesse, vicar of Hutton-Cranswick. His father was descended from a branch of the Languedoc Barons de Jessé Lévas, who emigrated to England after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. In 1798 Jesse was appointed clerk in the San Domingo office, about 1802 became private secretary to Lord Dartmouth, president of the board of control, and in 1806 received the sinecure post of ‘gentleman of the ewry,’ and later a clerkship in the woods and forests office, and a commissionership of hackney coaches. He lived for some years in Richmond Park, where he developed his taste for natural history. Before 1830 Jesse was appointed deputy surveyor of the royal parks and palaces, his posts of gentleman of the ewry and commissioner of hackney coaches having been abolished. He rented a cottage at Bushey Park, where he brought to perfection a plan for removing honey from beehives without killing the bees. Here he was on very familiar terms with the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV. Jesse lived next at Molesey, Surrey, where he was near his friend John Wilson Croker, at whose house he met many notable people. He also formed a close friendship with the Rev. John Mitford, editor of the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ who took a great interest in the improvements planned by Jesse in the royal parks. Jesse lived for some years at Hampton, and had much to do with the restoration of Hampton Court Palace. From 1862 he lived at Brighton, where he died on 28 March 1868, aged 88. He married, first, in 1807, Matilda, third daughter of Sir John Morris, bart., of Glamorganshire, by whom he had one son, John Heneage Jesse [q. v.], and two daughters, one of whom, Mrs. M. C. Houstoun, attained some note as an authoress; and secondly, in 1852, a daughter of J. G. Meymott of Richmond, Surrey, who survived him.

Jesse was a sincere lover of animals; he was always surrounded by pets, and could not believe that quadrupeds at least could be denied immortality. His anecdotal writings record his observations, but the author's lack of scientific training renders them of slight permanent value. Besides contributions to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ ‘Bentley's Miscellany,’ ‘Once a Week,’ and the ‘Times,’ Jesse wrote: 1. ‘Gleanings in Natural History,’ 1st series, London, 1832, 8vo; 2nd series, with extracts from unpublished manuscripts of Gilbert White, 1834; 3rd series, with notices of some of the royal parks and residences, 1835; 2nd edit. 1838. 2. ‘An Angler's Rambles,’ London, 1836, 8vo. 3. ‘A Summer's Day at Hampton Court,’ London, 1839, 8vo; 5th edit. 1842. 4. ‘A Summer's Day at Windsor, and a Visit to Eton,’ London, 1841, 8vo. 5. ‘Scenes and Tales of Country Life, with Recollections of Natural History,’ London, 1844, 8vo; revised edit., under title ‘Scenes and Occupations of Country Life,’ London, 1853, 8vo. 6. ‘Anecdotes of Dogs,’ London, 1846, 4to. 7. ‘Favourite Haunts and Rural Studies, including visits to spots of interest in the vicinity of Windsor and Eton,’ London, 1847, 12mo. 8. ‘Lectures on Natural History, delivered at the Fisherman's Home, Brighton,’ London, 1861, 8vo; 2nd edit., with eleven additional lectures, 1863, 8vo. He also edited editions of Walton's ‘Angler’ and White's ‘Selborne’ (with a new biography) for Bohn's series, and editions of T. C. Hofland's ‘British Angler's Manual,’ 1848, and of L. Ritchie's ‘Windsor Castle,’ 1848.

[Times, 31 March 1868; Gent. Mag. 1868, p. 682; Mrs. Houstoun's A Woman's Memories of World-known Men, 1883, passim, and Sylvanus Redivivus (the Rev. John Mitford), with a Short Memoir (and portrait) of Edward Jesse, 1889, very deficient in dates.]

G. T. B.