Preston, William (1753-1807) (DNB00)

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PRESTON, WILLIAM (1753–1807), poet and dramatist, born in the parish of St. Michan's, Dublin, in 1753, was admitted a pensioner at Trinity College in 1766. He graduated B.A. in 1770, and M.A. in 1773, studied in the Middle Temple, and was called to the Irish bar in 1777. He assisted in the formation of the Royal Irish Academy, and was elected its first secretary in 1786. That post he held during the rest of his life. He also helped to found the Dublin Library Society, and was a frequent contributor to its ‘Transactions.’ He wrote occasional poetry for periodicals—including the ‘Press,’ the organ of the ‘United Irishmen,’ and the ‘Sentimental and Masonic Magazine,’ 1794, and he contributed to ‘Pranceriana’ (1784, cf. Nos. 16, 24, 25, 29, 31, and 33), a collection of satirical pieces on John Hely-Hutchinson (1724–1794) [q. v.], provost of Trinity College, and to Joshua Edkins's collection of poems (1789–90 and 1801). His chief success was attained by his tragedy ‘Democratic Rage’ (founded on incidents in the French revolution), which was produced at Dublin in 1793, and ran through three editions in as many weeks. Preston, who was a member of the ‘Monks of the Screw,’ died of overwork on 2 Feb. 1807. He was buried in St. Thomas's churchyard, Dublin.

His works were: 1. ‘Heroic Epistle of Mr. Manly … to Mr. Pinchbeck,’ a satire (anon.), 8vo, Dublin, 1775. 2. ‘Heroic Epistle to Mr. Twiss, by Donna Teresa Pinna y Ruiz,’ a satire, 8vo, Dublin, 1775; 2nd edit. Dublin, 1775. 3. ‘Heroic Answer of Mr. Twiss,’ by the same, a satire, 8vo, Dublin, 1775. 4. ‘1777, or a Picture of the Manners and Customs of the Age,’ a poem (anon.), 8vo, Dublin, 1778? 5. ‘The Female Congress, or the Temple of Cottyto,’ a mock-heroic poem in four cantos, 4to, London, 1779 6. ‘The Contrast, or a Comparison between England and Ireland,’ a poem, 1780. 7. ‘Offa and Ethelbert, or the Saxon Princes,’ a tragedy, 8vo, Dublin, 1791. 8. ‘Messina Freed,’ a tragedy, 8vo, Dublin, 1793. 9. ‘The Adopted Son,’ a tragedy. 10. ‘Rosmanda,’ a tragedy, Dublin, 1793, 8vo. 11. ‘Democratic Rage,’ a tragedy, 8vo, London, 1793. 12. ‘Poetical Works,’ 8vo, 2 vols. Dublin, 1793. 13. ‘The Siege of Ismail,’ a tragedy, 8vo, Dublin, 1794. 14. ‘A Letter to Bryan Edwards, Esq. … on some Passages of his “History of the West Indies,”’ 4to, London, 1794. 15. ‘The Natural Advantages of Ireland,’ 4to, Dublin, 1796. 16. ‘The Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius,’ translated into English verse with notes, 12mo, 1803 (various other editions). 17. ‘Some Considerations on the History of the Ancient Amatory Writers and the comparative Merits of the Elegiac Poets,’ &c., Dublin? 1805? 18. ‘Posthumous Poems,’ edited by Hon. Frances Preston, with portrait, 8vo, Dublin, 1809.

[Baker's Biographia Dramatica; Warburton, Whitelaw, and Walsh's Hist. of Dublin, ii. 1210–1212; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, pp. 208–9; Taylor's Hist. of the University of Dublin, p. 431; Brit. Mus. Cat.; authorities cited in text.]

D. J. O'D.