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John Duncombe (29 September 1729 – 19 January 1786) was an English clergyman and writer, son of William Duncombe.

He studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he became a fellow.[1] He married the poet Susanna Highmore. He contributed to the Gentleman's Magazine under the pseudonym Crito, was a well-known poet, and wrote in 1754 a celebration of British women poets, the Feminead.



The only child of William Duncombe, he was born in London. He was first educated at two schools in Essex; he then entered, on 1 July 1745, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he proceeded B.A. 1748, M.A. 1752. He was later chosen fellow of his college, and was in 1753 ordained at Kew Chapel by John Thomas, the bishop of Peterborough. He was appointed, by the recommendation of Archbishop Thomas Herring, to the curacy of Sundridge in Kent.[2]

Subsequently Duncombe became assistant-preacher at St Anne, Soho. He was in succession chaplain to Samuel Squire, bishop of St David's, and to John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork. In 1757 Archbishop Herring, a friend, presented him to the united livings of St. Andrew and St. Mary Bredman, in Canterbury. He was later made one of the Six Preachers in the cathedral; and in 1773 obtained from Archbishop Frederick Cornwallis the living of Herne, near Canterbury. The archbishop also appointed him master of St. John's Hospital, Canterbury, and gave him a chaplaincy, which enabled him to hold his two livings.[2]

Duncombe died at Canterbury 19 January 1786 and was buried there. He married in 1761 Susanna, daughter of Joseph Highmore. She and an only daughter survived him.[2]


Among 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).[2]

He wrote numerous occasional pieces, such as On a Lady sending the Author a Ribbon for his Watch.[2][3]

Duncombe wrote as an antiquarian:

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

Duncombe edited:

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

He also published several sermons.[2]


  1. ^ "Duncombe, John (DNCM745J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Duncombe, John" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  3. ^ For a full list see Gentleman's Magazine, June 1786, pp. 451–2, and Biographia Britannica ed. Andrew Kippis, iv. 511.

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  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Duncombe, John". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.