Denton, William

, the youngest son of sir T. Denton, of Hillesden, in Buckinghamshire, was born at Stow, in April 1605. He received his education at Magdalenhall, in Oxford, where he was initiated into the practice of medicine, under Dr. Henry Ashworth. In 1634 he took his degree of doctor, and going to reside in London, he was appointed physician to the king Charles I. in 1636, and attended his majesty to Scotland in 1639. During the troubles which succeeded, he continued to practise in London, without interfering in the factions of the time; and on the restoration of Charles II. was made one of his physicians in ordinary, and was soon after admitted fellow | of the college of physicians. He lived to the accession of king William and queen Mary, to whom, in 168D, he dedicated “Jus Regiminis,” being a jnsiiticntion of defensive arms in general, shewing that the revolution was the just right of the kingdom. He died at his house in Coventgarden, on the yth of May, 1691, and was buried at Hillesden. His daughter was married to George Nicholas, son of sir Edward Nicholas, sometime secretary of state under the kings Charles I. and II. His works are all on political subjects 1. “Horie Subseciva?, or a treatise shewing the original, grounds, reasons, and provocations, necessitating our sanguinary Laws against Papists, made in the days of queen Elizabeth,1664, 4to. 2. “The Burnt Child dreads the Fire, or an examination of the merits of the Papists, relating to England, mostly from their own pens, in justification of the late act of parliament for preventing dangers which may happen from popish recusants,London, 1675, 4to, 3. “Jus Cassaris et Ecclesiae vere dicta?,1681, fol. to which he added, on a single sheet, “An Apology for the Liberty of the Press1


Ath. Ox. Vol. II.

DKon (Chevalier de). This extraordinary person, who is styled in the register of St. Pancras, where he was buried, Charles Genevieve Louise Auguste Andre Timothee DEon de Beaumont, is now known to have been the son of a gentleman of an ancient and respectable family at Tonnerre in Burgundy, where he was born Oct. 2, 1728. Although the register of his baptism, which bears date Oct. 5, distinctly states the child to have been a male, some have conceived that the sex was originally doubtful, and that family reasons induced the parents, who had not long before the birth of the chevalier lost their then only son, to educate the infant as one of that sex to which nature eventually proved that he belonged. In the early part of his life, he was educated under his father’s roof, whence at the age of thirteen, he was removed to the Mazarin college at Paris. He had scarcely finished his studies, when the sudden death of his father, and of an uncle from whom the family had great expectations, left him doubly an orphan, and threw him on the world dependent on his own exertions for advancement. He was, however, at this period fortunate in obtaining the patronage of the prince de Conti, who had long known and | esteemed his father, and by the prince’s means was introduced to Louis XV. who presented him with a cornetcy of dragoons. Soon after this b‘Eon was placed in the onHce of mons. Bertier de Savigny, intendant of the generalit of Paris, where he gave great satisfaction to his superiors, by the industry and talent he displayed in the office, and gained considerable credit by one or two small publications on finance.

In 1755 he was employed under the chevalier Douglas, in transacting a negociation of the most delicate and important nature at the court of Petersburg!), by which, after many years suspension of all intercourse, a reconciliation was effected between the courts of France and Russia. After some years residence at Petersburg!], DEon joined his regiment, then serving under marshal Broglio on the Rhine, and during the campaign of 1762, acted as aid-ducamp to that celebrated olKcer. When the duke de Nivernois came over to England, as ambassador, to negociate the peace of 1763, DEon appeared as his secretary; and so far procured the sanction of the government of England, that he was requested to carry over the ratiticat.on of the treaty between the British court and that of Versailles, in consequence of which the French king invested him with the order of St. Louis. He had also behaved, in the character of secretary, so much to the satisfaction of the duke, that that nobleman, upon his departure for France, in May 1763, procured DEon to be appointed minister-pleriiputeutiary in his room. In October following, however, the count de Guerchy having arrived here as ambassador from the court of Versailles, the chevalier received orders, or rather was requested, to act as secretary or assistant to the new ambassador. This, we are told, mortified him to such a degree, that, asserting that the letter of recall, which accompanied it, was a forgery, he refused to deliver it; and by this step drew on himself the censure of his court. On this, either with a view of exculpating himself, or from a motive of revenge, he published a succinct account of all the negociations in which he had been engaged, exposed some secrets of the French court, and rather than spare. his enemies, revealed some things greatly to the prejudice of his best friends. Among other persons very freely treated in this publication was the count de Guerchy, for which DEon was prosecuted and convicted in the court of King’s Bench, in July 1764. | It was but natural that this conduct should draw down the resentment of the court of France, and the chevalier either feared or affected to fear the greatest danger to his person. Reports were spread, very probahly by himself, that persons were sent over here to apprehend him secretly, and carry him to France. On this occasion he wrote four letters, complaining of these designs, as known to him by undoubted authority. The one he sent to lord chief justice Mansfield, the second to the earl of Bute, the third to earl Temple, and the fourth to Mr Pitt. Of these personages he requested to know, whether, as he had contracted no debt, and behaved himself in all things as a dutiful subject, he might not kill the first man who should attempt to arrest him, &c. In March 1764 he took a wiser step to provide for his safety, if there had been any cause for his fears, by indicting the count de Guerchy for a conspiracy against his life, but this came to nothing; and the chevalier, not having surrendered himself to the court of King’s-bench to receive judgment for the libel on the count de Guerchy, was, in June 1765, declared outlawed. The chevalier, however, still continued in England until the death of Louis XV.

About the year 1771, certain doubts respecting his sex, which had previously been started at Petersburgh, became the topic of conversation, and, as usual in this country, the subject of betting; and gambling policies ef assurance to a large amount were effected on his sex; and in 1775, more policies on the same question were effected. In July 1777, an action was brought on one of these before lord Mansfield. The plaintiff was one Hayes, a surgeon, and the defendant Jaques a broker, for the recovery of 700l.; Jacques having some time before received premiums of fifteen guineas per cent, for every one of which he stood engaged to return an hundred, whenever it should be proved that the chevalier was a woman. Two persons, Louis Le Goux, a surgeon, and de Morande, the editor of a French newspaper, positively swore that DEon was a woman. The defendant’s counsel pleaded that the plaintiff, at the time of laying the wager, was privy to the fact, and thence inferred that the wager was unfair. Lord Mansfield, however, held that the wager was fair, but expressed his abhorrence of the whole transaction. No attempt having been made to contradict the evidence of the chevalier’s being a woman, which is now known to be | false, Hayes obtained a verdict with costs. But the matter was afterwards solemnly argued before lord Mansfield in the court of King’s-bench, and the defendant pleading a late act of parliament for non-payment, it was admitted to be binding, by which decision all the insurers in this shameful transaction were deprived of their expected gains. In the mean time, the chevalier, who was now universally regarded as a woman, was accused by his enemies as having been an accomplice in these gambling transactions, and a partaker of the plunder. In consequence of repeated attacks of this nature he left England in August 1777, having previously asserted in a newspaper his innocence of the fraud, and referred to a former notice, inserted by him in the papers in 1775, in which he had cautioned all persons concerned not to pay any sums due on the policies which had been effected on the subject of his sex, and declared that he would controvert the evidence exhibited on the above trial, if his master should give him leave to return to England. It is in vain now to inquire why he should delay for a moment disproving what a moment would have been sufficient to disprove.

On his return to France, however, we find him confirming the rumours against him by assuming the female dress. In excuse for this we are told that this was not a matter of choice, but insisted on by the French court, and submitted to on his part with much reluctance. Monstrous as this absurdity seems to be on the part of the French government, it is now ascertained that whilst the business of the policies was going on in this country, the celebrated Caron de Beaumarchais was actually employed by that government in negociating with DEon, not only for the delivery of some state-papers in his possession, and his return to France, but for the immediate assumption of the female dress and character. When DEon returned to France, he shewed no disposition to comply with the wishes or injunctions of his royal master, but continued for some time to wear the military uniform; and it was not till after an imprisonment of some weeks in the castle of Dijon, that the apprehension of consequences still more unpleasant, and on the other hand, a promise of the most substantial marks of court favour, induced him to assume the female character and garb, which having once adopted, he ever after continued to support, maintaining the most inviolable secrecy on the subject of his sex to the day of his death. In | consequence of this compliance with the pleasure of his court, the peusion formerly granted by Louis XV. was continued, with permission to retain the cross of St. Louis; a most flattering acknowledgment was made of past services, civil and military, and the metamorphosed chevalier was even appointed to a situation in the household of the queen of France.

In 1785 he returned to England, where he continued to reside till his death. He was deprived of his pension in consequence of the French revolution, although in June 1792, he presented a petition to the national assembly (as madame DEon) desiring to be employed in their service as a soldier, to have his seniority in the army, and permission to raise a legion of volunteers for the service of his country. This petition was probably disregarded, as he remained in England, where his circumstances became embarrassed. For a few years he gained a subsistence by the sale of part of his effects, and by a public exhibition of his skill in fencing, which was the greater object of curiosity, from the general belief that it was a female performance. When incapable of these exertions by years and infirmities, ho was relieved by occasional contributions. For the two last years, he scarcely ever quitted his bed, his health gradually declined, and at length an extreme state of debility ensued, which terminated in his death, May 21, 1810. Immediately after, the corpse being examined by professional gentlemen and others, was discovered to be that of a man, yet it is said that there were peculiarities in his person which rendered the doubts that had so long subsisted respecting his sex the less extraordinary, and appeared to have given facility to his occasional assumption of the female character before his final adoption of it. He had assumed the female character at Petersburg!! for the purposes of political intrigue about the year 1750, when only twenty-two years of age, and had occasionally adopted it during his first residence in England; but it may be doubted whether all this will be sufficient to explain the mysteries of the chevalier’s conduct, or the more strange conduct of the court of France. The chevalier DEon, who was distinguished as a scholar, and was well acquainted with the ancient and most of the modern languages, had a very valuable library, part of which he sold for the roller‘ of his necessities, and part has been sold since his death. His works according to the Diet. Historique are: l. “JMemoires,” 8vo and 4to, relative to his | disputes with the count de Guerchy. 2. “Histoire des Papes.” 3. “Histoire la Pologne.” 4. “Recherches sur les royaumesde Naples etdeSicile.” 5. “Recherches sur le Commerce et la Navigation.” 6. “Pensees sur le Celibat, et les maux qu’il cause a la France,” against the celibacy of the French clergy. 7. “Memoires sur la Rus-sie ct son Commerce avcc les Anglois.” 8. “Histoire d’Eudoxie Feeclerona.” 9. “Observations sur le royaimie d’Angleterre, son government, ses grands officiers,” &c. 10. “Details sur l‘Ecosse, sur les possessions de l’Angleterre en Amerique.” 11. “Sur la regie de bles en France, les mendians, les domains des rois,” c. 12. “Details sur toutes les Parties des Finances de France.” 13. “Situation de la France dans Plnde avant la paix de 1763.” 14. “Loisirs du Chevalier DEon,1775, 13 vols. 8vo, a brief statistical account or' the principal countries in Europe. He left behind some Mss. among which are ample materials for a life of himself. These are now in the hands of a gentleman who is preparing them for publication, and who communicated some particulars to Mr. Lysons, of which we have partly availed ourselves in this sketch. This intended biographer concludes a very favourable character of the chevalier in these words: “In religion, Mons. DEon was a sincere catholic, but divested of all bigotry: few were so well acquainted with the biblical writings, or devoted more time to the study of religious subjects. The shades in his character were, the most inflexible tenacity of disposition, and a great degree of pride and self-opinion; a general distrust and suspicion of others; and a violence of temper which could brook no opposition. To these ’failings may be traced the principal misfortunes of his life; a life in which there was much labour and suffering, mixed with very little repose.” The French editor of his life, in noticing the poverty in which he died, adds, that it does him the more honour as he had refused the offers of the English government to turn their manifestoes against his country into French. 1

1 Lysons’s Supplemental to liiUK-to ilie Environs —Gent. Mag. vol LXXX. and see Index. Dict. II let,