Dutens, Lewis

, a gentleman of considerable literary and political knowledge, was descended from a protestant family in France, which his father left about the beginning of the last century, in order to reside in England, where he had an opulent brother, but not finding the climate agree with him, returned to France. There he married, and became the father of seven children, one of whom, the subject of this memoir, was born in 1729, and assumed the name of Duchiiion from a small estate so called, which had long been the property of his ancestors. His talents, according to his own account, were extraordinary; in his fifth year he was a proficient at chess; and at ten, he composed comedies for his amusement, enigmas for the | Mercure de France, epigrams in the news of the day, and madrigals for the ladies. He read much in romances, belles lettres, poetry, history, and morality, and though somewhat roving and unsettled in his disposition, had evidently laid in a very large stock of general knowledge. After various youthful adventures, which form a very amusing part of his “Memoires d’un Voyageur,” &c. which he published a few years before his death, we find him appointed, in 1758, chaplain (for he was then in orders) and secretary to the hon. Stuart M’Kenzie, envoy extraordinary to the court of Turin.

With this gentleman he left London in October of that year, and when Mr. M‘Kenzie returned to England in 1760, Mr. Dutens filled the honourable situation of charg6 des affaires at Turin till May 1762, when he rejoined Mr. M’Kenzie at London, and assisted him as one of the members of lord Bute’s administration. Before this administration closed he obtained a handsome pension; and shortly after was invited to resume his situation as charge des affaires at Turin, a place to which he manifested an evident partiality. He continued two years at Turin, and at his leisure hours planned an edition of Leibnitz’s works, which was published in six vols. 4to, at Geneva, in 1768, and evinced the serious attention which he had bestowed on the opinions of that philosopher, and his extensive correspondence at this time with many of the most learned men in Europe. At Turin also he displayed a very intimate acquaintance with the philosophy, arts, &c. of ancient and modern times, by his “Recherches sur l’Origine des Deeouvertes,” &c. a work in which he endeavours to prove that our most celebrated philosophers have been indebted to the ancients for the greatest part of their knowledge. This was published at Paris, 1766, 2 vols. 8vo, and afterwards translated into English and published at London. Although it cannot be said that Mr. Dutens has accomplished his full intention in this work, many of his positions being rather the whims and caprices of a lively writer, in support of a pre-conceived theory, yet he has at least proved that much of his own time had been devoted to the inquiry, and that his range of reading had been very extensive.

Before he quitted Turin, Mr. M’Kenzie’s interest with the duke of Northumberland, then lord lieutenant of Ireland, procured him the promise of a deanery in that | kingdom, which he declined accepting; but soon after received from the same noble patron a presentation to the rectory of Elsdon in Northumberland, then worth 800l. a year; which induced him, in 1766, to return to England, where he received a present of 1000l. from the king, and was highly delighted with the reception he met with at Northumberland-house. In 1768 he performed an extensive tour through the continent with lord Algernon Percy, the duke of Northumberland’s son. In the course of this tour, some conversation at Genoa with the marchioness of Babbi, gave rise to a work which Mr. Dutens afterwards published at Rome under the title of “The Tocsin,” and afterwards at Paris, under the title of “Appel au bons sens.” After this tour was finished, he resided for some time at Paris, where he published several works, and lived in a perpetual round of splendid amusements. In 1776 he returned to London, and lived much with the Northumberland family, and with his early patron Mr. M’Kenzie, until lord Montstuart was appointed envoy-extraordinary to the court of Turin, whom he accompanied as his friend, but without any official situation, except that when lord Montstuart was called to England upon private business, he again acted for a short time as charge des affaires. After this, according to his memoirs, his time was divided for many years between a residence in London, and occasional tours to the continent, with the political affairs of which he seems always anxious to keep up an intimate acquaintance. At length the death of his first friend and patron placed him in easy if not opulent circumstances, as that gentleman left him executor and residuary legatee with his two nephews, lord Bute and the primate of Ireland. The value of this legacy has been estimated at 15,000l. which enabled Mr. Dutens to pass the remainder of his life in literary retirement and social intercourse, for which he was admirably qualified, not only by an extensive knowledge, but by manners easy and accommodating. In the complimentary strain of a courtier few men exceeded him, although his profuse liberality in this article was sometimes thought to lessen its value. He died at his house in Mount-street, Grosvenor-square, May 23, 1812, in his eighty-third year. Not many days before his death, he called, in a coach, on many persons of eminence with whom he had corresponded, for the sole purpose of returning the letters he had received from them. | His publications, not already noticed were, 1 “Explications des quelques Medailles de peuple, de villes, et des rois Grecques et Pheniciennes,1773, 4to. 2. The same translated. 3. “Itineraire des Routes les plus frequentées; ou Journal d‘un Voyage aux Villes principales de l’Europe,” often reprinted. 4. “Histoire de ce qui s’est passe” pour establissement d’une Regence en Angleterre. Par M. L. D. Ne D. R. D. L. Ge. Be.“1789, 8vo; in which he adopted the sentiments of Mr. Pitt’s administration on the important question of the regency, which, he says, lost him the favour of a great personage. 5.” Recherches sur le terns le plus recule de l’usage des Voutes chez les Anciens,“1795. He wrote also the French text of the second volume of the Marlborough gems, a task for which he was well qualified, as he was an excellent classical antiquary and medallist. In 1771 he translated” The manner of securing all sorts of brick buildings from fire,“&c. from the French of count d’Espie. His last publication, in 1805, was his own history, in” Memoires d’un Voyageur," &c. of which we have availed ourselves in this sketch but, although this work may often amuse the reader, and add something to the knowledge of human nature, it will not perhaps create an unmixed regard for the character of the writer. 1


See also Memoirs of Mr. Dutens in —Gent. Mag. 1812, of which some copies were printed in a quarto form, by Mr. Nichols, with, an engraving of Mr. Dutens.