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the eldest son of sir William Davenant, was born in 1656, and was

, the eldest son of sir William Davenant, was born in 1656, and was initiated in grammar-learning at Cheame in Surrey. Though he had the misfortune to lose his father when scarce twelve years of age, yet care was taken to send him to Oxford to finish his education, where he became a commoner of Baliol college in 1671. He took no degree, but went to London, where, at the age of nineteen, he distinguished himself by a dramatic performance, the only one he published, entitled, “Circe, a tragedy, acted at his royal highness the duke of York’s theatre with great applause.” This play was not printed till two years after it was acted; upon which occasion Dryden wrote a prologue, and the earl of Rochester an epilogue. In the former, there was an apology for the author’s youth and inexperience. He had a considerable share in the theatre in right of his father, which probably induced him to turn his thoughts so early to the stage; however, he was not long detained there either by that, or the success of his play, but applied himself to the civil law, in which, it is said, he had the degree of doctor conferred upon him by the university of Cambridge. He was elected to represent the borough of St. Ives in Cornwall, in the first parliament of James II. which was summoned to meet in May 1685; and, about the same time, jointly empowered, with the master of the revels, to inspect all plays, and to preserve the decorum of the stage. He was also appointed a commissioner of the excise, and continued in that employment for near six years, that is, from 1683 to 1689: however, he does not seem to have been advanced to this rank before he had gone through some lesser employments. In 1698 he was elected for the borough of Great Bedwin, as he was again in 1700. He was afterwards appointed inspector-general of the exports and imports; and this employment he held to the time of his death, which happened Nov. 6, 1714. Dr. Davenant’s thorough acquaintance with the laws and constitution of the kingdom, joined to his great skill in figures, and his happiness in applying that skill according to the principles advanced by sir William Petty in his Political Arithmetic, enabled him to enter deeply into the management of affairs, and procured him great success as a writer in politics; and it is remarkable, that though he was advanced and preferred under the reigns of Charles II. and James II. yet in all his pieces he reasons entirely upon revolution principles, and compliments in the highest manner the virtues and abilities of the prince then upon the throne.