Combe, William, 1742-1823

Alternative names
Birth 1742-03-25
Death 1823-06-19

Biographical notes:

William Combe was a British author of comedic and satirical poetry and imaginary letters. Employed as a propagandist by the Pitt Government from 1788-1806. He spent the later years of his life frequently imprisoned for debt.

From the guide to the William Combe receipt, November 19, 1801, (Ohio University)

British author, known as Dr. Syntax.

From the description of Letters to "My Dear Sir" and Mr. B. Cooke, 1762-1820. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122369318

British author.

From the description of Papers, [1813-ca.1823] (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 36854620

Epithet: of Add MS 29300

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000367.0x000177

William Combe was an English author who had a character as colorful as his prose. He sought to keep the circumstances of his early life hidden, but he was likely born in Bristol and educated at Eton. After squandering a modest inheritance, he worked a number of odd jobs before settling in London, where he began to write. He was a prolific and highly diverse author-for-hire, and often published anonymously or under a pseudonym; he is probably best known for the Dr. Syntax books of verse and for his spurious letters of Lord Lyttleton. He lived an extravagant lifestyle beyond his means, and spent considerable time in prison.

From the description of William Combe letters and manuscript page, circa 1805-1806. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 63664561

William Combe (1742-1823), writer, was educated at Eton. He lived in different parts of England and France before settling in London, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was employed by booksellers, compiling translated travels and histories, and wrote for The Times, 1803-1809. He published novels, metrical satires and political pamphlets, and wrote letterpress for illustrated works. He also authored a series of popular poems featuring his comic creation Dr Syntax. Combe died at Lambeth on 19 June 1823.

From the guide to the William Combe: Literary commonplace book, c. 1804, (Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives)

English adventurer; "Dr. Syntax."

From the description of Autograph document signed : [London?], 1798 Apr. 2. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270512212


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  • Poetry
  • Political satire, English
  • English poetry--19th century
  • Male authors, English--Correspondence


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  • Denbigh Castle (Denbigh, Wales) (as recorded)