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Born at Westminster Educated at Cambridge — His Friendship with
Otway Contributes to Dryden's 'Ovid' and 'Juvenal'. Enters the Church Made Vicar of Witney – Death.
OF Mr. RICHARD DUKE I can find few memorials. He was bred at Westminster and Cambridge ;' and Jacob relates 2 that he was some time tutor to the Duke of Richmond.3
He appears from his writings to have been not ill qualified for poetical compositions ; and being conscious of his powers, when he left the university he enlisted himself among the wits. He was the familiar friend of Otway; and was engaged, among other popular names, in the translations of Ovid  and Juvenal . In his · Review,' though unfinished,' are some vigorous lines. His poems are not below mediocrity, nor have I found much in them to be praised.
With the wit he seems to have shared the dissoluteness of the times; for some of his compositions are such as he must have reviewed with detestation in his later days, when he published those Sermons which Felton has commended.
1 He was admitted to Westminster in 1670; elected to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1675; and took his Master's degree in 1682.
? Jacob's Lives,' ii. 50. Jacob says that he was “the son of an eminent citizen of London."
3 Charles II.'s son, by the Duchess of Portsmouth.
* The beginning of the poem called “The Review' he wrote a little after the publishing of Mr. Dryden's 'Absalom and Achitophel:' he was persuaded to undertake it by Mr. Sheridan, then secretary to the Duke of York; but Mr. Duke, finding Mr. Sheridan designed to make use of his pen to vent his spleen against several persons at Court that were of another party than that he was engaged in, broke off proceeding in it, and left it as it is now printed. — Tonson * To the Reader,' before Roscommon and Duke's Poems, 1717, 8vo. (The best edition of both poets.)
Perhaps, like some other foolish young men, he rather talked than lived viciously, in an age when he that would be thought a wit was afraid to say his prayers; and whatever might have been bad in the first part of his life, was surely condemned and reformed by his better judgment.
In 1683, being then Master of Arts, and Fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge, he wrote a poem on the marriage of the Lady Anne with George Prince of Denmark.”
He then took orders; and, being made prebendary of Gloucester, became a proctor in convocation for that church, and chaplain to Queen Anne.
In 1710 he was presented by the bishop of Winchester to the wealthy living of Witney in Oxfordshire, which he enjoyed but a few months. On February 10, 1710-11, having returned from an entertainment, he was found dead the next morning. His death is mentioned in Swift's Journal.' 6
5 To Dryden's first • Miscellany' (1684) he contributed a translation of Elegy Fifth, book i. of Ovid; three odes of Horace, an Idyllium of Theocritus, the Fifth Eclogue of Virgil, and 'Floriana, a Pastoral upon the death of the Duchess of Southampton.' He did not contribute to the other volumes.
6 14th Feb. 1710.11.-Dr. Duke died suddenly two or three nights ago: he was one of the wits when we were children, but turned parson, and left it, but never writ further than a prologue or recommendatory copy of verses. He had a fine living given him by the Bishop of Winchester about three months ago : he got his living suddenly, and he got his dying so too.
16th Feb.- Atterbury and Prior went to bury poor Dr. Duke.-SWIFT: Journal to Stella.