Duck, Stephen

(1705-1756)
   Born to poor parents at Charlton in Wiltshire, he had little education and started his working life as an agricultural laborer at fourteen. With the aid of a dictionary he educated himself to read Paradise Lost, the Spectator, L'Estrange's translation of Seneca's Morals, and works by Shakespeare, Dryden, and Virgil. He was given a pension by Queen Caroline, who made him a yeoman of the guard, and in 1735, keeper of the queen's library at Richmond, called Merlin's Cave. He was ordained as a priest in 1746, and in 1752 was appointed to the rectory of Byfleet, Surrey. He fell out of favor and eventually drowned himself. He burned his early attempts at poetry but persevered and was encouraged by a fellow clergyman by the name of Stanley to write "Thresher's Labor" (1737), a poem that ensured his fame, the more so when Mary Collier (see entry) wrote her angry response, "The Woman's Labor: an Epistle to Mr. Stephen Duck" in 1739. Two of his other publications: Poems on Several Subjects, 1730. Cæsar's Camp on St. George's Hill, 1755. Two of his other poems: "On Mites, to a Lady," "On Richmond Park."
   Sources: Dictionary of National Biography. Electronic Edition 1.1. Oxford University Press, 1997. Duck, Stephen. The Thresher's Labor / Stephen Duck and the Woman's Labour / Mary Collier, introduction by Moira Ferguson. Los Angeles: Williams Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, 1985. English Poetry: Author Search. Chadwyck-Healey Ltd., 1995 (http://www.lib.utexas.edu:8080/search/epoetry/author.html). The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry. 11th ed. The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry, Columbia University Press, 2005 (http://www.columbiagrangers.org). The National Portrait Gallery (www.npg.org.uk). The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse. Roger Lonsdale, ed. Oxford University Press, 2003. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th edition. Margaret Drabble, ed. Oxford University Press, 2000.

British and Irish poets. A biographical dictionary. . 2015.

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