DENT, John (1761-1826), of Clapham, Surr.; Cockerham, Lancs., and Barton Cottage, nr. Christchurch, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 21 Aug. 1761,1 1st s. of Robert Dent, banker, of London and Clapham and w. Jane Bainbridge of St. James’s, Westminster, Mdx.2 m. 29 Oct. 1800, Anne Jane, da. and coh. of John Williamson, brewer, of Roby Hall, nr. Liverpool, Lancs., 5s. 5da. suc. fa. 1805. d. 14 Nov. 1826.
Dent, a partner in the London bank of Child and Company of Temple Bar, was remembered as an ‘active and useful’ backbencher: so he had been until 1812, but in this period, dogged by declining health, he made little mark in the House.3 He had gained a seat for Poole, which lay a few miles along the coast from his ‘pretty and comfortable’ Hampshire villa, in 1818.4 He was made a free burgess the following year and was returned without opposition, as a supporter of the Liverpool government, at the general election of 1820.5 On 5 July 1820 he commented on the complaints of a prisoner in Lancaster gaol and presented a St. Pancras petition for inquiry into the state of London’s water supply.6 As a personal friend and follower of George Canning, who had recently resigned from the cabinet, he left the House before the division on the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 26 Jan., and did not vote on the opposition censure motion, 6 Feb. 1821.7 He paired against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He divided against disfranchising civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. He objected to the exclusion of Bank of England notes from the provisions of Mackintosh’s forgery punishment mitigation bill, which he opposed as a dangerous experiment, 4 June 1821.8 He voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb. 1822. Later that year he was named as one of the Members who would follow Canning into opposition if his negotiations with ministers ended in failure.9 No other trace of parliamentary activity has been found.
Dent, who was sarcastically referred to by Thomas Creevey* as one of ‘the best informed people in London’, had saddled himself for life with the soubriquet of ‘Dog’ Dent by proposing a tax on dogs in 1796.10 According to Mrs. Arbuthnot, Canning furnished an example of the low humour which the nickname constantly inspired, on the occasion of the visit to London of the king and queen of the Sandwich Islands in 1824:
The king’s name is Dog of dogs, so Mr. Canning has put Poodle Byng about them as their chamberlain, and placed their money in Dog Dent’s bank. Very bad jokes and not very dignified in a minister, but he is very much pleased with his own wit.11
On a darker note, Lady Spencer told her husband, 6 Sept. 1825:
Dog Dent, poor unhappy creature, has been attempting to put an end to himself by throwing himself off from the cliff near Christchurch. It was not high enough to kill him, and there he is still under the severest infliction of the tic douloureux and quite wild with the torture, and under double guard after his unsuccessful attempt to obtain relief.