DUNCOMBE, Thomas Slingsby (1796-1861), of 20 Queen Street, Mayfair, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1826 - 1832
2 July 1834 - 13 Nov. 1861

Family and Education

b. 1796, 1st s. of Thomas Duncombe of Copgrove, nr. Knaresborough, Yorks. and Emma, da. of Rt. Rev. John Hinchcliffe, bp. of Peterborough. educ. Harrow 1808-11. ?m. 1s.1 suc. fa. 1847. d. 13 Nov. 1861.

Offices Held

Ensign Coldstream Gds. 1811, lt. and capt. 1815, ret. 1819.

Biography

‘Tommy ... is the greatest political comedy going’, wrote Greville of Duncombe in 1834, though the following year he acknowledged the hard edge of his developing radicalism with his comment that ‘a speech of Tom Duncombe’s would produce far greater effect than the perusal of a discourse of Burke’s’.2 Duncombe, named after his maternal great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Slingsby, was the eldest son of a well-to-do Yorkshire squire, whose elder brother Charles Duncombe, the head of the family from 1799, was Tory Member for four separate boroughs, 1790-1806 and 1812-1826. The family was extensively connected by marriage to the aristocracy. Before leaving Harrow at Christmas 1811 Duncombe, then aged 15, took a commission in the Guards. Two years later he went with the second battalion of his regiment to the Low Countries where, to judge from his journal, he spent most of his time eating, drinking and hunting, though he did come under enemy fire in a skirmish near Antwerp in early February 1814. He was at Brussels during the summer, but returned to England later that year and so took no part in the Waterloo campaign. During part of his foreign service he was aide-de-camp to General Ronald Craufurd Ferguson, advanced Whig Member for Dysart Burghs, from whom he may have imbibed the liberal political views which made him unique in his immediate family.3 Promoted in November 1815, Duncombe divided his time between garrison duty, attendance at Court and making his way in fashionable society, where his saturnine good looks, easy manners and silver tongue made him a favourite. He developed a reputation as a dandy, with a voracious appetite for women of dubious reputation and an addiction to heavy gambling, both in the gaming room and on the racecourse, where he proved himself to be one of the most talented gentleman jockeys in the country. He joined Brooks’s, 10 May 1818, and, tired of his ornamental army life, sold out in November 1819.4 At the general election the following March, when his Tory cousin William Duncombe, Charles’s son, was returned for Grimsby, he unsuccessfully contested the open and venal borough of Pontefract against the sitting Members. He was in second place after the first day’s polling, but had been relegated to third by the close.5

Duncombe’s activities on the Turf led him into a personal and political friendship with a fellow aficionado, John George Lambton, Whig Member for County Durham. In September 1822 Thomas Creevey*, who described him as ‘a good tempered young one’, recorded his minor contretemps with the duke of Sussex at Doncaster races.6 Nine months later he stood as an ‘independent’ for Hertford in opposition to the nominee of the 2nd marquess of Salisbury, whose own succession to the peerage had created the vacancy.7 Although he was heavily defeated, he found sufficient support, as well as liking for his money, to encourage him to continue to cultivate the borough. When a dissolution was expected in the autumn of 1825 he confirmed his candidature as ‘a lover of liberty and independence’.8 Early in 1826 it was widely expected that Duncombe, though ‘nothing but a ruined roue from Yorkshire’ and ‘a comical little fellow’ who ‘spends a good deal of money in what ... [must] be a small object to him’, was ‘quite sure’ of success.9 In his opening address, 12 May, he acknowledged the recent liberalization of the Liverpool ministry and stated his approval of Canning’s foreign and commercial policies, though not of his obscurantism on parliamentary reform. He was returned in joint first place with Salisbury’s man, well ahead of the third candidate, Henry Lytton Bulwer*, a young local man of moderate liberal views, and proclaimed his success to be a triumph for electoral independence.10 The Whig earl of Essex congratulated him on ‘releasing the town of Hertford from its shackles’:

I won’t say a word about the Catholics till you let me know that you have read over all the evidence given before the committee of the House of Lords; and when the day of voting comes on that question, you must look at the beauteous eyes of some fair Catholic, and exclaim, ‘By these eyes and lips, I cannot vote against thy faith’. In short, these are matters for future consideration.

Duncombe, who at this time was reported to be sharing the bed of the singing actress Madame Vestris, declared at a Hertford celebration dinner, 18 July 1826 (two days after his uncle Charles was created Baron Feversham), that he wanted ‘a real and constitutional reform of the House of Commons’, as well as economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.11

He made no mark in the House in his first session, when he voted against the duke of Clarence’s grant, 16 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. At a Hertford dinner to celebrate the anniversary of his return, 15 June, he stated that the advent of Canning’s ministry, which he supported, ‘must eventually prove highly beneficial to the people’. He denounced the Test Acts as ‘disgraceful and arbitrary’, and he presented local petitions for their repeal, 18, 21 June 1827.12 In his maiden speech, in a debate on the recent change of ministry, 18 Feb. 1828, he created a splash by calling on Herries and Huskisson to be more candid in their explanations of their roles in the break-up of the Goderich administration and, above all, by identifying in melodramatic language Knighton and Rothschild, ‘a physician’ and ‘a Jew’, as ‘the real plotters’ and wielders of secret influence. Three days later he brushed aside Herries’s rejoinder and accused him of trying to ‘mystify his subject’. A jealous Greville, who moved in some of the same social circles as Duncombe, took a cynical view of his coup de theatre:

Duncombe’s speech ... was delivered with perfect self-possession and composure, but in so ridiculous a manner that everybody laughed at him, although they were amused with his impudence and at the style and objects of his attack. However, the next day it was discovered that he had performed a great exploit; was loudly applauded and congratulated on all sides, and made the hero of the day. His fame was infinitely increased on a subsequent night [21 Feb.], when Herries again came before the House and when Tommy fired another shot at him. The newspapers were full of his praises. The Whigs called at his door and eagerly sought his acquaintance. Those who love fun and personality cheered him on with loud applause, and he now fancies himself the greatest man going, and is ready to get up and abuse anybody on the treasury bench. To me, who know all the secret strings that moved this puppet, nothing can be more amusing. The history of Tom Duncombe and his speech is instructive as well as amusing, for it is a curious proof of the facility with which the world may be deceived, and of the prodigious effect which may be produced by the smallest means, if they are aided by some fortuitous circumstances and happily applied. Tommy came to Henry de Ros [another hard-bitten gambler and womaniser] and told him that his constituents at Hertford were very anxious he should make a speech, but that he did not know what to say, and begged Henry to supply him with the necessary materials. He advised him to strike out something new, and having received the assurance that he should be able to recollect anything that he learnt by heart, and that he was not afraid of his courage failing, he composed for him the speech which he delivered. But knowing the slender capacity of his man, he was not satisfied with placing the speech in his hands, but adopted every precaution which his ingenuity suggested to avert the danger of breaking down. He made him learn the speech by heart, and then made him think it over again and put it into language of his own, justly fearing that if he should forget any of the more polished periods of the original it would appear sadly botched by his patching up. He then instructed him largely as to how and when he was to bring it on, supplying him with various commonplace phrases to be used as connecting links, and by the help of which he ought to be able to fasten upon some of the preceding speeches. I saw him the day before the debate, when he told me what he was about, and asked me to suggest anything that occurred upon the subject, and at the same time repeated to me the speech with which he had armed his hero. I hinted my apprehensions that he would fail in the delivery, but though he was not without some alarm, he expressed (as it afterwards appeared well-grounded) confidence in his extraordinary nerve and intrepidity. His speech the second day was got up precisely in the same manner, and although it appeared to arise out of the debate and of those which preceded it, the matter had been all crammed into him by his invisible mentor. The amusement to him and to me (especially at the honours that have been thickly poured upon him and the noise which he has made in the world) is indescribably pungent ... To the ignorant majority of the world ... [Duncombe] appears a man of great promise, of boldness, quickness, and decision, and the uproar that is made about him cannot fail to impress others as well as himself with a high notion of his consequence. Knighton is gone abroad, I have very little doubt, in consequence of what passed, and as nobody enquires very minutely into the real causes of things ... it is said and believed that Duncombe is the man who has driven him out, and that he has given the first blow to that secret influence which has only been obscurely hinted at before and never openly attacked. These are great and important matters, far exceeding any consequences which the authors of the speech anticipated from its delivery at the time. And what are the agents who have produced such an effect? A man of ruined fortune and doubtful character, whose life has been spent on the race course, at the gaming table, and in the green room, of limited capacity, exceedingly ignorant, and without any stock but his impudence to trade on, only speaking to serve an electioneering purpose, and crammed by another man with every thought and every word that he uttered.13

Despite this success, Duncombe did not put himself forward in the House during the rest of the 1828 session. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 21, 26 Feb., when he voted for that measure. He voted against the proposal to extend the franchise of East Retford to the freeholders of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., presented a Hertford petition against the friendly societies bill, 18 Apr., voted for Catholic relief, 12 May, and divided against the Wellington ministry on civil list pensions, 20 May, the costs of rebuilding Buckingham House, 23 June, and the ordnance estimates, 4 July. Creevey had encountered him at Ascot in June, and in August noted that ‘our flash Tom Duncombe’ was expected soon to join a party of Whigs hosted by the Seftons. In late November 1828 Duncombe, on his way to Sefton’s Lancashire residence, called at Hertford to survey new buildings which he had recently had erected there.14

On 9 Feb. 1829 Greville recorded that de Ros

told me that Duncombe is going to make another appearance on the boards of St. Stephen’s, on the Terceira business, and he is to give notice tonight. He has been with Palmella and Frederick Lamb, who are both to assist in getting up his case, and he expects to be supported by some of the Whigs and by the Huskissonians ... Duncombe ... is egged on by Lambton and instructed by Henry, who cares nothing about the matter, and only does it for the fun of the thing. I have no idea but that Duncombe must cut a sorry figure when he steps out of the line of personal abuse and impertinence.15

Duncombe evidently had second thoughts, for his only known speech of the session was a brief one in favour of Catholic emancipation, 13 Feb., which he supported silently, 6, 30 Mar. He presented a Hertford petition for repeal of the corn laws, 27 May. At the lavish dinner to commemorate his election, 2 July 1829, he applauded the advances made by religious toleration at the expense of ‘ignorance, superstition and bigotry’, but criticized the government’s policy on Portugal, where they upheld the ‘bastard born tyrant’ Dom Miguel.16

Duncombe voted for the amendment to the address, 4 Feb., to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and for Hume’s motion for a wholesale reduction of taxes, 15 Feb. 1830, when he warned ministers against exulting too much ‘either in their numbers or their powers of victory; for ... if they persevere in their present system of lavish expenditure, deaf and heedless to the just calls and complaints of the people, they may find, when it is too late, that there is a majority out of doors, called public opinion, which will make their majority within doors ... yield and acknowledge the justness of the views of what they may consider this evening’s despicable minority’. He was one of the nine men who subsequently voted to postpone going into the committee of supply. Mrs. Arbuthnot, who felt that ministers were doing well, despite the obstructiveness of some opposition Members, self-styled ‘careful guardians of the public purse’, commented that ‘our opponents are just such as we might have chosen for ourselves’, and included ‘Mr Tom Duncombe, who cheated Lord Chesterfield out of thousands and only has kept his place among gentlemen from Ld C’s over good nature and unwillingness to expose him’.17 Duncombe voted fairly regularly with the reviving Whig opposition for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation during the rest of the session. He did not vote for Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb., but he divided for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., paired for East Retford’s seats being given to Birmingham, 5 Mar., and voted in the same sense, 15 Mar., advocated moderate but effective reform at the Hertfordshire county meeting, 13 Mar.,18 and voted for Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He was in O’Connell’s minority for Irish vestry reform, 27 Apr., voted for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, and presented a petition from an individual complaining of his army pension having been withheld by the authorities of Kilmainham Hospital, 10 June. He was one of the handful of Whigs who voted with government on the sugar duties, 21 June 1830.19

Salisbury’s Hertford agent, who had previously assured his employer that Duncombe’s support in the borough was on the wane, predicted in late April 1830 that he would be ‘found a defaulter’ at the next general election and was ‘prepared for a retreat’.20 He was wide of the mark. At his anniversary dinner, 15 June 1830, when he was supported by two French noblemen, Duncombe spoke strongly in favour of parliamentary and church reform and an assault on the ‘useless placemen, unworthy pensioners and sinecurists’ who ‘still revel in public plunder’.21 He adopted the same programme, together with his championship of electoral independence and the abolition of slavery, when he came forward again for Hertford at the general election. He was under pressure from Salisbury, who put up a kinsman, and Bulwer, who tried again, even though he was assured of a seat for Wilton. They both sought to split Duncombe’s plumpers, and colluded to the extent that Salisbury was prepared to throw his weight behind Bulwer once his own man was safe. The attack on Duncombe foundered when Bulwer’s leading supporters deserted him on the eve of the poll, which was aborted.22 At his celebration dinner Duncombe reiterated his support for practical reform: he specifically dismissed annual parliaments and universal suffrage, but declared himself to be open to persuasion on the ballot. He welcomed the boost given to ‘liberal principles’ by the election results overall and described recent events in France as a ‘lesson to bigoted monarchs and wicked ministers’.23

Duncombe, whom government of course numbered among their ‘foes’, voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Yet on 23 Nov. he attacked Henry Brougham for allowing himself to be ‘seduced’ by the lure of the lord chancellorship, thereby breaking his election pledges to the people of Yorkshire and betraying the cause of reform.24 He attended and spoke at the Hertford meeting to petition for reform, 4 Feb. 1831.25 He presented a borough petition for a repeal of assessed taxes, 17 Feb., and denounced the Enfield Chase road bill, which had caused annoyance in Hertford, as being ‘intended solely for the advantage of the marquess of Salisbury’, 23 Feb. He warmly welcomed the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 9 Mar., observing that it would encompass ‘the destruction of that aristocratic influence which has so long disgraced this House, and so long usurped the rights of the people’. He exhorted ministers to dissolve and appeal to the country if it was defeated and advised the opposition not to ‘lay the flattering unction to their Tory souls’ in the misguided belief that ‘the country will ever again consent to be governed by their exploded principles of patronage and corruption’. He took a prominent part at the Hertford meeting to endorse the bill, 18 Mar.26 He divided for its second reading, 22 Mar., presented favourable petitions, 28 Mar., and voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

At the ensuing general election Duncombe stood again for Hertford, where another reformer, a local man, also came forward to oppose the Hatfield House interest. Lord Grey encouraged the Whig Lord Cowper to give Duncombe, ‘my first object’, what support he could. He and his fellow reformer ‘floored’ Salisbury’s sitting Member, amid scenes of great enthusiasm for reform.27 Duncombe, who was described by Macaulay at this time as ‘a very honest, good-natured fellow ... but none of the soberest’,28 voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and was a steady supporter of its details. He did, however, do his best to have Aldborough completely disfranchised: his attempts of 27 July and 13 Sept. were ruled out on technical grounds, and when he made the proposal, 14 Sept., ministers ignored his appeal for support and defeated it by 149-64. He presented a Hertford petition against the use of molasses in brewing and distilling, 2 Aug., and one from Llanerchymedd for inclusion in the revamped Anglesey boroughs constituency, 4 Aug. On 9 Aug. he caused ‘a great row’ by accusing Goulburn of the ‘base and wicked calumny’ of insinuating that Lambton (now Lord Durham), one of the framers of the reform bill, had used his influence to gain an extra Member for the county of Durham. Edward Littleton* noted:

It was amusing to see Tommy’s spirit and coolness. The House was in a state of great excitement and anxiety for about two hours. Members were rising on all sides with entreaty and advice. Tommy always told them not to trouble themselves about him - he could take good care of his own honour - and never failed when sitting down to reiterate the charge.

The affair ‘ended badly’ for Duncombe, when it became clear that Goulburn was innocent. Under pressure from the Speaker, he made a grudging apology to the House, though not to Goulburn personally.29 He raised the case of an inmate of Hertford gaol who had supposedly been detained there for several days after being reprieved, 11 Aug., but withdrew his motion for information after airing the subject. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. On 21 Sept. he presented and waxed indignant in support of the petition of 35 Hertford electors complaining that they had been evicted from their homes by Salisbury for voting against his man at the last general election. He voted silently for the passage of the reform bill later that day. He attended the Hertford meeting to petition the Lords to pass it, 27 Sept., when he declared that if the peers proved obstructive, the people ‘must be prepared to remonstrate, and, if remonstrance will not do, to enforce obedience’.30 Supporting Lord Ebrington’s motion of confidence in the government after the defeat of the bill, 10 Oct. 1831, he urged ministers to use every constitutional means, including a creation of peers if necessary, to get it through the Upper House, and warned the Lords that ‘the great mass of the people has now too much sense, too much penetration, too much discernment, to be cheated and deceived by the sophistry of the rotten borough advocates’.

Duncombe was not present to vote for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but he again supported its detailed provisions, though he was one of the minority of 32 who resisted the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 1 Feb. 1832. He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and accused opposition of raising the issue merely ‘to trip up the government’, 6 Feb. When presenting a petition from six Barnet freeholders complaining that they had been duped into signing the county anti-reform address got up by Salisbury and Lord Verulam, 10 Feb., he denied the story that the king had refused to create peers to carry the reform bill and exhorted ministers to avail themselves of the ‘full power’ which he had in fact given them. If his object was to provoke a discussion of this sensitive issue in order to force Grey’s hand - and no one doubted that it was - he was disappointed: Greville commented that the ‘ridiculous affair’ ended in ‘complete failure’.31 Duncombe supported the third reading of the reform bill, 20 Mar., and again urged ministers to create peers if forced to do so by the Lords. He duly voted for the bill two days later. He voted in the minority for an effective reform of Irish tithes, 8, 27, 30 Mar., when he said there could be no justification for their continued application ‘to the profit and benefit of ... a sinecurist and overgrown church’. He voted against the second reading of the Irish tithes bill, 6 Apr., and for Crampton’s successful amendment to it, 9 Apr. He divided for inquiry into Peterloo, 15 Mar., but sided with government for the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. He made his presence felt in the House during the ministerial crisis of May. On the 9th he encouraged Ebrington to persevere in his intention of securing a call of the House before his motion of the following day to address the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired. To Grey and his colleagues he said:

The people ... will stand by the ministers; and as to the agitation that is talked of, that agitation will and ought to continue until that power which has been taken from them is restored to them, being taken from the hands of those who have wrested it from them by the grossest hypocrisy and treachery.

He voted for Ebrington’s motion, 10 May. The next day he was called to order after a clash with Alexander Baring. He bowed to the chair, though not without referring to Baring’s ‘smooth and oily way of delivering his orations’, which made it difficult to ‘judge between the feeble, the forcible and the flowery’. He went on to ask Peel, ‘in the most humorous manner’, whether he had been offered office, drawing from him an admission that he had not.32 Croker conceded privately that Duncombe’s ‘violent’ attack on the ‘political prostitution and hypocrisy’ of Wellington and his colleagues, 14 May, was ‘clever and amusing’: ‘he likened the duke’s change to a crane-necked carriage, and worked out the allusion wittily and well’. He ‘spared no epithet of contempt’, as Hobhouse reported, and vowed to use all means in his power, including ‘agitation’ outside the House, to oppose the projected Tory government, ‘until I see those who have been the prime movers of this base outrage upon the nation’s feelings hurled from their lofty station, and biting the very dust of reform, amid the curses of an insulted people, and the execration of an indignant Parliament’. Yet Greville considered it no more than ‘one of his blustering radical harangues, full of every sort of impertinence’, which, though ‘received with immense applause’, compared unfavourably with Lord John Russell’s more measured speech.33 Duncombe voted against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish reform bill, 1 June, and denied an opposition allegation that an insult to the king had been made at a London theatre, 20 June. At the Hertford reform festival, 4 July, he lauded the Reform Act as ‘a spoliation of corrupt influence, and a restitution of the rights of the people’ which, if the electors returned men of the right stamp, would lead to ‘cheap government, cheap religion, cheap food, less taxes, and the reduction of idle and disgraceful sinecures’.34 He divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 16, 20 July. The following day he had ‘a touch of the cholera’, but he was soon ‘odious pert’ again, as Macaulay put it.35 On 6 Aug. he tried unsuccessfully to add to the bribery at elections bill a clause to outlaw and financially penalize unconstitutional interference by peers, highlighting Salisbury’s intimidatory tactics at Hertford, where he was straining every nerve to oust Duncombe. He presented petitions for redress of grievances from two obscure individuals, 11 Aug. He joined in calls for an adjustment of the registration regulations appertaining to the payment of domestic rates in order to prevent the disfranchisement of large numbers of urban voters at the next election, 15 Aug. 1832.

Duncombe stood again for Hertford at the 1832 general election, though he seems to have shown an interest in finding an opening for one of the new London seats. He and a fresh reform candidate were beaten by Salisbury’s nominees in a contest marked by blatant corruption on both sides: Duncombe’s own expenditure at his five Hertford elections was supposed to be £40,000. He was said to be ‘in the most ludicrous misery for his defeat’. The Whig duke of Bedford thought that ‘we can well spare Tommy Duncombe. He is a sharp, clever fellow, and a smart debater, but his character is so bad, he is no credit to us’.36 Duncombe and his associate petitioned, but so shameless and extensive was the bribery revealed by the investigation that the election was declared void and an inquiry instituted. A subsequent bill to purify the constituency foundered in the Lords, and no new writ was issued before the dissolution of 1834. Duncombe had three charges of libel brought against him by Salisbury and the mayor of Hertford, but he was in effect acquitted on all of them.37 He won a by-election for Finsbury in 1834 and sat there for the rest of his life. His politics became increasingly radical, and it was as the parliamentary champion of Chartism and trade unions that he had his greatest impact on the House in a colourful and sometimes stormy career. He maintained his high profile in fashionable society, as one of the dissolute Gore House set, and kept up his reputation as the best dressed man in the Commons; Dickens caricatured him as such in chapter two of Nicholas Nickleby.38 His financial problems remained enormous: in 1834 it was said that ‘if he was in possession of his father’s estate tomorrow [he] would not have a surplus of eight pence after paying his debts’; and two years later, when he was trying to economize, his liabilities were put at £120,000. He was arrested for a debt of £3,400 shortly after his election in 1847, but he secured his discharge from custody by virtue of parliamentary privilege.39 On the death of his father, worth about £80,000, he inherited the entailed Yorkshire estates (otherwise, his father left him only £50 by his will of 19 Feb. 1840). But they had to be sold by public auction at Knaresborough in July 1848 to pay off his debts; they fetched about £130,000.40 Duncombe, who was a martyr to bronchitis and asthma for the last 16 years of his life, died at Lancing, where he had gone for the sake of his health, in November 1861.41 No will or grant of administration has been found.

Duncombe’s radicalism, which he was only moving towards at the end of this period, was not always taken seriously, principally because of his knockabout style of oratory, his foppishness and his disreputable private life. Yet he became a sincere champion of the downtrodden and outcast, with a genuine popular following in the country, and was a fearless, if mischievous speaker of unpalatable truths.42 An observer of the Commons in 1836 praised him as a man of ‘very respectable talents’, who had a knack of ‘saying a great deal in a few words’.43 An anonymous obituarist wrote of him:

The public ... have lost a ‘character’, an odd sort of man, all points and angles, who made himself wonderfully popular, who was not so successful in winning respect, who was always sufficiently amusing, and who in almost every assembly ... managed to make his presence felt ... Few Members of Parliament have elicited as much laughter as he. Without malice, he said things which other men shrank from saying.44

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

Notes

His Life and Corresp. ed. by his son (2 vols., 1868), discursive and sometimes inaccurate, does him scant justice. The entry by James L. Sturgis in Biog. Dict. of Modern British Radicals ed. J. Baylen and N. Gossman, ii. 193-6 is perceptive, despite rendering Duncombe’s second name as ‘Slinksby’ and his first parliamentary seat as ‘Hartford’. There is a useful illustrated account of his career in P.W. Kingsford, ‘Radical Dandy’, History Today, xiv (1964), 399-407. See also Oxford DNB and M. Taylor, Decline of British Radicalism, 35, 40, 44, 110, 114, 164, 191, 278, 290, 329, 347.

  • 1. His son and biographer, Thomas Henry Duncombe, was an army officer from 1860 until his retirement in 1873, having been a half-pay lt. of infantry since 1866. He m. 16 July 1864, at St. James, Paddington, Mary, da. of Sir Matthew Wyatt. In Duncombe Life and Corresp. ii. 356, he asserted that his father ‘left a widow ... and an only son’; and according to Biog. Dict. of Modern British Radicals, ii. 195, Duncombe married a woman who was shunned as ‘common’ by society, notwithstanding her beauty. Yet at the time of his own father’s death, 7 Dec. 1847, he was said to be ‘unmarried’ (Gent. Mag. (1848), i. 440); and, despite an intensive search, no contemporary record has been found of his marriage or of his son’s birth or baptism.
  • 2. Greville Mems. iii. 74, 156.
  • 3. Duncombe Life and Letters, i. 5-23.
  • 4. Ibid. i. 26, 44, 52-53, 58; Gronow Reminiscences, ii. 84.
  • 5. Duncombe Life and Corresp. i. 84; Leeds Mercury, 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 6. Creevey’s Life and Times, 165, 201.
  • 7. Bucks. Chron. 28 June, 5 July; The Times, 30 June 1823.
  • 8. Herts Mercury, 6 Aug., 3, 10, 17, 24 Sept. 1825.
  • 9. Ibid. 28 Jan., 4, 11 Feb. 1826; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC8/79; Add. 45551, f. 7.
  • 10. Herts Mercury, 13 May, 3, 10, 17 June 1826; V. Rowe, ‘Hertford Borough Bill of 1834’, PH, xi (1992), 100.
  • 11. Duncombe Life and Times, i. 87-88; V. Rowe, ‘Quaker Presence in Hertford’, Jnl. of Friends’ Hist. Soc. lv (1983-9), 87; Herts Mercury, 22 July 1826.
  • 12. Herts Mercury, 16, 23 June 1827.
  • 13. Greville Mems. i. 206-8.
  • 14. Creevey’s Life and Times, 265; Creevey Pprs. ii. 167; Herts Mercury, 29 Nov. 1828.
  • 15. Greville Mems. i. 253.
  • 16. Herts Mercury, 4 July 1829.
  • 17. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 334.
  • 18. The Times, 15 Mar. 1830.
  • 19. Grey mss, Howick jnl. 21 June [1830].
  • 20. Hatfield House mss 2M, Nicholson to Salisbury, 7 July, 7 Aug. 1829, 29 Apr. 1830.
  • 21. Herts Mercury, 19 June; Hatfield House mss 2M, Nicholson to Salisbury, 13, 16 June 1830.
  • 22. Herts Mercury, 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 July 1830; see HERTFORD.
  • 23. Herts Mercury, 28 Aug. 1830.
  • 24. The Times, 1 Dec.; Herts Mercury, 4 Dec. 1830. The speech was at first mistakenly attributed to William Duncombe.
  • 25. County Herald, 5 Feb. 1831.
  • 26. Ibid. 19 Mar. 1831.
  • 27. Herts. Archives, Panshanger mss 49, Grey to Cowper, 25 Apr.; J.C. Pettman, ‘Election of 1831’, Herts. P and P, xiv (1974), 60-65; Hatfield House mss 2M, Nicholson to Salisbury, 28 Mar.; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 30 Apr.; County Herald, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 28. Macaulay Letters, ii. 73.
  • 29. Hatherton diary, 8 Aug. [1831]; Duncombe Life and Corresp. i. 117.
  • 30. Hatfield House mss 2M, Nicholson to Salisbury, 28 Sept.; County Herald, 1 Oct. 1831.
  • 31. Holland House Diaries, 125-6; Greville Mems. ii. 257; Wellington mss WP1/1222/14.
  • 32. Hathert