Peter Paul Dobree, by his friend, the economist George Pryme
From Autobiographic recollections of George Pryme, 1870, with mention of Dr James Jeremie, Regius Professor of Divinity, also from Guernsey.
See also the obituary of Bonamy Price (Guernsey 1807-1888), Mathematics teacher at Rugby under Dr Arnold, and Professor of Political Economy at Oxford from 1868 until his death.
1825. In the latter end of September the Greek Professor, Peter Paul Dobrée,1 died in College after a short illness. I had formerly, when a resident fellow, been with him almost constantly during a similar attack, in which his life had been despaired of by Dr Davy and Mr Okes, but from which he completely recovered. In this illness, when his death was hourly expected, I passed the last night with him. Dr Bayne, who had just graduated in medicine and was then a resident fellow, kindly volunteered to sit up with me, which I accepted. Professor Dobrée expired the next forenoon; he had requested me to be his executor. He bequeathed his manuscripts and books containing notes to the University, directing that Dr Hollingworth, the Norrisian Professor of Divinity, and I should use a discretionary power in cancelling whatever passages we chose. Also he left a thousand volumes to the library of Trinity College, and the remainder to his nephew, Mr Peter Carey of Guernsey. Dr Hollingworth and I availed ourselves of the power thus given us, and we cancelled any severe or sarcastic observations on living authors.
Professor Dobrée was a native of Guernsey, and was educated at the grammar school of Reading, the head master of which was that eminent Greek scholar, Dr Valpy.2 He had there acquired a taste for Greek criticism, and applied it chiefly to adjusting the doubtful readings of those authors, the manuscripts of whose works varied. When he came to the University he gave much attention to this line of study, somewhat neglecting that which was more connected with college examinations, resisting the arguments of myself and other friends, who urged him, after taking his B.A. degree, to compete for the Chancellor's Medal or some other classical honour. He however obtained a fellowship, which he thought desirable, not merely for its emoluments but for the opportunities which a college residence afforded him of pursuing his researches.
He and Porson had a taste for any neat mathematical problem which their limited knowledge (both having been Senior Optimes) enabled them to appreciate. I recollect Dobrée showing me some curious little problem that Porson had devised. [For an Algebraical problem and its solution by Prof. Porson, see Appendix to the Reminiscences of Charles Butler, Esq. Vol. I. Note 3.]
On the death of Porson, Dobrée was a candidate for the Greek Professorship, but the seven electors bestowed it upon Monk, who had graduated in the same year and had obtained one of the Chancellor's medals. Dobrée now suffered for his omission to compete for one of them, and Dr Barnes, Master of Peterhouse, alleged this as a reason for withholding his vote from him. Dobrée soon afterwards most ably edited some of Porson's manuscripts, entitled Ricardi Porsoni Aristophanica, which so completely established his reputation for Greek scholarship, that when Monk resigned the professorship, on being appointed Dean of Peterborough, he was elected to it without any one venturing to oppose him. He meditated an edition of Demosthenes, and left remarks on many other Greek authors which were afterwards edited in a work entitled Dobreei Adversaria, by Professor Scholefield, his successor.
In addition to this deeper learning he possessed much general knowledge, which he often manifested in humorous remarks. His acquaintance was very limited, as he preferred the society of a small number of intimate friends. He was buried in the chapel, Oct. 3rd.
[I can remember my awe, as a child, at seeing, for the only time in my life, my Father weep. Dr Jeremie has since told me that at the funeral he was quite overpowered and wept like a child, and that his great emotion left a deep impression on his mind. Dr Jeremie has given Professor Dobrée's portraiture more at length in one of his Commemoration Sermons,3 from which he has permitted me to borrow the following portion. 'I would pause for a moment at the name of him who filled the chair of Porson, and who now rests by the side of his grave—similar, alike, in his affections and pursuits; in the peculiar cast and power of his genius; in the nobler features of his moral character; and but too similar in his untimely death. The memorial which adorns these walls was traced by a friendly hand; but with singular precision and fidelity. It has touched upon his distinguishing qualities—his modesty, his candour, his gentleness, his inflexible love of truth, his unfeigned contempt for all which bordered upon artifice and meanness, and, above all, that childlike simplicity of heart, of which 'the noblest natures are ever found to have the largest share.' If ever it could be said of any man, it might indeed be said of him, that he loved learning for itself.']
It was by Professor Dobrée's introduction that I became acquainted with Mr James Amiraux Jeremie, now the Regius Professor of Divinity. He was also from Guernsey. We were much brought together in Dobrée's illness, during which he shewed great kindness and tenderness of heart, and we have been real friends ever since. I cannot let this opportunity pass without some mention of his amiability and learning and eloquence, as exemplified by his constancy as a friend, his excellence as a professor, his admirable sermons as a preacher.
We two were the last, or nearly so, of the Dons who regularly attended the Sunday morning sermon at Great St Mary's, since given up, where we sat together in the place, which, now that the church has entirely lost its peculiar and dignified arrangement, shall know us no more. I voted in a small minority in the Senate-House in favour of retaining it, and also, equally in vain, against the abolition of the morning sermon.
1 The Library has several letters and other material by Dobrée. A biography of Dobrée can be found in James Marr's Guernsey People, Jacob's Annals, Vol. II, pp. 273 ff., in the Library, and more of his correspondence in Fay, C. R., 'Peter Paul Dobrée of Guernsey and Cambridge', Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, Autumn 1956, pp. 46 ff..
2 School texts by Richard Valpy can be found in the Library collection.
3 Dr Jeremie's Sermon preached in Trinity College Chapel, December 16, 1834, note given in the original text. For Jeremie's life, see James Marr's Guernsey People and Jacob's Annals, Vol. II, pp. 229 ff.