Contributed by Turlough O’Riordan
I’m sure some of you, even the eighteenth-century experts among you and those who have read our ‘about’ page, will have asked the question at some stage: just who was this Pue character anyway? We asked Turlough O’Riordan of the Dictionary of Irish Biography to explain…
Richard Pue, the publisher of the noted eponymous eighteenth-century Dublin newsletter, founded ‘Dick’s Coffee House’ in Skinner Row in Dublin, sometime before July 1698. He was certainly active in book auctions by this time; John Dunton described him thus: “he is a witty and ingenious man, makes the best coffee in Dublin … and has a peculiar knack at bantering, and will make rhymes to any thing” [Dublin Scuffle (2000), 429]. Nothing is known for certain about his life before then.
Commencing publication of Impartial Occurences on 25 December 1703, in partnership with Edward Lloyd, Pue edited the newspaper, sometimes with Lloyd, for the next three years. It then went into abeyance before being re-titled as Pue’s Occurences (sic) in February 1712, by which time it was in Pue’s sole ownership.
Pue was as much a printer, publisher and editor as a coffee-house proprietor. Dick’s and other such establishments were central to political and journalistic discourse during this period, serving as factional centres of gravity. Dick’s was known as a meeting place for defenders of the residual protestant Jacobite interest in early eighteenth-century Dublin. Robert Rochfort, MP and Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, and his increasingly Tory circle were prominent patrons during the reign of Queen Anne. Pue alligned himself increasingly with anti-Jacobite Tories; his partnership with Lloyd, a noted Jacobite, might have been based on scarcely more than opportunity and business interests alone. During the first decade of the new century Pue became increasingly intolerant of Jacobite thinking and politics, informing on such meetings in Dick’s to Dublin Castle and republishing various Tory polemical pamphlets. Briefly imprisoned (Feb. 1715) by the Irish House of Commons for insulting that body’s honour in print; he was again ordered into custody in November 1717, but fled to the Isle of Man, returning only after parliament was prorogued. Pue published Votes of the Irish house of commons in 1707 and 1709 and issued an edition of Swift’s Tale of a tub in 1705. Pue died some time before 10 May 1722 and was buried in St Nicholas Within; unusually for such a successful printer and publisher he was a member of the Dyers’ Guild, of which he was made a freeman in 1719, and not the Printers’ Guild.
Dick’s served as the nexus for the various business interests of the proprietors. Pue, apart from holding intermittent auctions, at various times advertised the sale of ‘eye water’ and a variety of other elixirs from Dick’s, a practice continued by his heirs. Richard was succeeded by his wife Elizabeth (floruit 1722–6) who maintained close ties with Dublin Castle, in whose pay she was alleged by rivals to be in. Richard Pue II (1700–58), the fourth son of Richard and Elizabeth, had assumed full control of Pue’s Occurences by 1731; it is unclear if Elizabeth had merely retired or was dead by this time. A whig, in great contrast to his father, Richard II supported the castle interest, but not as explicity as his mother, and gave greater attention to literary content. Enlarging and redesigning the layout in 1738, Richard II increased the circulation of Pue’s Occurences, carrying many notices of country property auctions; Dick’s Coffee House by then was one of the main auction houses in Dublin, known especially for book auctions. James Pue assumed control of the business upon his uncle’s death (14 December 1758). James, who died in December 1762, was succeeded by his wife Sarah Pue (died post 1776?), who continued as proprietor, marrying John Roe (April 1763), a business associate of her husband’s. Roe continued to publish Pue’s Occurences until 1769, when his brother Cornelius became proprietor. Sarah then resumed control of the business before selling out in June 1775.
Pue’s Occurences ceased publication in the 1790s, predominant among Dublin newspapers during the eighteenth-century, alongside George Faulkners’ Dublin Journal and James Hoey’s Dublin Mercury. More than 100 Dublin newspapers were founded before 1770 – only four survived past 1780 (Morash, 2010, 45–7).
This post is based on the article on the Pue family in the Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge, 2009) available in hard copy and online. For more information, see the DIB online or the DIB page at the RIA website.
Turlough O’Riordan is Online & Editorial Administrator of the Dictionary of Irish Biography Project. Turlough wrote the entry on the Pue family, found in the Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009).
Image: detail from Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers.