William Combe was born in Bristol, educated at Eton (1753-56), and studied law in London. He had a checkered literary career; he was a friend of Laurence Sterne, a writer of satires and forgeries, and in and out of debtor's prison. His Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, with illustrations by Rowlandson, won acclaim and was followed by other collaborations. Combe's life was less picturesque than picaresque.
Clifton: a poem in imitation of Spenser. 1775.
The philosopher in Bristol. 1775, 1776.
The diaboliad: a poem, dedicated to the worst man in his Majesty's dominions. 1777, 1778.
A dialogue in the shades, between an unfortunate divine and a Welch member of Parliament. 1777.
The first of April, or the triumphs of folly: a poem. 1777.
An heroic epistle to the noble author of the Duchess of Devonshire's cow. 1777.
The justification: a poem. 1777.
A letter to the Duchess of Devonshire. 1777.
A poetical epistle to Sir Joshua Reynolds. 1777.
A second letter to the Duchess of Devonshire. 1778.
The auction: a town eclogue. 1778.
An interesting letter to the Duchess of Devonshire. 1778.
The r[oyal] register. 9 vols. 1778-84.
An heroic epistle to Sir James Wright. 1779.
Letters supposed to have been written by Yorick and Eliza. 2 vols. 1779.
The world as it goes: a poem. 1779.
The fast-day: a Lambeth eclogue. 1780.
Letters of the late Lord Lyttelton. 1780.
Letters between two lovers. 1781.
Letters of an Italian nun and an English gentleman. 1781.
The traitor: a poetical rhapsody. 1781.
Original love letters, between a lady of quality and a person of inferior rank. 2 vols, 1784.
The royal dream, or the P[rince] in a panic: an eclogue. 1785.
Original letters of Sterne. 1788.
An history of the late important period. 1789.
A letter from a country gentleman to a Member of Parliament. 1790.
The royal interview. 1789.
Considerations on the approaching dissolution of Parliament. 1790.
The devil upon two sticks in England. 4 vols, 1790; 6 vols, 1791.
Observations on the Royal Academy. 1790.
A word in season to the traders and manufacturers of Great Britain. 1792.
An history of the principal rivers of Great Britain. 2 vols. 1794.
Two words of counsel and one of comfort. 1795.
Letter to a retired officer. 1796.
Plain thoughts of a plain man. 1797.
Brief observations on a letter to Pitt by W. Boyd. 1801.
The letters of Valerius. 1804.
The tour of Dr. Syntax in search of the picturesque. 1812, 1820, 1821.
The Thames. 2 vols, 1811.
The history of the abbey church of St. Peter's Westminster. 2 vols, 1812.
Antiquities of York. 1813.
Six poems illustrative of engravings by the Princess Elizabeth. 1813.
A history of the University of Oxford. 2 vols, 1814.
The English dance of death. 2 vols, 1815-16.
The history of the colleges [etc.] 1816.
The dance of life. 1817.
Observations on Ackerman's patent movable axles. 1819.
Swiss scenery. 1820.
A history of Madeira. 1821.
The history of Johnny Quae Genus. 1822.
Thames scenery. 1822.
Views on the Thames. 2 vols, 1822.
Letters to Marianne. 1823.
Letters between Amelia in London and her mother in the country. 1824.