Tuesday 17 December 2013

Thomas Tickell, Poet

Thomas Tickell (Bridekirk, Cumberland, England, 17th December 1685 – Bath, Somerset, England, 21st April 1740) 

Thomas Tickell by Sylvester Harding
Thomas Tickell by Sylvester Harding

A gentleman of letters and politics joins us today as we welcome a poet whose fame has faded somewhat. However, he was a favourite of grandmother Gilflurt and it is for her that I include him here today. He is also yet another enemy of Alexander Pope, who has graced our pages before!

Thomas Tickell was born the son of Reverent Richard Tickell and Margaret Gale and was a precociously intelligent, inquisitive young man who excelled academically. He won a scholarship to the prestigious school, St Bees,  and then another that allowed him to attend Oxford. He graduated in 1709 and returned two years later to take the role of position of Professor of Poetry. However, rather than follow his clerical ambitions he befriended the Whig Secretary of State, Joseph Addison, and became his trusted advisor.

Tickell's ties to Addison did wonders for his literary career too and Addison championed his friend's translation of the Iliad against that of Pope, an insult that Pope could not forgive. On top of that, Tickell made a lifelong enemy in the shape of Richard Steele, who had expecting to be named Addison's secretary and lost the role to Tickell. With his professional career riding high, Tickell also found his poetic works lauded by Addison and when the latter died in 1719, the poet wrote and inspired a heartfelt elegy to his late friend.

In the years that followed Tickell went on to collect and edit Addison's collected works and Pope contributed some lines of his own, effectively ending the dispute between the three men. With his influential friend gone, Tickell remained at Oxford until 1724 when he went to Dublin to assume the prestigious position of Secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland. Here he met the wealthy heiress, Clotilda Eustace, whom he would eventually marry and father five children, four of whom survived to adulthood. He published further poetry, the most popular of which was the tragic Colin and Lucy.

On his death in 1740 Tickell was laid to rest at his home of Glasnevin. In an age where the likes of Pope mercilessly thrashed their opponents in print and verse, Tickell took a more measured approach and preferred a waspish good humour to scornful disdain. His poetry is little remembered today so it is a pleasure to say happy birthday to Thomas Tickell, a true gentleman of letters.

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