Thomas Keightley (historian)
Thomas Keightley (1789–1872) was a historian, educated at Trinity College, Dublin, who wrote works on mythology and folklore, and, at the request of Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby, a series of textbooks on English, Greek, and other histories. His History of Greece was translated into modern Greek. Among his other books are Fairy Mythology (1828, 1833, 1850, 1870, later republished as The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People), Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, and a work on Popular Tales and their transmission from one country to another.
Life and works
Keightley, born in October 1789, was son of Thomas Keightley of Newtown, co. Kildare, and claimed relationship with Thomas Keightley (1650?–1719). He entered Trinity College, Dublin, on 4 July 1803, but took no degree, and owing to ill-health relinquished a design of going to the Irish bar. In 1824 he settled in London, and engaged in literary and journalistic work. Thomas Crofton Croker befriended him, and he aided Croker in his Fairy Legends of South Ireland, 1825 (Bates, Maclise Gallery, p. 51). In 1828 he brought out on his own account his Fairy Mythology (anon.), 2 vols. It was dedicated to Lord Francis Gower (Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere), was illustrated by W. H. Brooke, and was published by William Harrison Ainsworth. Jacob Grimm is said to have praised the work, and a new edition, with the author's name on the title-page, appeared in Bohn's Antiquarian Library in 1850. Keightley in a pretentious preface confessed to "high hopes of immortality for his work." His Tales and Popular Fictions; their Resemblances and Transmissions from Country to Country, appeared in 1834.
Keightley was long occupied in compiling historical manuals for educational or popular purposes. His Outlines of History down to 1815 was issued in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia in 1829, and was frequently revised until the latest edition in 1850. His History of the War of Greek Independence (1830) forms volumes lx. and lxi. of Constable's Miscellany. The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, a useful work for "students at the university," appeared in 1831 (other editions 1838, 1854, and in Bohn's Collegiate Series, 1859). A smaller version for schools is dated 1832 (2nd edit. 1834). His History of England (1837–39), 2 vols., although based on Lingard, was intended to counteract that writer's catholic tendencies. A new edition appeared in 1845–9. American reprints were issued at New York in 1843–5 in five volumes, and in 1848 in two, and in 1847 a German translation was published at Hamburg, with an introduction by Lappenberg. His History of Greece appeared in 1835 (3rd edit. 1839; New York, 1848); that of Rome in 1836 (other editions 1837, 1840, 1842; New York, 1848); that of the Roman Empire in 1840 (New York, 1848); and that of India in 1846–7. Questions, intended for young students of his Roman, Greek, and English histories, were published by Keightley, on the first two works in 1836, and on the last in 1840; and elementary histories of England and Greece, in 12mo, are dated 1841. He prepared elaborate Notes on the Bucolics and Georgics of Virgil with Excursus, terms of Husbandry, and a Flora Virgiliana, London, 1846, 8vo, and edited Virgil's Bucolics and Georgics (1847), Horace's Satires and Epistles (1848), Ovid's Fasti (1848), and Sallust's Catilina and Jugurtha (1849). Turning to the English classics he produced editions of Milton (2 vols. 1859, with very good notes) and of Shakespeare (6 vols. of the text only, often very rashly emended, 1864). His Account of the Life, Opinions, and Writings of John Milton, with an Introduction to Paradise Lost (London, 1855), and his Shakespeare Expositor (1867) are both succinct and useful compilations (cf. Masson, Life of Milton, vol. i. p. xi).
Samuel Warren, in his Legal Studies, 3rd ed. 1854 (i. 235–6, 349), highly praises his historical work. Keightley spent some time in Italy (Notes on the Bucolics, Pref.), and was an accomplished linguist. But he ludicrously overestimated all his performances, and his claim to have written the best history of Rome in any language, or to be the first to justly value Virgil and Sallust, could not be admitted by his friends. During the last years of his life he received a pension from the civil list. He died at Erith, Kent, on 4 Nov 1872.
Besides the works already mentioned Keightley was author of The Crusaders, or Scenes, Events, and Characters from the times of the Crusaders (1834), and Secret Societies of the Middle Ages, which was published anonymously, and against his wish, in Charles Knight's Library of Entertaining Knowledge, in 1837 (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. 359, 435, 489, 541). He also issued The Manse of Mastland, a novel translated from the Dutch of C. E. Van Koetsveld, 1860, 8vo.
- The Fairy Mythology. 1828 Vol. 1 & Vol. 2,
- The Crusaders, or Scenes, Events, and Characters from the times of the Crusaders. 1834.
- Secret Societies of the Middle Ages. 1837.
- The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy. 1838.
- Lee, Sidney (1892). "Keightley, Thomas (1789–1872)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 30. London: Smith, Elder & Co. "[Extract from Register of Trin. Coll. Dublin, kindly supplied by the Rev. J. W. Stubbs, D.D.; Times, 7 Nov. 1872; Keightley's Fairy Mythology in Bohn's Antiquarian Library, 1850, Preface; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biog. p. 585.]" This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
- Works by Thomas Keightley at Project Gutenberg
- The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley, 1870., available online by Sacred Texts.