Thomas Lovell Beddoes
|Thomas Lovell Beddoes|
30 June 1803|
|Died||26 January 1849
|Occupation||physician, poet, dramatist|
Born in Clifton, Bristol, England, he was the son of Dr. Thomas Beddoes, a friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Anna, sister of Maria Edgeworth. He was educated at Charterhouse and Pembroke College, Oxford. He published in 1821 The Improvisatore, which he afterwards endeavoured to suppress. His next venture, a blank-verse drama called The Bride's Tragedy (1822), was published and well reviewed, and won for him the friendship of Barry Cornwall.
Beddoes' work shows a constant preoccupation with death. In 1824, he went to Göttingen to study medicine, motivated by his hope of discovering physical evidence of a human spirit which survives the death of the body. He was expelled, and then went to Würzburg to complete his training. He then wandered about practising his profession, and expounding democratic theories which got him into trouble. He was deported from Bavaria in 1833, and had to leave Zürich, where he had settled, in 1840.
He continued to write, but published nothing.
He led an itinerant life after leaving Switzerland, returning to England only in 1846, before going back to Germany. He became increasingly disturbed, and committed suicide by poison at Basel, in 1849, at the age of 45.
For some time before his death he had been engaged on a drama, Death's Jest Book, which was published in 1850 with a memoir by his friend, T. F. Kelsall. His Collected Poems were published in 1851.
Critics have faulted Beddoes as a dramatist. According to Arthur Symons, "of really dramatic power he had nothing. He could neither conceive a coherent plot, nor develop a credible situation." His plots are convoluted, and such was his obsession with the questions posed by death that his characters lack individuation; they all struggle with the same ideas that vexed Beddoes. But his poetry is full of thought and richness of diction, and for this Lytton Strachey referred to him as "the last Elizabethan". Some of his short pieces – e.g.: "If there were dreams to sell," (Dream-Pedlary) and "If thou wilt ease thine heart," (Death's Jest-Book, Act II) – are masterpieces of intense feeling exquisitely expressed.
- Donner 1950, pp. xxxvi-xxxvii.
- Berns, Ute; Bradshaw, Michael, eds. (2007). "Introduction". The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 8–9. ISBN 978-0-7546-6009-5. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
- Donner 1950, p. lxxix.
- Donner 1950, pp. xxxii–xxxiii.
- Donner 1950, p. xi.
- Donner, H.W., ed. The Works of Thomas Lovell Beddoes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935).
- Donner, H.W., ed. Plays and Poems of Thomas Lovell Beddoes (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1950).
- 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
- Ute Berns and Michael Bradshaw (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Lovell Beddoes (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007) (The Nineteenth Century Series).
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