1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wainewright, Thomas Griffiths
|←Wailly, Noël François de||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 28
Wainewright, Thomas Griffiths
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WAINEWRIGHT, THOMAS GRIFFITHS (1794-1852), English journalist and subject-painter, was born at Chiswick in October 1794. He was educated by his distant relative Dr Charles Burney, and served as an orderly officer in the guards, and as cornet in a yeomanry regiment. In 1819 he entered on a literary life, and began to write for The Literary Pocket-Book, Blackwood's Magazine and The Foreign Quarterly Review. He is, however, most definitely identified with The London Magazine, to which, from 1820 to 1823, he contributed some smart but flippant art and other criticisms, under the signatures of " Janus Weathercock," " Egomet Bonmot " and " Herr Vinkbooms." He was a friend of Charles Lamb—who thought well of his literary productions, and in a letter to Bernard Barton, styles him the " kind, light-hearted Wainewright "—and of the other brilliant contributors to the journal. He also practised as an artist, designing illustrations to Chamberlayne's poems, and from 1821 to 1825 exhibiting in the Royal Academy figure pictures, including a " Romance from Undine," " Paris in the Chamber of Helen " and the " Milkmaid's Song." Owing to his extravagant habits, Wainewright's affairs became deeply involved. In 1830 he insured the life of his sister-in-law in various offices for a sum of £18,000, and when she died, in the December of the same year, payment was refused by the companies on the ground of misrepresentation. Wainewright retired to France, was seized by the authorities as a suspected person, and imprisoned for six months. He had in his possession a quantity of strychnine, and it was afterwards found that he had destroyed, not only his sister-in-law, but also his uncle, his mother-in-law and a Norfolkshire friend, by this poison. He returned to London in 1837, but was at once arrested on a charge of forging, thirteen years before, a transfer of stock, and was sentenced to transportation for life. He died of apoplexy in Hobart Town hospital in 1852.
The Essays and Criticisms of Wainewright were published in 1880, with an account of his life, by W. Carew Hazlitt; and the history of his crimes suggested to Dickens his story of Hunted Down and to Bulwer Lytton his novel of Lucretia. His personality, as artist and poisoner, has interested latter-day writers, notably Oscar Wilde in " Pen, Pencil and Poison " (Fortnightly Review, Jan. 1889), and A. G. Allen, in T. Seccombe's Twelve Bad Men (1894).