Park, Thomas (DNB00)

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PARK, THOMAS (1759–1834), antiquary and bibliographer, was the son of parents who lived at East Acton, Middlesex, and were both buried in Acton churchyard; Park erected a tombstone there with a poetical epitaph to his father's memory. When ten years old he was sent to a grammar school at Heighington in Durham, probably through some family connection with that county, and remained there for more than five years. He was brought up as an engraver, and produced several mezzotint portraits, including Dr. John Thomas, bishop of Rochester, and Miss Penelope Boothby, after Sir Joshua Reynolds; Mrs. Jordan as the Comic Muse, after Hoppner; and a Magdalen after Gandolfi. In 1797 he abandoned this art, and devoted himself entirely to literature and the study of antiquities (Bryan, Dict. of Engravers, 1889 edit.) He had been a collector, especially of old English poetry and of the portraits of poets, for about ten years before that date, and his possessions, though few in number, soon became famous. He lived in turn in Piccadilly; High Street, Marylebone, where Richard Heber used to drink tea two or three times a week, and stimulate his own desire for acquiring ancient literature; Durweston Street, Portman Square; and Hampstead; and in the last place helped to administer the local charities. His books, which were ‘of the highest value and curiosity,’ were sold by him to Thomas Hill (1760–1840) [q. v.], with the stipulation that he should be permitted to consult them whenever he liked, and for a long time he regularly used them. Ultimately they passed, with many others, into the hands of Longmans, and, after being catalogued by A. F. Griffiths in the volume entitled ‘Bibliotheca Anglo-Poetica,’ were dispersed by sale. Park annotated profusely the volumes which belonged to him, and at the British Museum there are copies of many works, antiquarian and poetical, containing his manuscript notes. He edited many works of an important character, and assisted the leading antiquaries in their researches. On 11 March 1802 he was admitted as F.S.A.; but his means were limited, and, through the necessity of husbanding his resources, his resignation was announced at the annual meeting on 24 April 1815. The education of his only son, John James Park [q. v.], involved him in considerable expense, and his early death in June 1833 was a heavy blow to the father's expectations.

Park was of a very generous and kindly disposition. Robert Bloomfield [q. v.], the ploughboy poet, was introduced to him, and he superintended the publication, and corrected the various editions, of Bloomfield's ‘Poems.’ He is also said to have helped the ‘posthumous fame and fortunes’ of Kirke White. Park died at Church Row, Hampstead, where he had resided for thirty years, on 26 Nov. 1834, aged 75, leaving four daughters, the survivors of a large family. His wife, Maria Hester Park, who long suffered from ill-health, died at Hampstead on 7 June 1813, aged 52 (Gent. Mag. 1813, pt. i. p. 596). She must be distinguished from Maria Hester Parke, afterwards Mrs. Beardmore, a vocalist and musical composer, who is noticed below under her father, John Parke.

Park wrote: 1. ‘Sonnets and other small Poems,’ 1797. In 1792 he had made the acquaintance of Cowper, who recognised his ‘genius and delicate taste,’ and added that ‘if he were not an engraver he might be one of our first hands in poetry’ (Southey, Life and Letters of Cowper, iii. 6, vii. 99–100). He was encouraged by Cowper to print, and his compositions were corrected by Anna Seward [q. v.]; but Southey laughed at his pretensions to poetry (Southey, Life and Corresp. ii. 204). Many of the sonnets in this volume were written on scenes in Kent, Sussex, and Hertfordshire. 2. ‘Cupid turned Volunteer. A series of prints designed by the Princess Elizabeth and engraved by W. N. Gardiner. With poetical illustrations by Thomas Park,’ 1804. 3. ‘Epitaphial Lines on Interment of Princess Charlotte,’ Lee Priory Press, 20 Nov. 1817, s. sh. Sir Egerton Brydges printed at this press in 1815 some verses to Park (Dyce Cat. S. K. Museum, i. 130), and several sonnets by him were struck off on single leaves by Brydges about the same date. Some of them are now at the London Library. 4. ‘Nugæ Modernæ Morning Thoughts and Midnight Musings,’ 1818. 5. ‘Advantages of Early Rising,’ 1824. 6. ‘Solacing Verses for Serious Times,’ 1832. He also wrote some cards of ‘Christian Remembrance: a Plain Clue to the Gospel of Peace.’ Park's name is included in Julian's ‘Hymnology’ for his hymn ‘My soul, praise the Lord; speak good of His name.’

Park was described as the best-informed student of his time ‘in our old poetical literature and biography,’ and Southey praised him to Longmans as the best editor for the ‘Bibliotheca Britannica’ which they projected (Life and Corresp. iii. 108). Among the works which he edited were: 1. Several books for the ‘mental culture and moral guidance of youth,’ printed by a bookseller called Sael, who died in 1799 (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iii. 663). 2. ‘Nugæ Antiquæ: a miscellaneous Collection of Papers by Sir John Harington, selected by the late Henry Harington, and newly arranged, with illustrative notes,’ 1804, 2 vols. His own copy of this work, with many manuscript additions for a new issue, is in the Dyce Library. 3. Sharpe's ‘Works of the British Poets,’ 1805–8, forty-two volumes, with a supplement in six more volumes. 4. Dryden's ‘Fables from Boccaccio and Chaucer,’ collated with the best editions, 1806, 2 vols. 5. Horace Walpole's ‘Royal and Noble Authors, Enlarged and Continued,’ 1806, 5 vols. with many portraits, priced at seven guineas. Park proposed a continuation of this work, but it was never published. Many copies of the original impression seem to have remained on hand, and in some of them leaves were cancelled and others substituted. To copies sold about 1823 there was added a brief advertisement (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vi. 283). A set of this work, enlarged by insertion of prints and portraits from five to twenty volumes, is in the Bodleian Library. 6. ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ 1808–1813, in ten volumes, two of which were supplementary, but they did not include the whole of Park's collections for it (ib. 3rd ser. i. 43). 7. ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. By Bishop Percy,’ 5th edit. 1812. 3 vols. 8. Cooke's ‘Translation of Hesiod’ for the ‘Greek and Roman Poets,’ 1813. 9. Ritson's ‘Select Collections of English Songs, with their Original Airs,’ 2nd edit. with additional songs and occasional notes, 1813, 3 vols. 10. ‘Heliconia: a Selection of English Poetry between 1575 and 1604,’ 1815, 3 vols. John Payne Collier, when announcing a new issue of ‘England's Parnassus,’ commented severely on the edition in ‘Heliconia’ (ib. 3rd ser. x. 407). Park is sometimes said to have been associated with Edward Dubois [q. v.] in editing, in 1817, the works in two volumes of Sir John Mennes [q. v.] and Dr. James Smith, and there was reprinted at the Lee Priory Press in 1818 under his editorship a volume called ‘The Trumpet of Fame, written by H. R. 1595.’

Park's assistance was acknowledged by Sir Egerton Brydges in the ‘Restituta’ (vol. iv. p. xi), and in almost every preface to the volumes of the ‘Censura Literaria.’ He helped George Ellis in his various collections of poetry and romance; he aided Ritson in the ‘Bibliographia Poetica’ and the unpublished ‘Bibliographia Scotica,’ though their friendly relations were broken off before Ritson's death; and George Steevens, when engaged in editing Shakespeare, called on him for advice and information daily. At one time he meditated completing and editing Warton's ‘History of English Poetry,’ but this design was abandoned. His notes were added to the 1824 edition of that work, although they were acquired by the publisher too late for insertion in their proper places in the first two volumes, but all of them were incorporated under their legitimate headings in the 1840 edition. Several poetical articles were supplied by him for Nichols's ‘Progresses of Queen Elizabeth;’ a few of his notes and illustrations were added to W. C. Hazlitt's edition of ‘Diana, Sonnets and other Poems, by Henry Constable,’ 1859; and he was a contributor to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ and the ‘Monthly Mirror.’ Many letters to and from him are printed in Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature,’ viii. 376–8; Miss Seward's ‘Letters,’ vols. iv.–vi.; Pinkerton's ‘Correspondence,’ i. 349–50; and ‘Notes and Queries,’ 1st ser. xi. 217, 2nd ser xii. 221–2; and many more addressed to Sir Egerton Brydges, Thomas Hill, and Litchfield of the ‘Monthly Mirror,’ are in the British Museum Additional MSS. 18916 and 20083. Cowper's letters to him, originally printed in the ‘Monthly Mirror,’ were inserted by Southey (who entertained a very high respect for Park) in his edition of the ‘Life and Correspondence of Cowper,’ vii. 322–3.

[Gent. Mag. 1813 pt. i. p. 596, 1833 pt. ii. p. 84, 1835 pt. i. pp. 663–4; Annual Biogr. xx. 257–263; Wright's Cowper, pp. 548–9; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. vii. 95; Southey's Life and Corresp.iii. 108; and see also a little volume published in 1885 by the Rev. R. C. Jenkins, rector and vicar of Lyminge, Kent, called ‘The Last Gleanings of a Christian Life. An Outline of the Life of Thomas Park, F.S.A., of Hampstead. The friend of the poets Cowper, Hayley, and Southey; of Sir Walter Scott, of Haydn, and of Miss Seward.’]

W. P. C.