Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Doubleday, Thomas

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1245668Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 15 — Doubleday, Thomas1888George Jacob Holyoake

DOUBLEDAY, THOMAS (1790–1870), poet, dramatist, biographer, radical politician, political economist, born in Newcastle-on-Tyne in February 1790, was the son of George Doubleday, head of the firm of Doubleday and Easterby, soap and vitriol manufacturers. His uncle Robert, a distinguished classical scholar, theologian, and philanthropist inspired him with a taste for literature, to which he decided to devote himself. When twenty-eight years of age he published a small book of poems, and five years later a tragedy, both attracting attention and expectation by their ability. At the death of his father he became a junior partner of the firm, but took no active part in it. Doubleday devoted himself entirely to the cause of the people, and aided the whig party by voice and pen in helping forward the reform agitation of 1832. He was secretary to the northern political union, and prominent in the agitation which the union prosecuted in aid of Earl Grey and the reforming party in parliament. At a great meeting held in Newcastle in 1832 he moved one of the resolutions. Warrants were drawn out for the arrest of Doubleday and others on the charge of sedition, but were never served, as the government went out of office in a few days. After the Reform Bill Doubleday, unlike many whigs, maintained his old position. His unbending integrity won for him the respect of both sides. He and Charles Attwood presented an address to Earl Grey on behalf of the northern political union, declaring the Reform Bill unsatisfactory to the people, and advocating some of the points afterwards adopted by the chartists. Doubleday vigorously opposed the Poor Law Amendment Act. As early as 1832 he published an ‘Essay on Mundane Moral Government,’ maintaining the theory of the existence of law in the moral as in the physical world. In 1842 he wrote ‘The True Law of Population shown to be connected with the Food of the People.’ The outline of the argument was first given in a letter to Lord Brougham, and appeared in ‘Blackwood's Magazine.’ The work, attacking some Malthusian principles, was the cause of considerable controversy. He was a laborious student, and worked in almost every department of literature. Besides dramas and poems he wrote tracts on money. He wrote three dramas—‘The Statue Wife,’ ‘Diocletian,’ and ‘Caius Marius,’ at the suggestion, it is said, of Edmund Kean. He criticised Tooke's ‘Considerations;’ he published ‘A Political Life of Sir Robert Peel, an Analytical Biography,’ a defence of Bishop Berkeley, and ‘The Eve of St. Mark, a Romance of Venice,’ in two volumes. One of his later works, ‘Touchstone,’ being his letters of ‘Britannicus,’ were prefixed by a letter to James Paul Cobbett, of whose father Doubleday was the most remarkable and cultivated disciple. He was also author of many successful angling songs. Towards the end of his life he became registrar of births, marriages, and deaths.

He died at Bulman's Village, Newcastle-on-Tyne, on 18 Dec. 1870. He retained his vigour until his death. He was a remarkable instance of the combination of ardent and refined literary tastes with strong and outspoken political principles. Throughout a long life he was to be found where his speeches and writings had taught the people to expect him. His residence in a district where cultivation was little recognised deprived him of opportunities of gaining the distinction due to his diversified attainments, but he had great influence in the north of England.

[Newcastle Daily Chronicle, Weekly Chronicle, and contemporary notices.]

G. J. H.