Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Payne, Thomas (1719-1799)
PAYNE, THOMAS (1719–1799), bookseller, son of Oliver and Martha Payne of Brackley, Northamptonshire, was baptised at Brackley 26 May 1719. His elder brother, Oliver Payne, established himself as a bookseller at Round Court in the Strand, London, which was opposite York Buildings, but has been effaced by the Charing Cross Hospital, and originated the practice of printing lists of the books for sale at his shop. Thomas Payne was at first his assistant, and afterwards his successor in the business. About 1745 he married Elizabeth Taylor, and succeeded her brother, who was also a bookseller, in his house and shop in Castle Street, next the Mewsgate, the entrance by St. Martin's Church to the King's Mews. In 1750 he rebuilt the premises and constructed the shop in the shape of the letter L. The convenience of the situation made it the favourite place of resort for the literati of the day, and it became known as the Literary Coffee-house. Among the frequenters of the sale-room were Cracherode, Gough, Porson, Burney, Thomas Grenville, George Stevens, Cyril Jackson, Lord Spencer, Malone, and Windham. Mathias refers to it in the first dialogue of the ‘Pursuits of Literature’ (ll. 190–4) with the question:
Must I as a wit with learned air,
Like Doctor Dewlap, to Tom Payne's repair,
Meet Cyril Jackson, and mild Cracherode
'Mid literary gods, myself a god?
and in a note calls Payne ‘one of the best and honestest men living. … I mention this Trypho Emeritus with great satisfaction.’
The first of his book-lists was issued on 29 Feb. 1740–1, and for thirty-five years, beginning with 1755, a new catalogue, usually of not less than two hundred pages, was issued each year, most of which are at the British Museum. A list of them is printed in Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes’ (iii. 655–60), and among the collections which passed through his hands were those of Francis Peck, Ralph Thoresby, Dr. Kennicott, Francis Grose, Cornwall the speaker, and the Bishops Beauclerk and Newton. One of his assistants was John Hatchard, the founder of the bookselling firm in Piccadilly.
Payne continued in business with increasing success until 1790, when he retired in favour of his son Thomas (1752–1831) [q. v.], who had been his partner for more than twenty years. He died on 2 Feb. 1799, and was buried on 9 Feb. at Finchley, near his wife, who had died many years previously, and brother. A poetical epitaph was written for him by Hayley (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, ix. 666). His children were two sons and two daughters, who were described in 1775 as ‘pretty and motherless.’ Sally married, on 6 Sept. 1785, Admiral James Burney [q. v.], and their daughter Sarah married John Payne, of the firm of Payne & Foss.
Payne was ‘warm in his friendships and politics, a convivial, cheerful companion, and unalterable in the cut and colour of his coat,’ and was universally known as ‘honest Tom Payne.’ All the copperplates in Gough's edition of Camden's ‘Britannia’ were engraved at his expense, and Gough gave him in return the whole of the printed copies, with the exception of about fifteen impressions, and left him a legacy of 500l. Roger Payne [q. v.], the bookbinder, was for the last eight years of his life supported by Tom Payne, though they were not related. He was introduced into Beloe's ‘Sexagenarian’ (vol. i. ch. xxxii.) by name, and again into the second volume (ch. xlii.) as the honest bookseller. A print of a portrait of him is in Dibdin's ‘Bibliographical Decameron’ (iii. 435); a second portrait represents him at whist, with the cards in his hands (Courtney, English Whist, pp. 251–2).[Baker's Northamptonshire, i. 586; Cunningham's London, ed. Wheatley, ii. 532; Lysons's Environs, Suppl. 1811, p. 143; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vi. 131–2, 5th ser. vii. 112; Gent. Mag. 1799 pt. i. pp. 171–2, 236, 1831 pt. i. pp. 275–6; Dibdin's Bibl. Decameron, iii. 435–7; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. History, v. 428, 435; Early Diary of Frances Burney, vol. i. p. lxxiii, vol. ii. pp. 130–1; Austin Dobson's Eighteenth-Century Vignettes, 2nd ser. pp. 192–203.]