Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tickell, Richard

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TICKELL, RICHARD (1751–1793), pamphleteer and dramatist, was a grandson of Thomas Tickell [q.v.], Addison's friend, and second son of John Tickell, who is styled as of Glasnevin, and who died intestate at Aix-la-Chapelle on 4 July 1793 (Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, new ser. ii. 474). Richard is said to have been born at Bath in 1751 (Murch, Bath Celebrities, p. 317). In Dr. Parr's 'Works' (viii. 129) it is stated by Dr. Johnstone, the editor, that Tickell was 'acquainted with Parr at Harrow,' but there is no other record of this, and Horace Walpole wrote to Mason on 18 April 1778 saying that Tickell 'had been an assistant at Eton;' but his name has not been found in the archives of that school. He is credited in error with having been 'the discoverer of that wonderful elixir "Æthereal Anodyne Spirit"' which was puffed by Philip Thicknesse [q.v.] (Peach, Historic Houses in Bath, p. 119). The discoverer of this medicine was William Tickell, who is described among the subscribers to Thicknesse's 'Memoirs' as 'surgeon and chymist of Bath.'

Richard Tickell was entered at the Middle Temple on 8 Nov. 1768. After being called to the bar, he was appointed one of the sixty commissioners of bankrupts who were divided into twelve 'lists' of five, Tickell being in the third (Browne, General Law List, 1777). Owing, as he contended, to an unjust complaint of 'the other gentlemen of his list,' he was deprived of his place in 1778; but Garrick, whose acquaintance he had made, successfully interceded for him with Lord-chancellor Bathurst. He told Garrick at the time that he was 'wholly dependent on his grandmother's assistance' (Garrick, Corresp. ii. 305). His friend William Brummell, private secretary to Lord North, thereupon obtained for him a pension of 200l. for writing in support of the ministry, and the further reward of a commissionership in the stamp office, his appointment being dated 24 Aug. 1781, and his salary 500l. a year.

On 15 Oct. 1778 a musical entertainment by Tickell, called 'The Camp,' was represented at Drury Lane 'with great success' according to Genest (English Stage, iv. 75). Three weeks later Tickell declined to write a prologue for Garrick on the ground that he was employed in a work that would make or mar his fortune (Garrick, Corresp. ii. 317). This may have been 'Anticipation,' a satirical forecast of the proceedings at the opening of parliament, of which the preface is dated 23 Nov. 1778. It attracted general attention. Moore wrote in his 'Diary' (iv. 34), on the authority of Jekyll, that Tickell was on the tenter-hooks till he learnt that the house had roared with laughter when Barré, who had not seen the pamphlet, used words and phrases which were attributed to him in it. Nothing in the imaginary speech closely resembles the one which, according to the 'Parliamentary History' (xix. 1363–4), was spoken by Barré. Jekyll did not enter parliament till nine years after the occurrence which he described to Moore. Gibbon, writing to Holroyd on Tuesday night (24 Nov. 1778), says, ‘You will now be satisfied with receiving a full and true account of all the parliamentary transactions of next Thursday. In town we think it an excellent piece of humour (the author is one Tickell). Burke and C. Fox are pleased with their own speeches, but serious patriots groan that such things should be turned to farce’ (Letters of Gibbon, i. 348; cf. Gent. Mag. 1778, p. 594). On 6 Dec. 1778 Rigby wrote to Garrick, ‘I have had a meeting with “Anticipation” and like him very much.’ The Prince of Wales, as reported by Croker, ‘praised Tickell's talents very highly. Croker added that Sheridan was a little refroidi towards Tickell, his brother-in-law, after the great success of “Anticipation”’ (Croker Papers, iii. 245). Sheridan did not become Tickell's brother-in-law till two years after ‘Anticipation’ was published. A second pamphlet (also anonymous), with the same title, of far inferior interest, probably by another hand, appeared five days before the meeting of parliament in 1779.

Tickell became the husband of Mary Linley [q. v.], whose sister was married to Sheridan on 25 July 1780. He is said to have already had a family by a mistress, Miss B., with whom he had lived (Biographia Dramatica, i. 714). After his marriage in 1780 he had a grant of rooms in Hampton Court Palace. His opera in three acts, called ‘The Carnival of Venice,’ was successfully produced at Drury Lane on 13 Dec. 1781, Linley's music and some of the songs by his wife's sister, Mrs. Sheridan, contributing to the favourable impression. An adaptation of the ‘Gentle Shepherd,’ performed on 27 May 1789, was the last of Tickell's theatrical works.

Intimacy with his brother-in-law, Sheridan, led to his transferring his party pen to the support of Charles James Fox. After several rejections he was elected a member of Brooks's Club in 1785, when his wife wrote to her sister that ‘Tickell is delighted, the great point of his ambition is gained’ (quoted in Fraser Rae's Sheridan from manuscript letter, i. 357). Tickell was zealously engaged at the time in manufacturing public opinion, and wrote to Dr. Parr for ‘a list of the inns in Warwickshire where farmers resort to, and of such coffee-houses or hotels as are in your county’ (Parr, Works, viii. 130). He was active with his pen in denouncing the commercial treaty made with France in 1787, and he told Dr. Parr that he had written the ‘Woollen-draper's Letter on the French Treaty’ and answered the ‘Political Review,’ ‘I mean the pamphlet which traduced the Prince of Wales and every one else except Hastings’ (Parr, Works, viii. 131). He was a contributor to the ‘Rolliad’ (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 114, iii. 129–31). Sheridan's sister Elizabeth, writing on 20 Dec. 1788 from her brother's house in Bruton Street, says, ‘Yesterday, Tickell and Joseph Richardson (1755–1803) [q. v.] were here all day preparing an address to come from different parts of the country to counteract Mr. Pitt.’

Early in May 1793 Tickell wrote to Warren Hastings and said that he was in deep distress, and requested a loan of 500l. On 19 May he wrote again, professing sentiments of respect and gratitude for Hastings's ‘spirited and noble manner in acceding to my request’ (Warren Hastings Papers, Brit. Mus.) On 4 Nov. 1793 he killed himself by jumping from the parapet outside the window of his room at Hampton Court. Owing to the exertions of Sheridan, the jury was persuaded to return a verdict of accidental death.

Tickell's first wife (Mary Linley) had died on 27 July 1787, and was buried in the cathedral at Wells. She left two sons and a daughter. When the boys grew up Sheridan obtained admission into the navy for the one and a writership in India for the other; the girl became the mother of John Arthur Roebuck [q. v.] Tickell married in 1789 his second wife, daughter of Captain Ley of the Berrington East Indiaman, a beautiful girl of eighteen, who survived him. She had a small dowry and expensive tastes (Taylor, Records of my Life, i. 144). Professor Smyth, tutor to Tom Sheridan, pronounced Tickell's widow to be eminently handsome, but without mind ‘in her countenance or anywhere else.’ She rode in a carriage-and-four, although she was unable to discharge her husband's debts (Memoir of Mr. Sheridan, pp. 54–5).

Mathias in the ‘Pursuits of Literature’ paid Tickell the compliment of styling him ‘the happiest of any occasional writer in his day.’ According to Adair, he had in private conversation a good deal of wit and was an admirable mimic (Moore, Diary, ii. 303). His plays and his pamphlets comprise: 1. ‘The Wreath of Fashion,’ 1778. 2. ‘The Project,’ a poem, 1778, 4to. 3. ‘Anticipation,’ 1778, 8vo. 4. ‘The Green Box of Monsieur de Sartine,’ an adaptation from the French, 1779. 5. ‘Epistle from Charles Fox to John Townshend,’ 1779, 4to. 6. ‘The Carnival of Venice,’ 1781. 7. ‘The Gentle Shepherd,’ 1781.

[Parr's Works, viii. 129–31; Baker's Biographia Dramatica; Gent. Mag. 1793, ii. 1057; Fraser Rae's Biography of Sheridan, 1896.]

F. R.