Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tighe, Mary

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TIGHE, Mrs. MARY (1772–1810), poet, daughter of the Rev. William Blachford and his wife Theodosia, daughter of William Tighe of Rosanna, co. Wicklow, was born in Ireland on 9 Oct. 1772. Her father, a clergyman of property, was librarian of Marsh's library in Dublin, and was also in charge of St. Patrick's Library in that city. Her mother was a granddaughter of John Bligh, first earl of Darnley, and a lineal descendant of Edward Hyde, first earl of Clarendon. She was one of the women who took a prominent part in the methodist movement in Ireland (cf. Crookshank, Memorable Women of Irish Methodism, pp. 140–150).

In 1793 Miss Blachford married her cousin, Henry Tighe of Woodstock, co. Wicklow, who represented the borough of Inistioge, Kilkenny, in the Irish parliament from 1790 until the treaty of union. The marriage was not happy. About 1803 or 1804 Mrs. Tighe developed consumption. Moore, writing to his mother, 22 Aug. 1805, says: ‘Poor Mrs. T[ighe] is ordered to the Madeiras, which makes me despair of her, for she will not go, and another winter will inevitably be her death’ (Russell, Memoirs of Moore, i. 185). She died on 24 March 1810 at the residence of her brother-in-law, Woodstock, co. Kilkenny, and was buried in the churchyard of Inistioge, where a monument, said to be by Flaxman, marks her grave (cf. Chorley, Memorials of Mrs. Hemans, ii. 209–19).

Mrs. Tighe's poem ‘Psyche, or the Legend of Love,’ founded on the story of Cupid and Psyche as related in the ‘Golden Ass of Apuleius,’ was privately printed in 1805. There seems to have been an earlier edition in 1795. The poem is written in the Spenserian stanza, and has decided merit (cf. Quarterly Review, May 1811). The verse is melodious, and the tale is told with pleasing directness and simplicity. It has suffered equally from excessive praise and undue disparagement. Mackintosh considered the last three cantos to be of exquisite beauty, and ‘beyond all doubt the most faultless series of verses ever produced by a woman’ (Life, ii. 195–6). Mrs. Hemans was greatly touched by Mrs. Tighe's poetry (cf. Chorley). She wrote a poem in her memory entitled ‘The Grave of a Poetess,’ and another ‘I stood where the life of song lay low,’ after she visited Mrs. Tighe's grave. Leigh Hunt allows ‘Psyche’ a languid beauty. It drew from Moore the laudatory lines ‘To Mrs. Henry Tighe on reading her “Psyche,”’ beginning ‘Tell me the witching tale again.’ In 1806, however, he wrote to Miss Godfrey: ‘I regret very much to find that she [Mrs. Tighe] is becoming so furieusement littéraire; one used hardly to get a peep at her blue stockings, but now I am afraid she shows them up to the knee’ (Moore, Diary, ed. Lord John Russell, viii. 61). ‘Psyche’ was published in 1811, after her death, with other poems. A fourth edition appeared the next year, and a fifth in 1816. Other editions were published in 1843 and 1853. It was printed in Philadelphia in 1812. Mrs. Tighe seems to have written a novel (cf. Psyche, edit. 1811, p. 269n.), and some pieces of hers appear in the ‘Amulet,’ 1827–8.

Mrs. Tighe was a very beautiful woman. In the 1811 edition of ‘Psyche’ is a portrait engraved by Caroline Watson from Comerford's miniature, after a picture by Romney; and for the 1816 edition the same miniature was less successfully engraved by Scriven.

[Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, p. 525; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, iii. 244–5; Howitt's Homes of the Poets, 1894, pp. 281–91; Burke's Landed Gentry, ii. 2012.]

E. L.