Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/99

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Beddoes
Beddoes
95

married Anna, sister of Maria Edgeworth, 'the best and most amiable woman in the world,' says Davy, and had produced several medical works and some political pamphlets, in the latter assailing Pitt with extreme virulence. He had also, in 1795, edited the 'Elements of Medicine' of John Brown, the founder of the Brunonian system of medicine, with a memoir, certainly well intended, but unduly depreciatory of Brown's character in some respects. In 1801 he published his 'Hygeia,' popular essays in medicine, rich in valuable sanitary precepts and eloquent pathological descriptions. In the same year Davy left Clifton for London,and the institute was virtually given up. Beddoes continued to enjoy a considerable practice, but from this time he added little to medical literature. In 1808 his health failed, and he died on 24 Dec., 'at the moment,' says Davy, 'when his mind was purified for noble affections and great works:' 'literally worn out,' says Atkinson, 'by the action and reaction of an inquisitive nature, and of restlessness for fame.' 'From Beddoes,' wrote Southey on hearing of his death, 'I hoped for more good to the human race than any other individual.' 'I felt,' wrote Coleridge on the same occasion, 'that more had been taken out of my life by this than by any former event.' Yet Beddoes had not succeeded in impressing himself powerfully upon the history of science, and he is now chiefly remembered as the father of the author of 'Death's Jest-Book,' and to some extent the discoverer of Davy. He was, nevertheless, a remarkable and highly interesting man; an enthusiast and a philanthropist; vigorous, original, and independent. The distinguishing merit of his medical writings is their vivid presentation of the phenomena of disease. 'They embrace,' says Atkinson, 'a most extensive surface of queries and inquiry; touching, like a vessel of discovery, upon every little topic or island; but yet with top-sails set, as if stinted to time.' 'He was,' says Davy, 'reserved in manner and almost dry. Nothing could be a stronger contrast to his apparent coldness in discussion than his wild and active imagination, which was as poetical as Darwin's. He had talents which would have raised him to the pinnacle of philosophical eminence, if they bad been applied with discretion.' It is extremely interesting to compare these traits with similar manifestations of character in his son.

[Stock's Memoirs of the Life of Thomas Beddoes, 1811; John Davy's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Humphry Davy, 1839; Fragmentary Remains of Sir H. Davy, 1858; Atkinson's Medical Bibliography, 1834.]

R. G.

BEDDOES, THOMAS LOVELL (1803–1849), poet and physiologist, was born at Rodney Place, Clifton, on 20 July 1803. He was the eldest son of Dr. Thomas Beddoes [q. v.], the celebrated physician, who died when his son was five years old. His mother, Anna, was the daughter of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, of Edgeworthtown, and the poet was therefore the nephew of Maria Edgeworth, the novelist. At the death of his father T. L. Beddoes was left in the guardianship of Davies Giddy, afterwards known as Sir Davies Gilbert, P.R.S., who died in 1839. He was sent first to Bath Grammar School, and on 5 June 1817 entered the Charterhouse. During his stay at this school he distinguished himself by his mischievous deeds of daring, by the originality of his behaviour, and by his love of the old Elizabethan dramatists, whom he early began to imitate. He wrote a novel called 'Cynthio and Bugboo,' and in 1819 a drama called the 'Bride's Tragedy.' The former was never printed; the latter remained for some years in his desk. His earliest verses belong to 1817; in July 1819 his name first appears as the contributor of a sonnet to the 'Morning Post.' Beddoes, on leaving Charterhouse, went to Oxford, and was entered a commoner at Pembroke on 1 May 1820. At Oxford he was eccentric and rebellious, priding himself on his democratic sentiments, which he preserved through life. In 1821, while yet a freshman, he published his first volume, the 'Improvisatore,' a pamphlet of 128 pages, printed in Oxford. Of this jejune production he speedily became so much ashamed that he endeavoured to suppress it, and with such a measure of success that very few copies of it are now known to exist. In 1822 he published in London his boyish play, the 'Bride's Tragedy,' a work of extraordinary promise, modelled very closely on such Jacobean writers as Webster, Marston, and Cyril Tourneur. In this drama the principal features of Beddoes' later style are all clearly to be discerned. The 'Bride's Tragedy' enjoyed a success such as rarely rewards the ambition of so young a writer; it was favourably noticed by the principal reviews, and in particular by Barry Cornwall and George Darley, who welcomed the new poet with effusion. The former, then thirty-five years of age and at the height of his reputation, extended to the young Oxonian his valuable friendship, and in 1823 Beddoes became acquainted with Thomas Forbes Kelsall, a young solicitor, afterwards his biographer and posthumous editor. He now planned, and partly wrote, several other dramas; of one, 'Love's Arrow Poisoned,' considerable portions still remain unpub-