Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tickell, Thomas
TICKELL, THOMAS (1686–1740), poet, born in 1686 at Bridekirk, Cumberland, was grandson of the Rev. John Tickell of Penrith, and son of Richard Tickell, who became vicar of Egremont in 1673 and of Bridekirk in 1680, and who was again inducted to Egremont in 1685 (Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, new ser. ii. 472). Tickell entered Queen's College, Oxford, in 1701, matriculating on 16 May; he graduated B.A. in 1705, and M.A. on 22 Feb. 1708–9, and was chosen a fellow of the college on 8 Nov. 1710 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) Hearne (Collections, ed. Doble, iii. 77) says that Tickell was a ‘pretender to poetry,’ and was put over the heads of better scholars. As he did not comply with the statute by taking orders, he obtained a dispensation from the crown (25 Oct. 1717), and he held his fellowship until his marriage in 1726.
On 26 Nov. 1706 Tickell, ‘Taberder of Queen's,’ published his first poem, ‘Oxford,’ dated 1707, and inscribed it to Richard, second lord Lonsdale (Hearne, Collections, i. 309; Nichols, Select Collection of Poems, v. 33). Conspicuous among those praised in this tribute to the university was Addison, and soon afterwards Tickell printed lines ‘To Mr. Addison, on his Opera of Rosamond,’ whence Pope borrowed expressions for his ‘Epistle to Mr. Addison,’ printed in Tickell's edition of Addison's ‘Works,’ 1721 (Pope, Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, iii. 206). On 1 Feb. 1709–10 Tickell delivered a laudatory speech at the funeral of Thomas Crosthwaite of Queen's College (Hearne, ii. 341), and in January 1710–11 he became university reader or professor of poetry, in the absence in Ireland of Joseph Trapp [q. v.] Hearne (iii. 111) says that his first lecture was very silly and indiscreet, and calls Tickell an empty vain pretender, without any learning. In August, says Hearne (iii. 218), it was reported that Tickell, ‘a vain conceited coxcomb,’ was author of a silly weekly paper called “The Surprise.”’
In October 1712 Tickell published, in a folio pamphlet dated 1713, his poem ‘To his Excellency the Lord Privy Seal, on the Prospect of Peace.’ Though the piece supported the tory policy of peace, Addison spoke in warm praise of this ‘noble performance’ in the ‘Spectator’ (No. 523); and Pope said that the poem, which went through six editions, contained some ‘most poetical images and fine pieces of painting’ (Works, i. 330, vi. 167–8). In the following month Tickell repaid Addison's compliment in lines ‘To the supposed author of the “Spectator,”’ printed in No. 532 of that periodical, and in 1713 he contributed papers to the ‘Guardian’ and verses to Steele's volume of ‘Poetical Miscellanies’ (December 1713). Verses by him were also prefixed to Addison's ‘Cato’ (1713). Tickell's ‘Royal Progress,’ described as ‘the work of a master,’ was printed in the ‘Spectator’ for 15 Nov. 1714 (No. 620), and at about the same time Addison, who had been appointed secretary to Lord Sunderland, lord-lieutenant of Ireland, gave Tickell employment under him.
Pope's famous quarrel with Addison occurred in 1715. In October 1714 Pope asked Addison to read the first two books of his forthcoming translation of the ‘Iliad;’ but shortly afterwards Addison said that Tickell had a translation of the first book ready for publication, and had asked him to read it; he therefore begged to be excused looking at Pope's. However, at Pope's wish, Addison read the second book, and praised it highly (Spence, Anecdotes, 1858, pp. 35, 110–12, 264). In May 1715 Pope, probably at Addison's request, helped to obtain subscriptions to an edition of Lucan, with notes, which Tickell proposed to publish, an edition, it may be added, which was never executed (Pope, Works, viii. 10, 11; Johnson, Lives of the Poets, ed. Cunningham, ii. 185), and in the following month (June 1715) the first volume of Pope's translation of the ‘Iliad’ appeared. In the same week Tickell's translation was published, with a dedication to Lord Halifax, and a repudiation of any idea of rivalry; it was issued, Tickell said, only to bespeak sympathy for a proposed translation of the ‘Odyssey.’ Gay told Pope (8 July) that every one was pleased with Pope's translation except a few at Button's coffee-house, and that Steele said that Addison described Tickell's translation as the best that ever was in any language. Pope wrote bitterly of Cato's little senate at Button's, and said there had been underhand dealing in the writing of Tickell's version: ‘Tickell himself, who is a very fair man, has since, in a manner, as good as owned it to me.’ Years afterwards, in the dedication of the ‘Drummer’ to Congreve (1722), Steele, who was then annoyed with Tickell, spoke of him as ‘the reputed translator of the first book of “Homer;”’ but the Tickell papers prove that without doubt Tickell really wrote the version issued in his name (Miss Aikin, Life of Addison, ii. 127–33). Parnell and Arbuthnot criticised the scholarship of Tickell's version (Pope, Works, vii. 457, 474), and Jervas and Berkeley ridiculed Tickell's verse (ib. viii. 13, ix. 3, 540). Pope at one time contemplated an exposure of the inaccuracies of Tickell's version (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. i. 110, v. 640, vi. 605), and his manuscript notes on his rival's poem have been printed by Conington (Fraser's Mag. lxii. 260). In his ‘Art of Sinking in Poetry’ Pope afterwards quoted from Tickell passages to illustrate mistakes in expression.
When Addison was appointed secretary of state (1717) he chose Tickell as undersecretary, and in the same year Tickell published, in folio, a political pamphlet in verse, ‘An Epistle from a Lady in England to a Gentleman at Avignon,’ which passed through five editions. This was followed in 1718 by ‘An Ode occasioned by the Earl of Stanhope's Voyage to France,’ 8vo (lines which were ridiculed in ‘The Tickler Tickelled,’ 1718), and by ‘An Ode inscribed to the Earl of Sunderland at Windsor,’ 1720, fol. Addison a few days before his death, in June 1719, gave directions to Tickell to collect his works, and commended his friend to Craggs's patronage. Steele objected to Addison's essays in the ‘Tatler,’ &c., being separately printed, but Addison's ‘Works’ were published in due course, in four quarto volumes, on 3 Oct. 1721. Tickell's best poem, the well-known elegy ‘To the Earl of Warwick, on the Death of Mr. Addison,’ was given in the first volume. In December Steele reprinted ‘The Drummer,’ which was not included in Tickell's edition of Addison, and in a prefatory letter to Congreve replied to certain insinuations thrown out by Tickell in the life printed with Addison's ‘Works’ (Aitken, Life of Steele, ii. 216, 270–2).
In 1722 Tickell printed an epistle ‘To Sir Godfrey Kneller, at his Country Seat,’ fol., and one of his most ambitious works, ‘Kensington Gardens,’ 4to. In February 1723 Pope talked of writing to Lord Cowper, proposing to resign his newly formed design of a translation of the ‘Odyssey’ to Tickell, in deference to his judgment; but nothing came of this idea (Works, x. 198).
Soon afterwards Tickell migrated to Ireland, and resided at Glasnevin near Dublin. He was given the important post of secretary to the lords justices on 4 May 1724, when Lord Carteret, the new lord-lieutenant, testified to his ‘ability and integrity’ (Johnson, Lives of the Poets, ed. Cunningham, iii. 430). In 1724 and the following years there was much friendly intercourse between Swift and Tickell (Swift, Works, xix. 277–303). In 1733 Tickell printed, in folio, verses ‘On Queen Caroline's rebuilding the Lodgings of the Black Prince and Henry V at Queen's College, Oxford.’ Swift spoke in 1736 of Tickell's ‘real concern’ at hearing of Pope's illness (Pope, Works, vii. 336). Tickell died on 23 April 1740 at Bath, and was buried at Glasnevin, where he had a house. A tablet was erected in his memory in Glasnevin church. By his will (dated 9 April 1735, and proved on 24 July 1740) Tickell left his wife (described by her great-grandson as ‘a very clever and most excellent woman’) his executrix and guardian of his children. His library was sold after the widow's death, in 1792, in her ninety-second year.
Johnson writes of Tickell's personal character: ‘He is said to have been a man of gay conversation, at least a temperate lover of wine and company, and in his domestic relations without censure.’ Others, including Steele and Hearne, held a less favourable opinion (cf. Nichols, Lit. Illustr. i. 436). As a poet Tickell is hardly remembered now by anything except his admirable lines on Addison's death. A favourite with a past generation, the ballad of ‘Colin and Lucy,’ was translated into Latin by Vincent Bourne (Poemata, 1743, p. 145). Goldsmith and Gray spoke of it as one of the best ballads in the language. Gray's general estimate of Tickell, however, was by no means flattering; he wrote of him as ‘only a poor, short-winded imitator of Addison, who had himself not above three or four notes in poetry—sweet enough, indeed, but such as soon tire and satiate the ear with their frequent return.’ Tickell was certainly as good a versifier as Addison; but his chief claim to notice, as he himself felt, is that he was Addison's friend.
Tickell's poems are included in the collections of English poets edited by Johnson and others; pieces which were published in separate form have been already noticed. Some letters by him are in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 28275 f. 495, 4291, 15936 f. 174; Egerton MSS. 2172 f. 168, 2174 f. 310), and in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1786, ii. 1041.
On 23 April 1726 Tickell married, at St. James's, Dublin, Clotilda, daughter and coheiress of Sir Maurice Eustace of Harristown, Kildare, nephew of Sir Maurice Eustace, lord chancellor of Ireland under Charles II. By her he had two sons—John (d. 1793), father of Richard Tickell [q. v.], and Thomas (d. 1777)—and two daughters: Margaret, who married Bladen Swiney; and Philippa.
There is a painting of Tickell at Queen's College, Oxford, presented by his grandson Major Thomas Tickell, which has been engraved by Clamp (1796) and others. A portrait by Vanderbank is in the possession of the family (Johnson, Lives, ed. Cunningham, iii. 430–1).[Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, new ser. ii. 472; Addison's Works; Pope's Works; Swift's Works; Miss Aikin's Life of Addison; Aitken's Life of Steele; Ward's English Poets; Cibber's Lives of the Poets, v. 17; Johnson's Lives of the Poets; Spence's Anecdotes; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 238; Nichols's Lit. Anecd.; Drake's Essays on the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian.]