Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tyers, Thomas

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TYERS, THOMAS (1726–1787), author, born in 1726, was the eldest son of Jonathan Tyers [q. v.], proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens. He matriculated at Pembroke College, Oxford, on 13 Dec. 1738; graduated B.A. 1742, and M.A. (from Exeter College) 1745 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) He was admitted barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple in 1757, and on his father's death in 1767 became joint manager of Vauxhall Gardens with his brother Jonathan. He furnished the words of many songs sung at Vauxhall, and contributed an account of the gardens to Nichols's ‘History of Lambeth.’

His father had left him well off, and he was too vivacious and eccentric to confine himself to the law. ‘He therefore,’ says Boswell (Life of Johnson, 1788), ‘ran about the world with a pleasant carelessness,’ amusing everybody by his desultory conversation and abundance of good-natured anecdote. He was a great favourite with Dr. Johnson, who used to call him Tom Tyers. Johnson has described him in the ‘Idler’ (1759, No. 48) as ‘Tom Restless,’ the ‘ambulatory’ student who devoted little time to books, but wandered about for ideas to the coffee-house and debating club. Tyers was in reality a considerable reader, and Johnson confessed that Tyers always told him something that he did not know before; it was he who said of Johnson that he always talked as if he were talking upon oath.

Tyers had a villa at Ashtead, near Epsom, and apartments in Southampton Street, Covent Garden, and he used to drive backwards and forwards: ‘just as the humour hits, I'm there or here.’ In a character sketch, supposed to be by himself, he is described as ‘inquisitive, talkative, full of notions and quotations, and, which is the praise of a purling stream, of no great depth.’ He had some knowledge of medicine, and rather posed as a valetudinarian.

Tyers sold his share in the Vauxhall Gardens in 1785, leaving the management to his brother Jonathan. He died at Ashtead, after a lingering illness, on 1 Feb. 1787, in his sixty-first year. He was unmarried.

A good likeness of him was drawn by I. Taylor and engraved by J. Hall.

Tyers was a timid and dilettante author. Of his essay on Addison (see below) he at first printed only fifty copies, and distributed the twenty-five copies of ‘Conversations, Political and Familiar,’ with the request that ‘this pamphlet may not be lent. A very few copies are printed for the perusal of a very few friends.’ His ‘Political Conferences,’ imaginary conversations between statesmen, had not a little repute in its day, and his essays on Pope, Addison, and Johnson contain some curious anecdotes.

His publications are: 1. ‘Political Conferences between several great men in the last and present century,’ 1780, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1781. 2. ‘An Historical Rhapsody on Mr. Pope,’ 1781 (cf. Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. viii. 456); 2nd edit. 1782: each edition of 250 copies. 3. ‘An Historical Essay on Mr. Addison,’ 1782, fifty copies; 1783, one hundred copies. 4. ‘Conversations, Political and Familiar,’ 1784, 8vo, twenty-five copies. 5. ‘A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson,’ (published in ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1785, liv. 899, 982).

[Obituary in the London Chronicle for 1–3 Feb. 1787; Boswell's Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill, ii. 434, iii. 308–9; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, viii. 79 ff.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.