Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tyson, Michael
TYSON, MICHAEL (1740–1780), antiquary and artist, born in the parish of Stamford All Saints on 19 Nov. 1740, was the only child of Michael Tyson (d. 22 Feb. 1794, aged 83), dean of Stamford and archdeacon of Huntingdon, by his first wife, Miss Curtis of Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire. He was entered at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1759, became a scholar of the college, and studied Greek under the Rev. John Cowper, brother of William Cowper, the poet. He graduated B.A. in 1764, M.A. in 1767, and B.D. in 1775, and in 1767 was elected to a fellowship at his college.
In the autumn of 1766 Tyson accompanied Richard Gough [q. v.] in a tour, of which he kept an exact journal, through the north of England and Scotland; during the journey he was made a burgess of Glasgow (12 Sept. 1766) and of Inverary (17 Sept.) He returned to residence at college, and devoted himself to etching and botany. Gough, however, in some verses on his friend, calls him ‘idlest of men on old Camus banks.’ With Israel Lyons the younger he made frequent peregrinations in search of rare plants around Cambridge, and often consulted Gray on botanical points. The account of Gray's knowledge of natural history in Mason's life of the poet (p. 402) was by him. He was elected F.S.A. on 2 June 1768, and F.R.S. on 11 Feb. 1779. On 17 March 1769 he made himself conspicuous at Cambridge as a zealous whig by voting with John Jebb in a minority of two against the tory address to George III (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iv. 354).
Tyson was ordained deacon by Bishop Green at Whitehall chapel on 11 March 1770, and until 1772 was minister of Sawston, Cambridgeshire. For a time he was dean of his college, and he was bursar about 1774 when he succeeded to the cure of St. Benedict's Church in Cambridge. In 1776 Tyson became Whitehall preacher. In the same year he and the Rev. Thomas Kerrich made a catalogue of the prints in the university library at Cambridge.
In March 1778 Tyson was inducted, after a long legal dispute as to the right of patronage which was exercised by Corpus Christi College, to the rectory of Lambourne near Ongar in Essex, and on 4 July he was married at St. Benedict's Church, Cambridge, to Margaret, daughter of Hitch Wale of Shelford in Cambridgeshire. Tyson died at Lambourne on 4 May 1780 from a violent fever, which carried him off within a week, and was buried on 10 May outside the communion rails, but there is no memorial of him in the church. He left one son, Michael Curtis Tyson (1779–1794), who inherited his ‘grandmother's jointure,’ the manors of Barholme and Stow-cum-Deeping in Lincolnshire. His widow married, as her second husband, in the autumn of 1784, Mr. J. Crouch, assistant clerk of the minutes of the custom-house (Gent. Mag. 1784, ii. 796). Tyson knew Italian, French, and Spanish; and his library, which was sold by Leigh & Sotheby in 1781, was rich in rare works in those languages.
Tyson executed many engravings, etchings, and miniatures for private circulation, though some of them were ‘exposed to public sale.’ He made etchings of many Cambridgeshire churches and tombs, and of the portraits of the masters of his college. That of Jacob Butler, proprietor of the Barnwell estate, is in the ‘Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica,’ vol. v., and his drawing of Browne Willis is in Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes’ (viii. 219). He etched and dedicated to Cole a portrait of Michael Dalton [q. v.], and he made the etching of the Rev. Henry Etough, under which Gray wrote the bitter epigram beginning
Thus Tophet look'd, so grinned the brawling fiend.
Several of his drawings are in the ‘Antiquarian Repertory.’
An account by Tyson ‘of a singular fish brought by Commodore Byron from the South Seas’ appeared in the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ 1771, pp. 247–9, and he wrote English verses in the university collections on the accession of George III (1760), his marriage (1761), the birth of the Prince of Wales (1762), and on the peace (1763). He long contemplated a work on Queen Elizabeth's progresses, but the undertaking was in the end carried out by John Nichols, who received much information from him (Nichols, Progresses of Elizabeth, preface, pp. v, xlvi). A description of an illuminated manuscript at Corpus Christi College, with plates by him, was printed as his paper in ‘Archæologia’ (ii. 194–7), and reprinted at Cambridge in 1770 as his work; but the authorship has been claimed by the Rev. William Cole.
Tyson was very friendly with James Essex, Rev. William Cole, Horace Walpole, Richard Gough, and Mason the poet. Letters to and from him are in Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature’ (iv. 91–2, 728–9, v. 340–2; cf. Literary Anecdotes, viii. 567–672, ix. 718–719; Granger, Letters, 1805, pp. 152–5; and Gent. Mag. 1777, p. 416). Gough paid affectionate tributes to his memory in ‘Sepulchral Monuments’ (i. preface), and in his edition of Camden's ‘Britannia’ (sub ‘Lambourne’). In the first of these works he was indebted to Tyson for several drawings.
[Cole's Addit. MS. 5886 at British Museum, printed in Brydges's Restituta, iv. 236–9, and in Nichols's Lit. Anecd. viii. 204–10; Gent. Mag. 1780 p. 252, 1813 i. 8, ii. 206, 1814 i. 427; Wale's Grandfather's Pocket Book, p. 210; Masters's Corpus Christi Coll., ed. Lamb, pp. 407–9, 445, 491; Thorne's Environs, ii. 411; Walpole's Letters, v. 102, 179, 181, 209, 267, 338, 455, vii. 280, 363; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, i. 671–694, iii. 646, vi. 209, 624, viii. 645, 677–8; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. ii. 60, iii. 760, iv. 714–715, vi. 288, 812; Wright's Essex, ii. 405; information from Rev. C. A. Goodhart of Lambourne.]