Wade, Thomas (1805-1875) (DNB00)

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WADE, THOMAS (1805–1875), poet, was the son of Searles Wade of Woodbridge, Suffolk, where he was born in 1805. He must have come to London young, probably possessed of a moderate competence, and the miscellaneous knowledge evinced in a volume of poems published before he attained his majority seems to indicate a self-educated man. This little book, ‘Tasso and the Sisters … Poems’ (London, 1825, 8vo), with a preface dated December 1824, in the main reflects the style of Byron and Moore, but the longest and best piece, ‘The Nuptials of Juno,’ betrays the strongest influence from Shelley's ‘Witch of Atlas.’ It is full of glowing fancy, and exhibits a command of language and rhythm which the writer rarely attained afterwards. For some time Wade's attention was chiefly given to the drama. ‘Woman's Love, or the Triumph of Patience,’ afterwards entitled ‘Duke Andrea,’ a play founded on the story of Griselda, was performed at Covent Garden in December 1828, and succeeded through the fine acting of Charles Kemble in the principal character; it was published in duodecimo in 1829, and went through two editions. ‘The Phrenologists,’ a farce (January 1830), was likewise successful; but ‘The Jew of Arragon; or the Hebrew Queen,’ a tragedy (in five acts and in verse), produced at Covent Garden in October of that same year, though supported not only by Charles but by Fanny Kemble, was literally ‘howled from the stage’ on account of the partiality shown to the Jews. Wade, nothing daunted, published his play with a dedication to the Jews of England, and restored in capitals the passages deleted by the licenser on political grounds (London, 12mo). About this time he composed two other unacted tragedies. One, ‘Elfrida,’ is lost; the manuscript of the other, ‘King Henry II,’ is in the possession of Mr. Buxton Forman, who describes it as ‘Elizabethan but not imitative,’ and considers it a stronger work than either of the published dramas. Wade now became a frequent contributor of poetry to the ‘Monthly Repository,’ an asylum for much of the unacknowledged genius, or merely ambitious strivings, of that period of interregnum between Byron and Tennyson. His contributions, with many other poems, appeared in March 1835 in a volume fancifully entitled ‘Mundi et Cordis, de Rebus sempiternis et temporariis, Carmina.’ It was known among contemporary men of letters by its short title of ‘Mundi et Cordis Carmina;’ and in 1837 Wade advertised it under the English name, ‘Songs of the Universe and of the Heart.’ This collection, equally with Browning's ‘Pauline,’ published two years earlier, indicates the extent to which English poetry was becoming influenced by Shelley, and, with all its numerous and provoking imperfections, retains on this account a permanent value. Wade next began the publication of short poems in pamphlet form, intended to be ultimately united into a volume. ‘The Contention of Death and Love,’ an apotheosis of a dying poet, with especial allusion to Shelley; ‘Helena,’ a narrative poem too closely imitating Keats's ‘Isabella,’ and ‘The Shadow Seeker’ appeared simultaneously in 1837; ‘Prothanasia,’ a powerful blank-verse study of suicidal impulse, suggested by the history of Caroline von Gunderode, with other shorter poems, in 1839. These little verse pamphlets, rarer than even the original issues of a kindred undertaking, Browning's ‘Bells and Pomegranates,’ are scarcely ever to be met united. Mr. Buxton Forman has reprinted the ‘Contention of Death and Love’ and ‘Helena’ in ‘Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century.’

While thus ineffectually contending for the poetic laurel, Wade had married Lucy Bridgman, a widow well known as a pianist under her maiden name of Eager, and the union proved most fortunate. His means had been partly invested in ‘Bell's Weekly Messenger,’ which he edited for a time; but eventually he disposed of his interest, in consequence of disagreements with his partner, and, probably with impaired resources, retired to Jersey, where for many years he successfully conducted the ‘British Press.’ He continued to contribute verses to the magazines, but made no sustained poetical effort except in the ‘Monologue of Konrad,’ from the ‘Dziady’ of Mickiewicz (derived through a French prose version of 1834), and a translation of Dante's ‘Inferno,’ noteworthy as the first English version in the original metre, executed in 1845 and 1846. The ‘Monologue of Konrad’ was published in the ‘Illuminated Magazine’ of 1845 (a volume edited by W. J. Linton). Mr. Buxton Forman, who possesses the manuscript of the Dante, has published a specimen of no slight merit in ‘Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century.’ ‘What does Hamlet mean?’ a lecture delivered in 1855 (printed in Jersey), would be a remarkable essay if we could suppose Wade to have been unacquainted with Goethe's criticism in ‘Wilhelm Meister,’ but this is not likely to have been the case. His acquaintance with modern languages and literature was evidently extensive. He continued to write until 1871. Some of his later sonnets have been printed by Mr. Forman in ‘Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century.’ He died in Jersey on 19 Sept. 1875. From the internal evidence of his writings, Wade would seem to have been a sensitive enthusiast of strong domestic affections, but at the same time manly and independent. He was an advanced liberal in politics and religion. No author of his time has left less tangible biographic memorial. The only anecdote preserved is Fanny Kemble's testi- mony to the fortitude with which he bore the failure of his tragedy. As a poet he is interesting but disappointing. His poetical feeling is most genuine; but, devoid as he is of the most elementary notion of form, and, what is more remarkable, of any gift of spontaneous melody, it is in general but warmth without light. His efforts to say fine things too frequently result in extravagance. Occasionally, however, as in the ‘Contention of Death and Love,’ marred as even this is by vicious diction, he kindles for a while into true lyrical ardour, and shows that he has more in him than he can bring out. His plays are not highly effective, yet in them he is always the poet, never the mere playwright. His place in literary history is not unimportant as perhaps the purest example of the new influences which began to operate in English literature after the death of Shelley.

[H. Buxton Forman in Miles's Poets of the Century, and in Nicoll and Wise's Lit. Anecd. of the Nineteenth Century, vol. i.]

R. G.