Westwood, Thomas (DNB01)

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WESTWOOD, THOMAS (1814–1888), minor poet and bibliographer of angling, was the son of the Thomas Westwood of Enfield so vividly portrayed by Charles Lamb in several letters bearing date 1829–1830. ‘Father (‘Daddy’ or more familiarly ‘Gaffer’) Westwood,’ as Lamb calls him, was formerly a rider or traveller for a wholesale drapery house, then a thriving haberdasher within the sound of Bow Bells, who retired with something under a competence before the beginning of the French war at the close of the eighteenth century, and settled at Enfield, of which place he became a patriarch. Living upon the minimum consistent with gentility, he was nevertheless ‘a star among the minor gentry, receiving the bows of the tradespeople and the courtesies of the almswomen daily … he hath borne parish offices, sings fine old sea songs at three score and ten,’ is proud of having married his daughter, ‘and sighs only now and then when he thinks that he has a son on his hands about fifteen’ (letter to Wordsworth, 22 Jan. 1830).

This son was the future poet, Thomas Westwood, who was born at Enfield on 26 Nov. 1814, and early became an ardent disciple and student of Izaak Walton, Lamb's copy of whose ‘Compleat Angler’ he was privileged to use. Lamb let him loose in his library, the shelves of which he used frequently to relieve by flinging modern books (presentation copies) into the Westwoods' garden. Many years later Westwood contributed to ‘Notes and Queries’ (see below) some interesting reminiscences of Charles Lamb, whom he characterised as ‘a seventeenth-century man mislaid.’ Introduced by degrees to many of Lamb's literary friends, the young man was imbued with a taste for letters. In 1840 he issued a dainty volume of ‘Poems’ (London, 8vo), and was credited by a critic in the ‘Athenæum’ with ‘a poetical eye, a poetical heart, and a musical ear.’ It was followed in 1850 by ‘Burden of the Bell and other Lyrics,’ many of which had previously appeared in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’ His remaining volumes of verse were: ‘Berries and Blossoms’ (1855), ‘Foxglove Bells: a Book of Sonnets’ (1856), ‘The Sword of Kingship’ (privately printed, 1866), ‘The Quest of the Sancgreall’ (1868), ‘Twelve Sonnets and an Epilogue (In Memoriam I. Walton),’ London, 1884, and ‘Gathered in the Gloaming’ (1886), poems of early and later years, representing the verses he thought best worthy of survival. In a humorous sonnet on the ‘Small Poets,’ Westwood sang as a unit in a countless swarm, ‘Oh for a wizard's sleight to turn this swarm of mites into one mighty!’ Yet all his lyrics are marked by an exquisite taste, and one of them, ‘Love in the Alpuxaras,’ is said to have excited the envious admiration of Landor.

In 1844 Westwood went to Belgium and there obtained the post of director and secretary of the Tournay railway. He spent most of his later life in West Flanders, devoting leisure and money to the collection of a splendid library of works on angling, upon which subject he was recognised in England as an authority, probably without a rival. In 1861 he published through the ‘Field’ office ‘A New Bibliotheca Piscatoria; or General Catalogue of Angling and Fishing Literature, with Bibliographical Notes and Data’ (preface dated Brussels, July 1861). In 1864 he issued his ‘Chronicle of the Compleat Angler,’ now a scarce volume, and deservedly prized, for it is perhaps the most elaborate bibliography on record of any book printed in England, with the exception of the Bible; it was printed as a supplement to Marston's sumptuous edition of ‘The Compleat Angler’ of 1888 (ii. 258–330, with a new preface). In 1883, with the collaboration of Thomas Satchell (d. 1888), Westwood produced in a handsome quarto his magnum opus, the ‘Bibliotheca Piscatoria: a Catalogue of Books on Angling, the Fisheries and Fish-Culture,’ the small volume of 1861 being practically transformed into a new work, containing considerably over five thousand separate entries. In the same year Westwood reprinted, with a good introduction, 'The Secrets of Angling' (1613) of John Dennys. Westwood died in Belgium on 13 March 1888.

[Miles's Poets and Poetry of the Century (Tennyson to Clough), pp. 435-445; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. x. 222, 4th ser. v. 528, x. 405; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.