1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Thelwall

Anonymous, in Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors (1816) 343.



JOHN THELWALL was born in Chandos Street, Covent Garden, and received the rudiments of his education at a private school in Lambeth, after which he was placed in another at Highgate. He is said to have been apprenticed to a taylor, on whose board he recited parts of plays. After this he was form a short time a student at the Royal Academy, and his next situation was that of a copying clerk to an attorney who married his sister. On the death of his principal, Mr. Thelwall applied to the study of physic, and was for some time a pupil of Guy's Hospital, where he composed a prize essay on the principle of vitality, which he places in the blood. When the French Revolution broke out he took an active part in the organization of political clubs, and in delivering orations on liberty, equality and the reform of parliament. For his activity in these concerns he was apprehended and committed to the Tower. When the time of his trial drew near, he intimated to Mr. Erskine his counsel an intention to defend his own cause; "then if you do," said the barrister, "I tell you for your consolation, that you will be hanged." Thelwall in reply observed, "Then I'll be hanged if I do." He prudently relinquished his design and was acquitted. After this he delivered a series of inflammatory lectures purporting to have Roman history for their subject, but in reality aiming at the British constitution. These he delivered for a season in Beaufort Buildings in the Strand, and afterwards travelled about the country on the same errand. At Yarmouth, Lynn and other places, however, he experienced some rough treatment, and after spending a few months in Scotland, where he had a sharp controversy with Mr. Jeffrey, the editor of the Edinburgh Review, he returned to London. For some time he resided in France, and afterwards settled on a small farm in Wales, but being of an active spirit, he turned his attention to another line of business in which he has proved very successful. This was the delivery of lectures on elocution, uniting with that profession the very flattering one of curing impediments of speech. By means of advertisements and printing some specious pamphlets on this subject, he has been enabled to realize a handsome income. A few years ago this adventurer published books under the title of Dr. Beaufort, but for the most part he has affixed his real name to his productions which are as follows [list omitted].