Tickell, Thomas

, son of the rev. Richard Tickell, was born in 1686 at Bridekirk in Cumberland; and in April 1701 became a member of Queen’s college, in Oxford; in 1708 he was made M. A. and two years afterwards was chosen fellow; for which, as he did not comply with the statutes by taking orders, he obtained a dispensation from, the crown. He held his fellowship till 1726, and then vacated it by marrying in that year, at Dublin. Tickell was not one of those scholars who wear away their lives in closets; he entered early into the world, and was long busy in public affairs, in which he was initiated under the patronage of Addison, whose notice he is said to have gained by his verses in praise of “Rosamond.” He produced another piece of the same kind at the appearance of “Cato,” with equal skill, but not equal happiness. When the ministers of queen Anne were negociating with France, Tickell published “The Prospect of Peace,” a poem, of which the tendency was to reclaim the nation from the pride of conquest to the pleasures of tranquillity. Mr. Addison, however he hated the men then in power, suffered his friendship to prevail over the public spirit, and gave in the “Spectator” such praises of Tickell’s poem, that when, after having long wished to peruse it, Dr. Johnson laid hold on it at last, he thought it unequal to the honours which it had received, and found it a piece to be approved rather than admired. But the hope excited by a | work of genius, being general and indefinite, is rarely gratified. It was read at that time with so much favour that six editions were sold. At the arrival of king George he sung “The Royal Progress;” which, being inserted in the *‘ Spectator,“is well known. The poetical incident of most importance in Tickell’s life was his publication of the first book of theIliad,“as translated by himself, in apparent opposition to Pope’sHomer,“of which the first part made its entrance into the world at the same time. Addison declared that the rival versions were both good; but that Tickell’s was the best that ever was made; and with Addison those wits who were his adherents and followers, were certain to concur. Pope does not appear to have been much dismayed;” for,“says he,I have the town, that is, the mob, on my side.“But he remarks, that it is common for the smaller party to make up in diligence what they want in numbers;” he “appeals to the people as his proper judges; and if they are not inclined to condemn him, he is in little care about the high-flyers at Button’s.Pope did not long think Addison an impartial judge; for he considered him as the writer of TickelPs version. The reasons for his suspicion we shall literally transcribe from Mr. Spence’s collection. “There had been a coldness between Mr. Addison and me for some time; and we had not been in company together for a good while, any where but at Button’s coffee-house, where I used to see him almost every day. On his meeting me there, one day in particular, he took me aside, and said he should be glad to dine with me at such a tavern, if 1 stayed till those people were gone (Budgell and Philips). We went accordingly; and after dinner Mr. Addison said * that he had wanted for some time to talk with me; that his friend Tickell had formerly, whilst at Oxford, translated the first book of the Iliad; that he designed to print it, and had desired him to look it over; that he must therefore beg that I would not desire him to look over my first book, because, if he did, it would have the air of doubledealing.‘ I assured him that < I did not at all take it ill of Mr. Tickell that he was going to publish his translation; that he certainly had as much right to translate any author as myself; and that publishing both was entering on a fair stage. I then added, that I would not desire him to look over my first book of the ’ Iliad,‘ because he had looked over Mr. Tickeli’s j but could wish to have the benefit of | his observations on my second, which I had then finished, and which Mr. Tickell had not touched upon.‘ Accordingly I sent him the second book the next morning; and Mr. Addison a few days after returned it, with very high commendations. Soon after it was generally known that Mr. Tickell was publishing the first book of the ’ Iliad,‘ I met Dr. Young in the street; and, upon our falling into that subject, the doctor expressed a great deal of surprise at Tickell’ s having had such a translation so long by him. He said, that c it was inconceivable to him, and that there must be some mistake in the matter; that each used to communicate to the other whatever verses they wrote, even to the least things; that Tickell could not have been busied in so long a work there without his knowing something of the matter; and that he had never heard a single word of it till on this occasion.‘ This surprise of Dr. Young, together with what Steele had said against Tickell in relation to this affair, makes it highly probable that there was some underhand dealing in that business; and indeed Tickelt himself, who is a very fair worthy man, has since in a manner as good as owned it to me. [When it was introduced into a conversation between Mr. Tickell and Mr. Pope by a third person, Tickell did not deny it; which, considering his honour and zeal for his departed friend, was the same as owning it.]” Upon these suspicions, with which Dr. Warburton hints that other circumstances concurred, Pope always, in his “Art of Sinking,” quotes this book as the work of Addison. (See Pope, vol. XXV. p. 168.) When the Hanover succession was disputed, Tickeli gave what assistance his pen would supply. His “Letter to Avignon” stands high among party-poems; it expresses contempt without coarseness, and superiority without insolence. It had the success which it deserved, being five times printed. He was now intimately united to Mr. Addison, who, when he went into Ireland as secretary to the lord Sunderland, took him thither, and employed him in public business; and, when (1717) afterwards he rose to be secretary of state, made him under-secretary. ’ Their friendship seems to have continued without abatement; for when Addison died, he left him the charge of publishing his works, with a solemn recommendation to the patronage of Craggs. To these works he prefixed an elegy on the author, which could owe none of its beauties to the assistance which might be suspected to have strengthened or | embellished his earlier compositions; but neither he not Addison ever produced nobler lines than are contained in the third and fourth paragraphs, nor is a more sublime or more elegant funeral poem to be found in the whole compass of English literature. He was afterwards (in June 1724) made secretary to the lords justices of Ireland, a place of great honour; in which he continued till 1740, when he died April 23, at Bath. To Tickell cannot be refused a high place among the minor poets; nor should it be forgotten that he was one of the contributors to the “Spectator.” With respect to his personal character, he is said to have been a man of gay conversation, at least a temperate lover of wine and company, and in his domestic relations without censure. 1

1

Life by Johnson.—Biog. Brit. Suppl.—Bowles’s edition of Pope.—See Index. —Spence’s Anecdotes, ms.