Tyrwhitt, Thomas

, one of the most eminent scholars and critics of the last century, was the son of the rev. Dr. Robert Tyrwhitt, of a very ancient baronet’s family in Lincolnshire, a gentleman of considerable eminence in the church, who was rector of St. James’s, Westminster, which he resigned in 1732, on being appointed a canon residentiary of St. Paul’s. He held also the prebend of Kentishtown, in that cathedral, and was archdeacon of London. In 1740 he obtained a canonry of Windsor, and died June 15, 1742, and was buried in St. George’s chapel, Windsor. He married the eldest daughter of bishop Gibson, and so well | imitated the liberality and hospitality of that prelate, that, dying at the age of forty-four years, he left a numerous family very moderately provided for.

Thomas Tyrwhitt, the subject of the present article, the eldest son of Dr. Tyrwhitt, was born March 29, 1730, and had his first education at a school at Kensington, to which he was sent in his sixth year. In 1741 he removed to Eton. Here, as well as afterwards, he manifested the strongest propensities tp literature, at an age when other boys are employed, every moment they can steal from books, in pursuit of pleasure. But Mr. Tyrwhitt, it has been justly said, never was a boy, his calm and contemplative disposition always leading him to manly and scholar-like studies. After a residence of six years at Eton, he was entered of Queen’s college, Oxford, in 1747, and took the degree of bachelor of arts in 1750. He removed to Merton college, in consequence of being elected to a fellowship in 1755, and the following year took his degree of M.A. He remained on his fellowship until 1762, when he left the university, carrying with him an extensive fund of various knowledge, to which he afterwards added by most unwearied application.

He was now made clerk of the House of Commons, in the room of the deceased Jeremiah Dyson, esq. and resigned his fellowship. This, however, was not his first step in public life. He had previously resided for some time in the Temple, and had studied law; and in December 1756 was appointed deputy secretary at war, under his noble friend and patron, lord Barrington, with whom and his family he preserved, and highly valued, the most intimate friendship to the last hour of his life. If the too constant fatigues and late hours of his office, as clerk of the House of Commons, had not proved too much for his constitution, it is thought that some of the higher offices of the state were within his reach. But after getting through one long parliament, he resigned in 1768, or, as he says in a short list of the dates of his life now before us, he was liber factus, and retired to his beloved books. The remainder of his life was devoted entirely to literary pursuits. Besides a knowledge of almost every European tongue, he was deeplyconversant in the learning of Greece and Koine, and in the old English writers; and as his knowledge was directed by a manly judgment, his critical efforts to illustiate the text of Chaucer and Shakspeare are justly ranked among the happiest efforts of modern skill. The profundity and | acuteness of his remarks also on Euripides, Babrius, the PseudoRowley, &c. bear sufficient witness to the diligence of his researches and the force of his understanding His mode of criticism is allowed to have been at once rigorous and candid. As he never availed himself of petty stratagems in support of doubtful positions, he was vigilant to strip his antagonists of all such specious advantages. Yet controversy produced no unbecoming change in the habitual gentleness and elegance of his manners. His spirit of inquiry was exempt from captiousness, and his censures were as void of rudeness, as his erudition was free from pedantry. In private life he was a man of great liberality, of which some striking instances are given in our authorities. In one year it is said he gave away 2000l.; and for such generous exertions he had the ability as well as the inclination, for he had no luxuries, no follies, and no vices to maintain. Of such a man it is unnecessary to add that he died lamented by all who knew the worth of his friendship, or enjoyrd the honour of his acquaintance. His constitution had never been of the athletic kind, and therefore easily gave way to a joint attack from two violent disorders, which ended his life, Aug. 15, 1786, in his fifty-sixth year. He died at his house in Welbeck-street, Cavendish-square, and was interred in St. George’s chapel, Windsor. He had for many years been a member of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries. In 1784 he was, without the slightest private interest or solicitation, elected a curator of the British Museum, in the duties of which office, the highest honour that can be enjoyed by a literary man, he was indefatigably diligent.

The publications of this excellent scholar were, I. “An Epistle to Florio (Mr. Ellis, of Christ-church) at Oxford,” Lond. 1749,4to. 2. “Translations in Verse; Pope’s Messiah; Philips’s Splendid Shilling, in Latin,” and “the eighth Isthmian of Pindar, in English,1752, 4to. 3. “Observations and Conjectures on some passages in Sbakspeare,1766, 8vo. Mr. Tyrwhitt afterwards communicated many judicious remarks on our national bard to Mr. Steevens and Mr. Reed for the editions of 1778 and 1785. 4 “Proceedings and Debates in the House of Commons in 1620 and 1621, from the original ms. in the library of Queen’s college, Oxford, with an appendix, printed at the Clarendon press, 1766, 2 vols. 8vo. 5.” The manner of holding parliaments in England; by Henry Elsynge, Cler. Par. corrected and enlarged from the author’s original | ms.“Lond. 1768, 8vo. With a view to raise a spirit of research into ancient classical Mss. his first critical publication in literature was, 6.” Fragmenta duo Plutarchi, 1773, from an Harleian ms. 5612.“He observes himself of this, that it had no great merit, and was only published to stimulate similar inquiries. 7.” The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer,“in 4 vols. 8vo, to which he afterwards added a 5th volume in 1778. There has since been a splendid edition printed at Oxford in 2 vols. 4to. This is certainly the best edited English classic that has ever appeared. 8.” Dissertatio de Babrio, Fabularum jsopicarum scriptore. Inseruntur fabnlse quaedam Æsopese nunquam antehac editae ex cod.ms. Bodl. AcceduntBabriifragmenta. 1776.“The object of this publication, which, though small in sjze, evinced the greatest critical acumen, was to shew, that many of the fables which pass under the name of Æsop, were from another antient writer of the name of Babrius, whose fragments are preserved in Suidas in verse. 9.” Notes on Euripides,“which, in Dr. Harwood’s opinion, form the most valuable part of Musgrave’s edition, 1778. 10.” Poems, supposed to have been written at Bristol in the 15th century, by Rowley and others; with a preface, an account of the Poems, and a Glossary.“This was twice re-published in 1778, with an appendix tending to prove that they were written, not by any antient author, but by Chatterton. This became the subject of warm controversy, which, however, was settled, by 11A Vindication of the Appendix to the Poems called Rowley’s, in reply to the dean of Exeter, Jacob Bryant, esq. and others, by Thomas Tyrwhitt.“Mr. Tyrwhitt’s next work was of a different kind, namely, 12.Περι Λιθων; de Lapidibus, Poema Orpheo a quibusdam adscriptum, Græce et Latine, ex edit. Jo. Matthæi Gesneri. Recensuit, notasque adjecit, Thomas Tyrwhitt. Simul prodit auctarium dissertationis de Babrio.“Mr. Tyrwhitt in this critical work, refers the poem” on Stones“to the age of Constant! us. He next printed for his private friends, 13.” Conjecturas in Strabonem;“and be also superintended, 14.” Two Dissertations on the Grecian Mythology, and an examination of sir Isaac Newton’s objection to the Chronology of the Olympiads,“by Dr. Musgrave. For this work a very liberal subscription was raised for the doctor’s family, entirely by the exertions of Mr. Tyrwhitt, who had before given up to the widow a bond for several hundred pounds which the Doctor had borrowed of him. His last literary labour was, 15.A newly discovered | Oration of Isaeus against Menecles," which Mr. Tyrwhitt revised in 1785, and enriched with valuable notes, at the request of lord Sandys. These few specimens are from the Medicean Library, and are sufficient to shew Mr. Tyrwhitt’s powers, and to make us regret that his modesty declined the proposal made to him of directing the publication of the second volume of Inscriptions collected by Mr. Chishull, and first laid open to the public by the sale of Dr. Askew’s Mss. How he succeeded in the illustration of such subjects will best appear by that most happy explanation of the Greek inscription on the Corbridge altar, which had baffled the skill of all preceding critics, and will be a lasting proof how critical acumen transcends elaborate conjecture. (See Archseologia, vol. III. p. 324, compared with vol. II. pp. 92, 98.) Nor raust his observations on some other Greek inscriptions in Archseologia, vol. III. p. 230, be forgotten.

Mr. Tyrwhitt left many materials for a new edition of Aristotle’s “Poetics,” which were prepared for the press by Messrs. Burgess and Randolph, afterwards bishops of St. David’s and London, and were published in 1794, at the Clarendon press, in a sumptuous 4to form, with an edition also in 8vo, less expensive. This is a very elegant and accurate edition, and contains Tyrwhitt’s commentaries, as well as his version, which is close and faithful. 1


Nichols’s Bowyer, vol. III. and IX.