Thomas Lovell Beddoes Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Born at Clifton, England, Thomas Lovell Beddoes grew up under the shadow of a distinguished father (usually referred to as Dr. Beddoes to avoid confusion with the poet). Dr. Beddoes had been the friend of Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and other celebrated figures. The poet also grew up in the reflected fame of his aunt—the novelist Maria Edgeworth.

As a schoolboy at Charterhouse, Beddoes was a precocious student of the classics. There he wrote a juvenile short story, “Scaroni: Or, The Mysterious Cave” and also, apparently, some plays no longer extant. At Pembroke College, Oxford, Beddoes distinguished himself both as a student and as a writer. The success of The Improvisatore and The Bride’s Tragedy led him to believe that he might expect a future in letters. He did not then know that he had already published the last significant work he would ever see in print. In 1825, after taking his degree in classics, Beddoes went abroad to improve his German and to scoop the cream of German learning at a time when both letters and the sciences were enjoying a burst of brilliance in Germany. In fact, however, Beddoes was never to return to England except for short interludes.

At Göttingen University, he polished the manuscripts of Torrismond (1851) and The Second Brother (1851) and tried to complete the project that was to occupy him for the rest of his life: Death’s Jest-Book: Or, The Fool’s Tragedy (pb. 1850). Failing in his attempt to complete these projects, Beddoes attempted suicide in 1829. In the same year, he was expelled by the university court on charges of drunken and disorderly behavior. His fortunes grew still more...

(The entire section is 701 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Thomas Lovell Beddoes (BEHD-ohz), son of a well-known British physician, Dr. Thomas Beddoes, was also the nephew of Maria Edgeworth, the novelist. He was educated at Charterhouse and Pembroke College, Oxford.

At Oxford, Beddoes read widely in Elizabethan poetry and drama. In 1821, he published The Improvisatore, a volume which already shows Beddoes’s preoccupation with death, the gothic, and the grotesque. This volume was followed by The Bride’s Tragedy, which established him as a poetic dramatist working in the traditions of the Jacobean drama.

The Bride’s Tragedy, in its lyrics and its dramatic blank verse, shows a great advance over The Improvisatore. Beddoes took his degree at Oxford a year late, in 1825, having been called to Italy during his examinations the previous year because of his mother’s fatal illness. In 1825 he left England to study medicine in Göttingen, Germany. Beddoes took his medical degree at Wurzburg in 1832. During the years of his medical study he worked on Death’s Jest-Book, completing it in its initial form as early as 1829. He also became involved in radical German politics. Because of this activity, Beddoes was forced to leave Bavaria shortly after taking his medical degree in 1832, and he took up residence in Zurich, Switzerland. He became involved in politics there and was forced to flee Zurich for Berlin in 1840. Then came a period of wandering. He...

(The entire section is 442 words.)