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...
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