Thomas Lovell Beddoes Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

During his lifetime, Thomas Lovell Beddoes (BEHD-ohz) published only one volume of poetry, one play, scattered incidental poems, and a few newspaper articles written in German. His most substantial publications, The Improvisatore and the play The Bride’s Tragedy (pr., pb. 1822), appeared when he was very young. The poems were published at Oxford; the play appeared on the London stage.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Thomas Lovell Beddoes was recognized during his lifetime as a promising young lyrical dramatist who never fulfilled the early expectations he raised. The one volume of poems and the single play—virtually all his work to be published during his lifetime—appeared while he was an undergraduate. They attracted sufficient attention to earn him the acquaintance and support of a small circle of London literary figures including Mary Shelley and William Godwin. Throughout the remainder of his life, however, Beddoes became increasingly aloof from literary “insiders.” He gained a modest notoriety on the Continent for the fiery radicalism which caused him repeated conflicts with the authorities.

In the twentieth century, a number of scholars returned to Beddoes’s work (most of it unpublished before his death, much of it never finished) with a new seriousness which gave him a firm though not exalted reputation among late Romantic (or early Victorian) writers. Beddoes is no longer seen as a mere anachronism, writing Elizabethan plays out of their time. Rather, he is seen as a man of deeply romantic temperament who tried to ground his commitment to the imagination in a rigorously scientific account of the human faculties. His failure to integrate these opposing tendencies resulted in strong tensions which generated a few powerful poetic characters and a poignant imagery in his work. The same tensions perhaps also contributed to the mood of despair which ended in his suicide.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Baker, John Haydn. “’Toms Lacoon’: A Newly Discovered Poem by Thomas Lovell Beddoes.” Victorian Poetry 40, no. 3 (Fall, 2002): 261. Discusses a newly discovered poem that has Beddoes’s characteristically ghoulish depictions of death.

Berns, Ute, and Michael Bradshaw, eds. The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2007. Contains many essays on Beddoes and his works, with several on Death’s Jest-Book and The Bride’s Tragedy.

Bradshaw, Michael. Resurrection Songs: The Poetry of Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2001. A critical analysis and interpretation of the poetry of Beddoes, looking at the poet’s obsession with immortality and the fragmentation that characterizes his work.

Donner, H. W. The Browning Box: Or, The Life and Works of Thomas Lovell Beddoes. London: Oxford University Press, 1935. A collection of letters about Beddoes’s life and poetry, by friends and admirers. The odd title refers to the box of materials given to Robert Browning after Beddoes’s death.

_______. Thomas Lovell Beddoes: The Making of a Poet. 1935. Reprint. Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1970. This comprehensive study of Beddoes’s life and times balances biography with literary interpretation. Contains an informative introduction on nineteenth century theater and the influence of Elizabethan drama on Romantic poetry. A conclusion summarizes Beddoes’s aesthetics. Illustrated.

Snow, Royall H. Thomas Lovell Beddoes: Eccentric and Poet. 1928. Reprint. Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1970. This early biographical study concentrates on the poet’s morbidity as his defining characteristic. Somewhat dated, especially in the ways it deals with the literature. Contains an annotated bibliography of Beddoes’s books and periodical publications.

Thompson, James R. Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Boston: Twayne, 1985. A useful critical introduction to Beddoes. Includes a brief biography, a chronology, and a selected bibliography. Follows Beddoes’s career from the early poems of Shelleyan and gothic derivation, through his growing interest in Jacobean drama and his satiric verse dramas, to his mature work obsessed with death.