Thomas Talfourd

Thomas Talfourd

Thomas Talfourd, the son of Edward Talfourd, a brewer, and his wife, Ann Nood Talfourd, was born at Reading, Berkshire, on 26th May 1795.

After studying with private tutors he was educated at the recently founded protestant dissenters' grammar school in Mill Hill (1808–10) before transferring to a local grammar school (1810–12), where he became head boy. It has been claimed that Talfourd was deeply influenced by his headmaster, Dr Richard Valpy, who encouraged his enthusiasms for literature and for good causes. (1)

Talfourd's family's economic circumstances meant that he could not attend university. On the advice of Henry Brougham he decided on a legal career. In 1813 he joined the chambers of Joseph Chitty in the Inner Temple. He continued his interest in literature and his play, Freemasonry, or, More Secrets than One, was performed in 1815. But he was simultaneously becoming involved with philanthropic causes, He also became involved in the campaign against the pillory. (2)

Thomas Talfourd also became involved in politics and on 19th October 1819, he gave a passionate speech in defence of the right of public assembly, in protest against the Peterloo Massacre. He also supported universal male suffrage the total abolition of slavery and was in favour of women's rights. Over the next few years he became a significant figure in the fight for equality. (3)

In 1821 Talfourd was called to the bar and joined the Oxford circuit and Berkshire sessions. According to his biographer, Edith Hall: "In 1822 he contracted a happy marriage to Rachel, eldest daughter of John Towill Rutt, a nonconformist minister. She was fiercely unfashionable and regarded as a lovable eccentric. They had several children; Talfourd was heartbroken in 1824 by the death in infancy of their first child, a son, and by the death of another son, Charles (named after Lamb), in 1837. But he was devoted to Mary and Kate, their daughters, and especially to Francis (Frank) Talfourd (1828–1862), their surviving son." (4)

Talfourd reported on legal cases for The Times and contributed essays to The New Law Journey and The New Monthly Magazine. He also wrote about drama and literature in The Edinburgh Review. During this period he became friends with leading literary figures such as Charles Lamb, Douglas William Jerrold, William Makepeace Thackeray, William Macready, Daniel Maclise and John Forster. (5)

On 7th January, 1835, Talfourd was elected to represent Reading in the House of Commons. He was on the left-wing of the Liberal Party and was a leading campaigner for progressive causes. According to Ray Strachey, he "was a man whose knowledge, honesty and motives no one could impeach." (6)

Talfourd continued to write for the theatre and had a great success with his play Ion, that was first performed at the Covent Garden Theatre on 26th May 1836. Cornelius Conway Felton, professor of Greek literature at Harvard University, declared it a masterpiece, and it was often revived in the American commercial theatre.At the time it was considered a very dangerous play as it featured a hero, King of Argos, who declares himself a republican, disbands the army and makes the people promise never to re-establish the monarchy. (7)

During this period Talfourd became involved in one of the most important legal cases of the 19th century. In June 1836 George Norton brought a case for criminal conversation (adultery) between his wife, Caroline Norton, and William Lamb, Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, to the courts, suing Melbourne for £10,000 in damages. The case began on 22nd June 1836. Two of George Norton's servants gave evidence that they believed Caroline and Lord Melbourne had been having an affair. Caroline had been prepared for lies but what appalled her was "the loathsome coarseness and invention of circumstances which made me a shameless wretch." One maid testified that she had been "painting her face and sinning with various gentlemen" in the same week that she gave birth to her third child. (8)

Three letters written by Melbourne to Caroline were presented in court. The contents of the three letters were very brief: (i) "I will call about half past four". (ii) "How are you? I shall not be able to come today. I shall tomorrow." (iii) "No house today. I will call after the levee. If you wish it later let me know. I will then explain about going to Vauxhall." Sir W. Follett, George Norton's counsel, argued that these letters showed "a great and unwarrantable degree of affection, because they did not begin and end with the words My dear Mrs. Norton."

One pamphlet reported: "One of the servants had seen kisses pass between the parties. She had seen Mrs Norton's arm around Lord Melbourne's neck - had seen her hand upon his knee, and herself kneeling in a posture. In that room (her bedroom) Mrs Norton has been seen lying on the floor, her clothes in a position to expose her person. There are other things too which it is my faithful duty to disclose. I allude to the marks from the consequences of the intercourse between the two parties. I will show you that these marks were seen upon the linen of Mrs Norton." (9)

The jury was unimpressed with the evidence presented in court and Follett's constant demands for the "payment of damages to his client" and Norton's witnesses were unreliable. Without calling any of the witnesses who would have proved Caroline's innocence the jury threw the case out. However, the case had destroyed Caroline's reputation and ruined and her friendship with Lord Melbourne. He refused to see her and Caroline wrote to him that it had destroyed her hope of "quietly taking my place in the past with your wife Mrs Lamb." (10)

Despite Norton's defeat in court, he still had the power to deny Caroline access to her children. She pointed out: "After the adultery trial was over, I learnt the law as to my children - that the right was with the father; that neither my innocence nor his guilt could alter it; that not even his giving them into the hands of a mistress, would give me any claim to their custody. The eldest was but six years old, the second four, the youngest two and a half, when we were parted. I wrote, therefore, and petitioned the father and husband in whose power I was, for leave to see them - for leave to keep them, till they were a little older. Mr. Norton's answer was, that I should not have them; that if I wanted to see them, I might have an interview with them at the chambers of his attorney. What I suffered on my children's account, none will ever know or measure. Norton held my children as hostages, he felt that while he had them, he still had power over me that nothing could control." (11)

Caroline wrote to Lord Melbourne, who continued to refuse to see her in case it caused another political scandal: "God forgive you, for I do believe no one, young or old, ever loved another better than I loved you... I will do nothing foolish or indiscreet - depend on it - either way it is all a blank to me. I don't much care how it ends... I have always the memory of how you received me that day, and I have the conviction that I have no further power than he allows me, over my boys. You and they were my interests in life. No future can ever wipe out the past - nor renew it." (12)

Caroline wrote a pamphlet explaining the unfairness of this entitled The Natural Claim of a Mother to the Custody of her Children as affected by the Common Law Rights of the Father (1837): Caroline argued that under the present law, a father had absolute rights and a mother no rights at all, whatever the behaviour of the husband. In fact, the law gave the husband the legal right to desert his wife and hand over his children to his mistress. For the first time in history, a woman had openly challenged this law that discriminated against women. (13)

Caroline Norton now began a campaign to get the law changed. Abraham Hayward recommended that she approached Thomas Talfourd. Caroline wrote enthusiastically to Mary Shelley: "I asked Mr Hayward to request him to undertake the task. I hardly hoped for such proper acquiescence; and if I had to choose from the whole House of Commons, I could not choose a man whose talent, good feeling and weight with the House would give a better or so good a chance of success." (14)

Thomas Talfourd agreed to Caroline's request to introduce a bill into Parliament which allowed mothers, against whom adultery had not been proved, to have the custody of children under seven, with rights of access to older children. "He was driven to do this by some personal experiences of his own, for in the course of his professional career he had twice been counsel for husbands resisting the claims of their wives, and had both times won his case in accordance with law and in violation of his sense of justice." (15)

Talfourd told Caroline about the case of Mrs Greenhill, "a young woman of irreproachable virtue". A mother of three daughters aged two to six, she found out her husband was living in adultery with another woman. She applied to the Ecclesiastical Court for a divorce. At the courts of King's Bench it was decided that she wife must not only deliver up the children, but that the husband had a right to debar the wife of all access to them. The Vice-Chancellor said that "however bad and immoral Mr Greenhill's conduct might be... the Court of Chancery had no authority to interfere with the common law right of the father, and no power to order that Mrs. Greenhill should even see her children". (16)

Talfourd highlighted the Greenhill case in the debate that took place over his proposed legislation. The bill was passed in the House of Commons in May 1838 by 91 to 17 votes (a very small attendance in a house of 656 members). Lord Thomas Denman, who was also the judge in the Greenhill case, made a passionate speech in favour of the bill in the House of Lords. Denman argued: "In the case of King v Greenhill, which was decided in 1836 before myself and the rest of the judges of the Court of the King's Bench, I believe there was not one judge who did not feel ashamed of the state of the law, and that it was such as to render it odious in the eyes of the country." (17)

Despite this speech the House of Lords rejected the bill by two votes. Very few members bothered to attend the debate that took place in the early hours of the morning. Caroline Norton remarked bitterly: "You cannot get Peers to sit up to three in the morning listening to the wrongs of separated wives." (18)

Talfourd was disgusted by the vote and published this response: "Because nature and reason point out the mother as the proper guardian of her infant child, and to enable a profligate, tyrannical, or irritated husband to deny her, at his sole and uncontrolled caprice, all access to her children, seems to me contrary to justice, revolting to humanity, and destructive of those maternal and filial affections which are among the best and surest cements of society." (19)

Caroline Norton now wrote another pamphlet, A Plain Letter to the Lord Chancellor on the Law of Custody of Infants. A copy was sent to every member of Parliament and in 1839 Talfourd tried again. The opponents of the proposed legislation spread rumours that Talfourd and Caroline "were lovers and that he had only became involved with the issue because of their sexual intimacy". (20)

The journal, The British and Foreign Review published a long and insulting attack in which it called Caroline Norton a "she devil" and a "she beast" and "coupled her name with Mr Talfourd in a most impertinent way." Norton wanted to prepare a legal action only to discover that as a married woman, she could not sue. She later wrote: "I have learned the law respecting married women piecemeal, by suffering every one of its defects of protection". (21)

Thomas Talfourd reintroduced the bill in 1839. It was passed by the Commons and this time he received the help in the Lords from John Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst. "By the law of England, as it now stood, the father had an absolute right to the custody of his children, and to take them from the mother. However pure might be the conduct of the mother - however amiable, however correct in all the relations of life, the father might, if he thought proper, exclude her from all access to the children, and might do this from the most corrupt motives. He might be a man of the most profligate habits; for the purpose of extorting money, or in order to induce her to concede to his profligate conduct, he might exclude her from all access to their common children, and the course of law would afford her no redress: That was the state of the law as it at present existed. Need he state that it was a cruel law - that it was unnatural - that it was tyrannous - that it was unjust?" (22)

The main opposition came from George Norton's friend, William Best, 1st Lord Wynford. He argued that the proposed bill went against the best interests of men: "To give the custody of the child to the father, and to allow access to it by the mother, was to injure the child for it was natural to expect that the mother would not instill into the child any respect for the husband whom she might hate or despise. The effects of such a system would be most mischevious to the child, and would prevent its being properly brought up. If the husband was a bad man, the access to the children might not do harm, but where the fault lay with the wife, or where she was of a bad disposition, she could seriously injure its future prospects.... In his belief, where the measure, as it stood, would relieve one woman, it would ruin 100 children". (23)

Despite the protests of some politicians, the Custody of Children Act was passed in August 1839. "This act gave custody of children under seven to the mother (provided she had not been proven in court to have committed adultery) and established the right of the non-custodial parent to access to the child. The act was the first piece of legislation to undermine the patriarchal structures of English law and has subsequently been hailed as the first success of British feminism in gaining equal rights for women". (24)

The novelist, Charles Dickens, was a regular visitor to the Talfourd home. He recalled: "If there ever was a house… where every art was honoured for its own sake, and where every visitor was received for his own claims and merits, that house was his... Rendering all legitimate deference to rank and riches, there never was a man more composedly, unaffectedly, quietly, immovable by such considerations... On the other hand, nothing would have astonished him so much as the suggestion that he was anyone's patron." (25)

The two men became very close, although Talfourd was seventeen years older than Dickens. They shared an interest in the theatre, journalism and politics. Talfourd had an unfortunate inability to pronounce his "r"s, a habit which Dickens used to imitate and mock. Peter Ackroyd has commented "He preferred the company of those who in all important respects were inferior to himself but who shared his own interests, and it could fairly be said that he would not have been so much at ease in a society which he could not in a certain sense dominate". (26)

It has been claimed that "Talfourd's personal popularity was the result of outstanding charm and kindness, combined with winning humour and scintillating conversation, which he displayed at his favourite haunt, the Garrick Club. His sophisticated friends were disarmed by the confusing impression he gave of being simultaneously an idealist cosmopolitan and a provincial patriot: he was unashamed of being able to speak no foreign languages, was an enthusiast for English food and drink, and did not visit Europe until he was forty-six". (27)

Encouraged by writers such as Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and William Wordsworth, he campaigned for a new Copyright Act. This was designed to enable the dependants of authors to profit from the sales of their writings after their deaths. Dickens was so pleased with his efforts that he dedicated The Pickwick Papers to Talfourd. (28)

As Robert L. Patten, the author of Charles Dickens and his Publishers (1978) has pointed out: "The 1842 Copyright Act, which Talfourd's friends at last succeeded in getting through a reluctant House, prolonged the copyright term to forty-two years, or seven years after the author's death, which gave some security to writers, but not so much as the French laws, where copyright passed to the widow for her life and to the author's children for twenty years thereafter." (29)

Talfourd retired from the House of Commons to become a judge in 1848. His biographer has argued: "Although not an outstanding judge, he is said to have exercised his responsibilities and duties with good humour, sound judgement, and unimpeachable integrity. His later life was blighted by anxieties caused by his son Frank's debts, failure to take his degree at Christ Church, Oxford, and half-hearted attempts to make a career in law." (30)

Thomas Talfourd died after suffering an apoplectic seizure in Stafford on 13th March 1854.

Although his name is hardly remembered now, Talfourd was an outstanding figure in his day, idealistic, hard-working and effective.... He had protesting against the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, supported universal male suffrage and the total abolition of slavery, steered through the bill giving divorced women custody of their young children, and was currently seeing through the 1842 Copyright Act that for the first time protected authors' earnings in England during their lifetimes and for a period after their death.

As member of parliament Talfourd was responsible for two pieces of important legislation. The Infant Custody Act (1839) modified in mothers' favour the previously unlimited power fathers had exercised over their children, giving the court discretion to award custody of children under seven years of age to the mother in cases of separation or divorce, provided she was not guilty of adultery. In 1837, encouraged by Wordsworth, Talfourd delivered a brilliant speech introducing the Copyright Act. Although it did not become law until 1842, when he was not in parliament, it was known as Talfourd's Act. Dickens applauded this initiative in the touching dedication to Talfourd of The Pickwick Papers (1837). Talfourd also campaigned for the repeal of the Theatrical Patents Act (1843).

Child Labour Simulation (Teacher Notes)

The Chartists (Answer Commentary)

Women and the Chartist Movement (Answer Commentary)

Road Transport and the Industrial Revolution (Answer Commentary)

Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Answer Commentary)

Robert Owen and New Lanark (Answer Commentary)

James Watt and Steam Power (Answer Commentary)

The Domestic System (Answer Commentary)

The Luddites: 1775-1825 (Answer Commentary)

The Plight of the Handloom Weavers (Answer Commentary)

(1) Edith Hall, Thomas Talfourd : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Alan Chedzoy, A Scandalous Woman: The Story of Caroline Norton (1992) page 160

(3) Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens (2011) page 91

(4) Edith Hall, Thomas Talfourd : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(5) John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens (1872)

(6) Ray Strachey, The Cause: A History of the Women's Movement in Great Britain (1928) page 37

(7) Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens (2011) page 91

(8) Margaret Forster, Significant Sisters (1984) page 32

(9) Extraordinary Trial, Norton v Viscount Melbourne for Criminal Conversation (22nd June, 1836)

(10) James O. Hodge and Clarke Olney, Letters of Caroline Norton to Lord Melbourne (1974) page 83

(11) Caroline Norton, English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century (1854)

(12) Diane Atkinson, The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton (2013) page 166

(13) Caroline Norton, The Natural Claim of a Mother to the Custody of her Children as affected by the Common Law Rights of the Father (1837)

(14) Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald, The Lives of the Sheridans (1886) page 433

(15) Ray Strachey, The Cause: A History of the Women's Movement in Great Britain (1928) page 38

(16) Margaret Forster, Significant Sisters (1984) page 34

(17) Ray Strachey, The Cause: A History of the Women's Movement in Great Britain (1928) page 38

(18) Jane Gray Perkins, The Life of Mrs Norton (1910) page 146

(19) Sir Thomas Talfourd, statement (August, 1837)

(20) Diane Atkinson, The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton (2013) page 261

(21) Caroline Norton, English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century (1854)

(22) John Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst, speech in the House of Lords (18th July, 1839)

(23) William Best, 1st Lord Wynford, speech in the House of Lords (18th July, 1839)

(24) K. D. Reynolds, Caroline Norton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(25) Edith Hall, Thomas Talfourd : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(26) Peter Ackroyd, Dickens (1990) page 212

(27) Edith Hall, Thomas Talfourd : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(28) Alan Chedzoy, A Scandalous Woman: The Story of Caroline Norton (1992) page 160

(29) Robert L. Patten, Charles Dickens and his Publishers (1978) page 19

(30) Edith Hall, Thomas Talfourd : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)


Bible Encyclopedias

SIR THOMAS NOON TALFOURD (1795-1854), English judge and author, the son of a brewer in good circumstances, was born on the 26th of May 1795 at Reading (not, as is sometimes stated, at Doxey, near Stafford). He received his early education at Hendon, and at the Reading grammar-school. At the age of eighteen he was sent to London to study law under Joseph Chitty, the special pleader. Early in 1821 he joined the Oxford circuit, having been called to the bar at the middle Temple in the same year. When, fourteen years later, he was created a serjeant-at-law, and when again he in 1849 succeeded Mr. Justice Coltman as judge of the court of common pleas, he attained these distinctions more perhaps for his laborious care in the conduct of cases than on account of any forensic brilliance. At the general election in 1835 he was returned for Reading. This seat he retained for close upon six years, and he was again returned in 1847. In the House of Commons he introduced an International Copyright Bill his speech on this subject was considered the most telling made in the House during that session. The bill met with strong opposition, but Talfourd had the satisfaction of seeing it pass into law in 1842, albeit in a greatly modified form. Dickens dedicated the Pickwick Papers to him.

In his early years in London Talfourd was dependent - in great measure, at least - upon his literary exertions. He was at this period on the staff of the London Magazine, and was an occasional contributor to the Edinburgh and Quarterly reviews, the New Monthly Magazine, and other periodicals while, on joining the Oxford circuit, he acted as law reporter to The Times. His legal writings on matters germane to literature are excellent expositions, animated by a lucid and telling, if not highly polished, style. Among the best of these are his article "On the Principle of Advocacy in the Practice of the Bar" (in the Law Magazine, January 1846) his Proposed New Law of Copyright of the Highest Importance to Authors (1838) Three Speeches delivered in the House of Commons in Favour of an Extension of Copyright (1840) and his famous Speech for the Defendant in the Prosecution, the Queen v. Moxon, for the Publication of Shelley's Poetical Works (1841) .

But Talfourd cannot be said to have gained any position among men of letters until the production of his tragedy Ion, which was privately printed in 1835, and produced in the following year at Covent Garden theatre. The tragedy was also well received in America, and was reproduced at Sadler's Wells in December 1861. This dramatic poem, its author's masterpiece, turns upon the voluntary sacrifice of Ion, king of Argos, in response to the Delphic oracle, which had declared that only with the extinction of the reigning family could the prevailing pestilence incurred by the deeds of that family be removed.

Two years later, at the Haymarket theatre, The Athenian Captive was acted with moderate success. In 1839 Glencoe, or the Fate of the Macdonalds, was privately printed, and in 1840 it was produced at the Haymarket but this home drama is inferior to his two classic plays. The Castilian (1853) did not excite a tenth part of the interest called forth by Ion. Before this he had produced various other prose writings, among them his "History of Greek Literature," in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. Talfourd died in court during the performance of his judicial duties, at Stafford, on the 13th of March 1854.

In addition to the writings above-mentioned, Talfourd was the author of The Letters of Charles Lamb, with a Sketch of his Life (1837) Recollections of a First Visit to the Alps (1841) Vacation Rambles and Thoughts, comprising recollections of three Continental tours in the vacations of 1841, 1842, and 1843 (2 vols., 1844) and Final Memorials of Charles Lamb (1849-50).


Sir Thomas Talfourd

All along the northern edge of Whiteknights Park lies Whiteknights Road and towards the last stretch of this are a number of quiet residential roads: Green Road, Melrose Avenue, Talfourd Avenue, Belle Avenue, Earley Hill Roads and Holmes Road. Talfourd Avenue is named after Sir Thomas Talfourd.

He was born on the 26th. May 1795 one of eight children born to a Edward Talfourd wealthy Reading brewer, his mother being the daughter of Thomas Noon the Minister of the Independent Chapel in Reading. He was educated at Reading School under the famous Dr Valpy. It was here that he showed his literary and organising talents. He published his first work (by Longmans) "Poems on Various Sub jects" including "Educating The Poor", "An Indian Tale" and "The Offering of Isaac". In March 1813 he made his first public appearance as a speaker to the Reading Bible Society.

On leaving school he became a pupil of Mr. Joseph Chitty an eminent lawyer and it was at that time that he published "An Appeal To The Protestant Dissenter of Great Britain On Behalf of the Catholics"- this perhaps being an early indication of his later radical liberalism and sense of fair play and justice. In 1815 at the age of 20 he published his first work which was also reprinted in America: 𠇊n Estimate of the Poetry of the Age”

In 1822 he married Rachel daughter of John Towill Rutt by whom he had three children His eldest son Francis was also a barrister and playwright.

He was called to the Bar by the Society of the Middle Temple in 1821 and joined the Oxford Circuit and gradually climbed through the legal profession, becoming a judge in 1848. Among his many celebrated cause for which he undertook defence was the proprietors of The True Sun Newspaper for libel and of Taits Magazine for libel, and of Moxon the publisher who was prosecuted for publishing an edition of Shelley which contained the aetheistical portions of “Queen Mab”

In 1844 he was made a Doctor of Common Law by the University of Oxford. And he was knighted in 1850 and soon afterwards elevated to the Bench. In 1850 he was made Justice to the Court of Common Pleas.

Among the best of his legal writings are his article "On the Principle of Advocacy in the Practice of the Bar" (in the Law Magazine, January 1846)

He also wrote plays, poetry and journalism. His early farce Freemasonry, or More secrets was performed at the Old Theatre in Friar Street in 1815. His political tragedy Ion (1836), which championed democracy and republicanism, was very popular in both Britain and America.

Talfourd supplemented his meagre income by contributing to The London Magazine , The Quarterly Review , The Edinburgh Review , The Retrospecive Review and The Encyclopaedia Metropolitana and The New Monthly Magazine even after 1821, he contributed regularly to The Times on legal matters. The other literary works of Talfourd include: The Athenian Caoptive- a Tragedy”, “Glencoe- A Tragedy”, a volume of “Poems” and “Vacation Ramble”- a journal of a tour in Europe. He also wrote the ife and edited the Remains of Charles Lamb and of Hazlett. He left behind him several manuscripts and sonnets.

He also wrote 𠇊n Estimate of the Poetry of the Age” in which he also championed the ageing Wordsworth who by that time was subject to unmerciful ridicule. He was also a regular contributor to The Edinburgh Review.

His lietary talents became more widely appreciated with the release, upon the iring of friends after private readings, of the work Ion: Ion, which was privately printed in 1835, and produced in the following year at Covent Garden theatre. The tragedy was also well received in America, and was reproduced at Sadler's Wells in December 1861. This dramatic poem, its author's masterpiece, turns upon the voluntary sacrifice of Ion, king of Argos, in response to the Delphic oracle, which had declared that only with the extinction of the reigning family could the prevailing pestilence incurred by the deeds of that family be removed.

Reading MP and Great Reformer

He was MP for Reading (1835-1841, 1847-1849), These years were the days before universal suffrage and the latter Chartist Movement. The Great Reform Act of 1832 which initiated partial universal suffrage. But with the French Revolution in full swing the British establishment was nervous of anything which spark such trends here. Even after the Napoleonic War ended in 1815, the hardline continued.

Talfourds political career began in 1819 with a speech in Reading Town Hall proclaiming the right of public assembly in defiance of the recent Peterloo massacre. Reading MP from 1836-41 and in 1847-8, he was a radical liberal, campaigning for universal suffrage and black emancipation in the West Indies.

He also introduced and championed an International Copyright Bill, and his Proposed New Law of Copyright of the Highest Importance to Authors (1838) Three Speeches delivered in the House of Commons in Favour of an Extension of Copyright (1840) are the basis of our current laws, giving authors secure rights to their works.

Another act he was responsible for was the Infant Custody of Children Act (1839), which for the first time allowed the possibility of granting custody of children to the mother rather than the father as had traditionally been the case. He was famous for his literary dinners and knew all the writers of his day such as Charles Lamb, Mary Mitford and William Makepeace Thackeray.

Talfourd in David Copperfeld

Talfourd was in particular a great friend of Charles Dickens, who dedicated Pickwick Papers to him because of his work on copyright, and the character Tommy Traddles in David Copperfield is based on him.Although Dickens and Talfourd were not contemporaries or schoolmates as were David Copperfield and Tommy Traddles, in his personal diligence, gentle disposition, and journalistic output, Talfourd does indeed seem to resemble Traddles .

Although the pair met in 1836 through the agency of novelist Harrison Ainsworth (who also introduced Dickens to both John Forster and Count d'Orsay), their relationship was cemented by their common interest in the May 1837 draft of his copyright bill, which finally passed into law five years later. In his copyright suit against Peter Parley's Illuminated Library for its piracy of A Christmas Carol (1843), Talfourd represented Dickens, who beat the pirate but found it was a mere Pyrrhic victory as Talfourd was unable to collect any damages from the bankrupt publishers.

A mark of the strength of their early friendship was Dickens's dedicating the September 1837 volume edition of The Pickwick Papers . Some seventeen years older than Dickens, Talfourd was a friend of the great literary lights of the Romantic era: actor-manager William Macready, poets Coleridge and Wordsworth, and the essayist Lamb. By the autumn of 1836 Talfourd was moving in a younger circle of artists and writers, including the painters Maclise and Stanfield, critics Jerdan and Forster, Dickens, and that Romantic hold-over, the editor Leigh Hunt. Talfourd's attempts to re-establish blank verse drama with such tragedies as Ion (1836, Covent Garden) and The Athenian Captive two years later (The Haymarket), and Glencoe, or the Fate of the Macdonalds (1840, The Haymarket) failed, despite the support of both Dickens and Macready. Talfourd proposed Dickens for membership in the Athenaeum Club, and brought him into the established London literary circles of Holland and Gore House.

In 1846 he and his wife visited the Dickenses in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in 1849 Talfourd met Dickens at Bonchurch, a seaside visit to which Dickens alludes fondly in his final reminiscence of the kindly lawyer. Although his own generation remembered Talfourd as a brilliant writer on legal issues and the editor of The Letters of Charles Lamb with a Sketch of His Life (1837), Final Memorials of Charles Lamb (1849-50), and his 1838 copyright bill, Proposed New Law of Copyright of the Highest Importance to Authors , those who read David Copperfield unwittingly celebrated his sterling qualities in the character of Tommy Traddles. Despite any substantive evidence to support the identification, it is universally recognized that the novelist based the character of Tommy Traddles on Talfourd, for whom Dickens published a laudatory obituary in Household Words on 25 March 1854.

Appropriately, as Dickens implies in his obituary, Talfourd was seized with an apoplectic fit while addressing a Stafford jury from the judge's bench, and died shortly afterward. He was buried at West Norwood Cemetery among the local dignitaries and lawyers who formed the body of mourners was 42-year-old Charles Dickens.

He appears to have been very well liked and respected in all quarters and professions. A gentle, caring and diligent yet valiant man and staunch defender of justice, and freedom . A snippet form his work Ion may serve as an obituary:

From its mysterious urn a sacred stream,

In whose calm depth the beautiful and pure

Alone are mirrored which, though shapes of ill

May hover round its surface, glides in light,

"Gentleman is a term which does not apply to any station, but to the mind and the feelings in every station."

"Fill the seats of justice

not so absolute in goodness

As to forget what human frailty is"

"Sympathy is the first great lesson which man should learn. It will be ill for him if he proceeds no farther if his emotions are but excited to roll back on his heart, and to be fostered in luxurious quiet. But unless he learns to feel for things in which he has no personal interest, he can achieve nothing generous or noble."


Thomas Talfourd - History

For many, Christmas just isn't Christmas without a dose of Dickens, so this month we look at the man himself, arguably Middle Temple's most prominent literary member, and his relationship with the Inn and its members.

Portrait of Charles Dickens (MT.19/POR/196)

Charles Dickens was born in 1812, and had a complex and somewhat haphazard childhood, including a spell in a shoe-blacking factory following his father's incarceration in the Marshalsea debtor's prison. He worked as a political journalist from the early 1830s, and during this period occupied chambers in Furnival's Inn, one of the old Inns of Chancery, in Holborn (on the site of the present-day Holborn Bars building). The Inns of Chancery were small institutions, which had traditionally served as preparatory schools for the Inns of Court, although Furnival's Inn had, by this point, been disbanded as an institution and survived only as a group of chambers buildings. A lantern slide in the archive illustrates Dickens's building (since destroyed), and the Inn is described in Martin Chuzzlewit as 'a shady, quiet place. rather monotonous and gloomy on summer evenings'.

Lantern slide of Dickens's chambers in Furnival's Inn (MT.19/SLI/123)

By the time Dickens was joined the Inn, he had already achieved an appreciable degree of literary success, having published The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby , to increasing acclaim. Despite this growing prominence in the world of letters, he was admitted to the Inn on 6 December 1839 for a 'fine' of £4. His true intentions regarding the legal profession remain unclear, as it was nearly a decade before he even began to eat the dinners requisite for Call to the Bar, but some desire to emulate Henry Fielding, an earlier literary Middle Templar, and become a magistrate has been suggested.

Admission of Charles Dickens, Admissions to House and Chambers, 6 December 1839 (MT.3/AHC/8)

On admission Dickens signed a bond - essentially a legal document, signed additionally by two supporters (or 'bondsmen') of the new member who in doing so declared that they would cover any outstanding debts owed by the member in the event of their death, withdrawal or absconding. Dickens's bondsmen were Edward Chapman, his Strand-based publisher, and Thomas Noon Talfourd, a judge and himself a Middle Templar.

An older man, Talfourd was a close friend of Dickens's for many years - and indeed The Pickwick Papers had been dedicated to him. Tommy Traddles, a character in David Copperfield, is sometimes said to have been modelled on Talfourd, and his children Kate and Frank (also a Middle Templar) are suggested to have inspired the two children so named in Nicholas Nickleby . Talfourd's portrait hangs in the Inn, just outside the entrance to the Queen's Room.

Portrait of Thomas Noon Talfourd

The environment of the courts, chambers and passageways of the Inns of Court undoubtedly informed many of Dickens' most atmospheric settings. Much of the action of Bleak House , for example, takes place in Lincoln's Inn and the surrounding area. Two key landmarks of the Middle Temple also feature prominently in his work. The fountain in Fountain Court, little changed now from Dickens' day, appears at an important moment in Martin Chuzzlewit, being where Westlock and Ruth meet, while Ruth's brother Tom is working in a set of chambers nearby. It is described thus: 'Merrily the fountain leaped and danced, and merrily the smiling dimples twinkled and expanded more and more, until they broke into a laugh against the basin's rim, and vanished'. Not every feature of the surrounding court was painted in such a positive light, however, as Dickens also draws attention to the 'slow vegetation of Fountain Court', the 'smoky shrubs' and the 'uncongenial pavement of the court'.

Engraving of the Fountain, 19th Century (MT.19/ILL/E4/13)

Before the construction of the Victoria Embankment in the 1860s, Middle Temple Lane led directly to the Thames via the 'Temple Stairs' - a mooring place for boats which had been present in various forms since the days of the Templars. The stairs feature prominently in Great Expectations - Pip keeps his boat here for much of the narrative, and it is from here that he and Magwitch make their nocturnal bid for escape.

Engraving of the Temple Stairs (MT.19/SLI/17)

Over the course of his many years of student membership, Dickens paid his fees and duties with reasonable diligence, as is indicated by his entry in the Students' Ledger covering 1834-1852. In 1848 he paid a deposit of £100 in order to start keeping Commons (dining in the Inn), one of the primary qualifications for Call to the Bar (such newfangled innovations as examinations and lectures would not be introduced formally for another few years). The Buttery Books, which list the names of those dining in Hall, record that he dined on several occasions with Frank Talfourd, the son of his bondsman and friend Thomas.

Lists of those dining in Grand Week, Easter Term 1850, including Charles Dickens, Buttery Book (MT.7/BUB/7)

Nonetheless, in 1855 Dickens decided to withdraw from membership of the Middle Temple. By this point, of course, he had become immensely successful and world-famous, having published some of his most prominent works, including Bleak House , Hard Times , and, of course, A Christmas Carol . This latter work had been described by Dickens' fellow literary Middle Templar William Makepeace Thackeray as 'a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness'. Dickens submitted a petition to the Inn's Parliament in which he stated at that at the time of his admission 'he did not foresee that Literature as a Profession would so entirely engross his time and become the business of his life', as it of course had. He requested to withdraw from the Inn, and to have back the £100 deposit paid in 1848.

Detail from the petition of Charles Dickens to withdraw from the Inn, 1855 (MT.3/MEM/57)

Parliament met on 20 April 1855, and the petition was laid before the Benchers. It was a busy meeting - on the same evening, they discussed the dinner hour for Grand Day, ordered the polishing of the marble columns in Temple Church, and rejected the petition from the local postmen to be allowed their Christmas boxes, of which they had been deprived the previous year. Dickens, however, fared better than the unfortunate posties: his petition was granted and his deposit of £100 was returned to him - worth about £6,000 in today's money. A receipt for the sum survives in the archive, bearing his signature.

Receipt signed by Charles Dickens for the sum of £100 deposit returned to him by the Inn (MT.2/TRB/219)

Dickens' connection with the Inn is remembered to this day. In 2012, in celebration of the bicentenary of his birth, the Inn gave a dinner in the Library and staged a performance in Hall of 'The Trial of Bardell v Pickwick', which had been adapted from the original by Master Arlidge. The menu for dinner featured items taken from a book entitled 'What Shall we Have for Dinner' by Dickens' wife, including 'Doctor Marigold Pudding' and 'Olde English Foole'. The performance starred a number of legal luminaries, including Lord Clarke (the Treasurer of the day) as Pickwick, Master Paul Darling as the Foreman of the Jury, Sir Christopher Rose as Mr Justice Stareleigh and Master Arlidge as Serjeant Buzfuz.

Programme for 'The Trial of Bardell v Pickwick', 2012 (MT.7/GDE/214)

Scene from 'The Trial of Bardell v Pickwick', 2012 (MT.7/GDE/214)

Doubtless the name of Dickens will inspire further commemorations and celebrations in the future, and continue to evoke a Middle Temple of years gone by - that world of dingy chambers and foggy courts, playful fountains and waterborne escapes, can still be remembered and felt today as one explores the precincts of the Inn.


History of Greek literature

Early Greek poetry Tragic poets of Greece, with a view of the Greek tragedy Chorus in ancient tragedy Lyric poets of Greece Old comedy of Greece Middle and new comedy of Greece Ionic Logographers Greek historians Greek orators Greek pastoral poetry Philological notes Greek literary chronology Index

Addeddate 2007-10-31 00:19:53 Call number AEQ-9194 Camera 1Ds Copyright-evidence Evidence reported by [email protected] for item historyofgreekli00talfuoft on October 31, 2007: no visible notice of copyright stated date is 1849. Copyright-evidence-date 20071031001947 Copyright-evidence-operator [email protected] Copyright-region US External-identifier urn:oclc:record:1046526308 Foldoutcount 0 Identifier historyofgreekli00talfuoft Identifier-ark ark:/13960/t5q817x8p Lcamid 327166 Openlibrary_edition OL7102419M Openlibrary_work OL16328809W Pages 436 Possible copyright status NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT Ppi 400 Rcamid 331217 Scandate 20071106190416 Scanner ias7 Scanningcenter uoft

Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre 1660-1914

In my record collection for a number of years has been a box of Purcell’s Theatre Music. Much of this music is well known and often performed. The plays that these songs and interludes were written for, on the other hand, have largely vanished from view. Purcell’s ‘Music for a while’, for example, is noted with few further details as coming ‘Oedipus’. These are the plays that concern Hall and Macintosh (H-M) in this major account of the influence of Greek tragedy on drama in English. They say the subject matter of the book has slipped down “a vast chasm yawning between disciplines”. Certainly these plays, which had significant impacts in their own times, have mostly disappeared, are almost never performed and even the texts are difficult to find. The Oedipus to which Purcell contributed the songs for the revival in 1692 turns out to be by Dryden with Nathaniel Lee and first performed in 1678, though in comparison with Dryden’s other works it is little read. When we read the account of how Sophocles’ original play was banned from the London stage by the Lord Chamberlain because of its references to incest this neglect begins to fall into place. Bernard Shaw, Gilbert Murray, Harley Granville Barker and others mounted a public campaign in 1909 against the ban, which led to the staging of Oedipus Tyrannus in Murray’s translation by Max Reinhardt at Covent Garden in 1912. This journey, from Dryden and Lee in the late seventeenth century to Euripides on the London stage at the outbreak of the First World War, via Restoration Tragedy, classical burlesque and school and university productions in the original Greek, forms the narrative journey of the book. H-M thus take on theatre history, the socio-political history of the period, and English literature, but all from the point of view of the discipline of Classics. They say, in reference to Shaw’s Major Barbara and Euripides, “discussion . . . is generally confined to questions of what the moderns did to the ancients” they on the other hand wish to reverse this and say, “the focus will be on the . . . ways in which Greek drama exerted a profound influence on the modern play of ideas”. This is the thread that runs through the book: to investigate this literature from the direction of Classics and to reclaim for the discipline an area neglected by others. In this way, Classics is seen here to be making a real contribution to these other disciplines and theatre historians and cultural and literary critics will be consulting this book regularly. In addition, Classicists themselves have much to find here: to reach an authentic interpretation of the original Greek texts they must be aware of the ways in which performance history and contemporary reception of these texts have affected the scholarly opinion which Classics today is heir to.

The material is organised chronologically into separate chapters each taking a Greek play and its socio-historical context. This treatment traces the rise and fall in popularity of certain plays at different moments. Euripides’ Ion, for example, became prominent first in 1754 in an adaptation by William Whitehead (called Creusa, Queen of Athens) and then again in Thomas Talfourd’s version (Ion) a century later. The tale of the foundling Ion in the 1750s is associated with the charitable movement of Thomas Coram to care for abandoned children at his Foundling Hospital (in which Handel and Hogarth were also active), but by the 1850s Talfourd’s version is connected to the movement for reform and the transfer of power from the aristocracy to the people. This plot finally comes into the mainstream of modern drama when Oscar Wilde incorporated it into The Importance of being Earnest. Other chapters treat Iphigenia and Electra as regular early heroines, always in Sophocles and Euripides, Aeschylus having to wait for his impact to be felt. Eventually the questioning of the position of women in society led to the foregrounding of Medea as the archetypal figure for the Victorian woman. She receives a chapter of her own where nineteenth century marriage legislation is considered in parallel. The book as a whole contains a bewildering cast of fascinating characters not all well known now, but many significant persons in their own time. After Dryden in the first chapter, we pass through less familiar territory until reaching firmer ground at the end of the nineteenth century.

The line taken for the examination of each play in its context is firmly historicist. The theme of the play in question is shown to have been adapted and moulded to fit the ideas and morals of the age in which it is being performed. The eighteenth century’s view of women is reflected in their versions of Euripides, but the female characters’ attitudes to sex had to be softened to fit in with contemporary ideas of modesty. The so-called She-Tragedy with its female actors in leading roles appealed to the women who made up a significant part of the audience, but their actions were changed so that the audience are spared the worst crimes of Euripides’ heroines. This approach is always relevant to productions of Greek tragedy (many saw references to the allied invasion of Iraq in a recent production of Euripides’ Hecuba), and there has to be a reason for theatre managers to turn to these plays again and again. These reasons may be drawn from a whole range of socio-political phenomena, and H-M show how the distant mythological figures can provide shifting parallels over the different periods for each new set of ideas to attach itself to.

Classics has its difficulties in some countries with a reputation for elitism. H-M deal with this in their chapters on the way Greek Tragedy was associated with radical politics. They show that, far from being the sole preserve of the educated and conservative upper classes, classical tragedy could be identified with quite different causes. In the 1820s with the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, theatres reflected the struggle in a number of plays including an Orestes in Argos, with the hero firmly portrayed as a tyrant-slayer. Thomas Talfourd was a man of modest background from Reading who identified with Whig politics and became a Member of Parliament and magistrate. He introduced the Infant Custody Act giving women for the first time rights over the custody of their own children. Yet this radicalism did not prevent him from turning to Greek tragedy to exemplify his views and he produced the successful version of Euripides’ Ion. Later, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the group around Shaw and Murray used tragedy to create the new drama with its radical edge. Murray was to first to use Euripides’ Trojan Woman to criticise the British treatment of the Boer women and children in the Boer War, much as Sartre was to use the same play to criticise the French government’s actions in the Algerian War in the 1950s. These sections of the book ought to help change the impression that Classics has always been a conservative subject and to show it can be adopted by all shades of opinion at different stages in history.

Those of us who work with young people in the theatre will be heartened by the attention given to school based productions of Greek tragedy in the nineteenth century. Greek tragedy is well suited to student performance as it provides plenty of female parts for the volunteer actors. Not all classic plays are so accommodating, and finding enough men and turning down women is often a tricky problem. This was not a concern for Richard Valpy at Reading and Samuel Parr at Stanmore when they put on Oedipus and Alcestis among other plays with their boys. These plays inspired their participating actors and their audiences to imagine what it was actually like to be Greek and to experience a tragedy as its original audience had done. These performances, vividly described here in detail from obscure archive material, had considerable influence on many, such as Talfourd and Shelley, who went on to create their own versions.

The tragic chorus over the time span covered is a recurring element and is an excellent example of the way our modern conceptions of these vital passages have been moulded over the years. The difficulty of staging a chorus effectively is nothing new, and one of the major achievements of modern stagings of tragedy has been the way that the chorus has been made to move and live as a single organic unit by Peter Hall and others in their productions. H-M show that at one stage the chorus was felt to be such an embarrassment that it was often cut entirely. They also demonstrate where our view of the Greek tragic chorus, all wailing dolefully in statuesque poses, comes from. (This is the sort of thing neatly parodied in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite.) Yet as H-M show this is only another interpretation, stemming largely from nineteenth century practice, which Classicists (and theatre audiences) need to put into context.

One of the major rediscoveries of the book for many will be the treatment of Classical burlesque in the Victorian theatre. These were popular shows combining song, dance and comedy based on Classical themes. H-M thoroughly dissect this medium, examining its ideology and questioning whether it shows a popular awareness of and affection for Classical tragedy or a satirical revenge by less well educated people on the “Classical education” of the upper classes. Perhaps both are possible. Parody of tragedy goes right back to Aristophanes whose sharp send-ups of Euripides are based on a deep appreciation of his techniques. We can enjoy a parody of Shakespeare without it implying any form of distaste for his work. There is more work to be done here on this particular art form, perhaps republication of texts and even a stage revival.

In a book covering such a lot of ground there are inevitably areas that lead to further questions. The role of music and opera in the story of tragic performance is beyond the scope of the study, yet one would like more investigation on occasions. Strauss’ Elektra is there in the background of the early twentieth century productions but goes undiscussed (though the authors do say that this has been dealt with by Goldhill 1 ). The role of the chorus in oratorio seems relevant to the discussion of the burlesque, as do the many operas on classical themes including comic treatments such as Handel’s Semele.

The book is well illustrated with many plates of prints, playbills and later photographs. The frontispieces of volumes of the play texts reveal aspects of their productions, as do contemporary paintings of dramatic scenes and of actors in role. Playbills are reproduced providing valuable evidence of performance practice, including the surprising announcement that in 1825 at Covent Garden Orestes in Argos was followed by Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp, on the same bill. By the late nineteenth century, performance history can be supplemented by engravings and photographs of the sets and action. All this is excellently reproduced. Footnotes are in their proper place at the foot of the page and the index (running to 82 pages) is a remarkable tool of reference. It is accompanied by a chronological appendix, which lists all the works and performances appearing in the text and is almost a good read in itself. Slips are very few: capital P for Palace (p.335), and unreadability not unreadablity (p.451 n.55). Some personalities are referred to in different ways: Thomas Talfourd’s son is called both Frank and Francis. Some readers who are not Classicists may be unfamiliar with such abbreviations as the OT and the IA.

The authors say, “If Classics is to find a purpose and role in the third millennium, it needs to ask questions about it purpose and role in past centuries” (Preface ix). This book helps to nudge the discipline in this new direction. However, the scale of the enterprise that attempts to cover such a wide period means that inevitably the full socio-cultural and historical background of each chapter is left unexplored in all details. It may be that the future of reception studies will develop in a different way from this kind of broad survey. In-depth investigations into one particular production of a Greek tragedy with a full and detailed look at all aspects of the culture of the time may be the way ahead in reception studies. Nevertheless this is a major contribution to work done in this area by the Archive of Performance of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford, with the authors’ other work on the performance histories of Agamemnon 2 and Medea 3 , and of modern versions of Greek Tragedy. 4

1. Simon Goldhill, Who Needs Greek? (Oxford 2002).

2. Agamemnon in Performance, 458 BC to AD 2004. Edited by Fiona Macintosh, Pantelis Michelakis, Edith Hall and Oliver Taplin (Oxford 2006).

3. Edith Hall, Fiona Macintosh, Oliver Taplin, Medea in Performance 1500-2000 (Oxford: Legenda, 2000).

4. Dionysus since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium. Edited by Edith Hall, Fiona Macintosh and Amanda Wrigley (Oxford 2005).


In politics

At the general election in 1835 he was elected MP for the Parliamentary Borough of Reading, a result repeated in the general election of 1837. He chose not to run in the general election of 1841, but stood again in the general election of 1847 and was elected. In the House of Commons Talfourd introduced a copyright Bill in 1837, but the dissolution of Parliament in 1837 following the death of William IV meant that it had to be reintroduced in the new Parliament in 1838. By that time, the bill met with strong opposition. Talfourd re-introduced the it again in 1839, 1840 and 1841. It finally became law in 1842, albeit in modified form, and at a time when Talfourd was not in Parliament. Charles Dickens dedicated The Pickwick Papers to Talfourd.


--> Talfourd, Thomas Noon, 1795-1854

From the description of Ion a Tragedy in five Acts : London : contemporary manuscript copy in six secretarial hands, including the dedication to the Rev. Richard Valpy and preface, 1835 Apr. 15. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270580844

From the description of Letter, 1836. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 39632558

English dramatist and poet.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to his friend Christy, 1847 Aug. 17. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270574978

From the description of Autograph letters (3) signed : to Octavri Blewitt, 1845 Jun. 12-1853 Oct. 24. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270580216

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Ralph Square, to Marle, Tuesday [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270575335

From the description of Letters, 1821-1851. (University of Iowa Libraries). WorldCat record id: 233120917

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [London?], to Catherine Dickens, undated. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270576088

From the description of Autograph letter signed : to the Earl of Lichfield?, 1841 Jun. 24. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270576082

Thomas Talfourd, judge, author and politician, began writing poetry while in high school. His first volume of poetry was published in 1811. After high school, he studied law and was called to the bar in 1821. He was appointed judge in the Court of Common Pleas in 1849. During this time, he also served as MP in 1835, 1837 and 1847.

Talfourd also devoted much of his energies to literature. He wrote numerous articles for The Pamphleteer including essays on Charles Lamb. His subsequent meeting with Lamb resulted in his joing the literary circle surrounding Hazlitt, Wordsworth and Coleridge. He then wrote many articles for The New Monthly and continued writing poetry. Talfourd is best known for his tragedies especially Ion (1836). He also wrote The Memoirs of Charles Lamb (1837) and (1848).

From the description of Letter: engraving, 1831 April 9. (Temple University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 727944342


Biography

The son of a well-to-do brewer, he was born at Reading, Berkshire (not, as is sometimes stated, at Doxey, near Stafford).

He received his early education at Hendon, and at the Reading grammar school. At the age of eighteen he was sent to London to study law under Joseph Chitty, the special pleader. Early in 1821 he joined the Oxford circuit, having been called to the bar earlier in the year. When, fourteen years later, he was created a serjeant-at-law, and when again he in 1849 succeeded Mr. Justice Coltman as judge of the Court of Common Pleas, he earned these distinctions more by his laborious care in the conduct of cases than for his brilliance in court.

At the general election in 1835 he was elected MP for the Parliamentary Borough of Reading, a result repeated in the general election of 1837. He chose not to run in the general election of 1841, but ran again in the general election of 1847 and was elected again. In the House of Commons he introduced a Copyright Bill in 1837 his speech on this subject was considered the most telling made in the House during that session. However, the dissolution of Parliament in 1837 following the death of William IV meant that the Bill had to be reintroduced in the new Parliament in 1838. By that time, the bill met with strong opposition and did not pass that year. Talfourd re-introduced the Bill again in 1839, 1840 and 1841, the Bill failing to pass in each of those years. It finally became law in 1842, albeit in a greatly modified form, and at a time when Talfourd was not in Parliament. Charles Dickens dedicated The Pickwick Papers to Talfourd.

In his early years in London Talfourd was dependent in great measure on his literary contributions. He was then on the staff of the London Magazine, and was an occasional contributor to the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly Review, the New Monthly Magazine, and other periodicals on joining the Oxford circuit, he acted as law reporter to The Times. His legal writings on literary matters are excellent expositions, animated by a lucid and telling, if not highly polished, style. Among the best of these are his article On the Principle of Advocacy in the Practice of the Bar (in the Law Magazine, January 1846) his Proposed New Law of Copyright of the Highest Importance to Authors (1838) Three Speeches delivered in the House of Commons in Favour of an Extension of Copyright (1840) and his famous Speech for the Defendant in the Prosecution, the Queen v. Moxon, for the Publication of Shelley's Poetical Works (1841).

Talfourd had no position among men of letters until the production of his tragedy Ion, privately printed in 1835 and produced the following year at Covent Garden theatre. The tragedy was also well received in America, and was reproduced at Sadler's Wells Theatre in December 1861. This dramatic poem, its author's masterpiece, turns upon the voluntary sacrifice of Ion, king of Argos, in response to the Delphic oracle, which had declared that only with the extinction of the reigning family could the prevailing pestilence incurred by the deeds of that family be removed.

Two years later, at the Haymarket Theatre, The Athenian Captive was acted with moderate success. In 1839 Glencoe, or the Fate of the Macdonalds, was privately printed, and in 1840 it was produced at the Haymarket but this home drama is inferior to his two classic plays. The Cash/ian (1853) did not excite much interest. Before this he had produced various other prose writings, among them his History of Greek Literature, in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana.

In addition to the writings above-mentioned, Talfourd was the author of The Letters of Charles Lamb, with a Sketch of his Life (1837) Recollections of a First Visit to the Alps (1841) Vacation Rambles and Thoughts, comprising recollections of three Continental tours in the vacations of 1841, 1842, and 1843 (2 vols., 1844) and Final Memorials of Charles Lamb (1849–50).

Talfourd died in 1854 in lodgings in Stafford after having an "apoplectic seizure" in court while addressing the jury from his judge's seat.

Dickens was amongst the mourners at his funeral at West Norwood Cemetery.


Death

Talfourd died in 1854 in Stafford, after an apoplectic seizure in court while addressing the jury from his judge's seat [2] at the town's Shire Hall, where he is commemorated by a bust, sculpted by John Graham Lough. [3]

Dickens was amongst the mourners at his funeral at West Norwood Cemetery.


Watch the video: Thomas Talfourd