Tyrwhitt, Thomas, 1730-1786

Alternative names
Birth 1730-03-27
Death 1786-08-15

Biographical notes:

Epithet: of Add MS 41517

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000506.0x000020

Epithet: classical scholar

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000506.0x00001a

Epithet: of Add MS 33981

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000506.0x00001d

Thomas Tyrwhitt (1730-1786) was a literary editor and critic. He graduated MA from Oxford in 1756 and was appointed deputy secretary at war. He held this position until 1762, when he was made clerk of the House of Commons, a position he resigned in 1768. He was appointed curator of the British Museum in 1784, and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1771. He was well versed in the 14th and 15th century English, and he contributed extensively not only to Shakespeare but also to Chaucer studies, having published a respected edition of the Canterbury Tales with notes and glossary. His intimate familiarity with medieval English also led to his involvement in the Rowley controversy, which pertained to Thomas Chatterton's revelation of manuscripts of poems that he claimed he had transcribed from the works of Thomas Rowley, a priest of Bristol during the time of Henry VI and Edward IV. In 1777, after Chatterton's death, Tyrwhitt anonymously published Poems supposed to have been written at Bristol, by Thomas Rowley and others in the fifteenth century. However, it was republished in 1778 with an appendix recognizing that the poems were most likely Chatterton's own work.

Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) was a poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. In 1769 he sent a piece called Rowley's History of England, supposedly by a medieval monk named Thomas Rowley, to Horace Walpole, who initially believed in its authenticity. He also wrote political letters, eclogues, lyrics, operas and satires, both in prose and verse. Using the pseudonym Decimus, in the vein of Junius, he wrote against such political figures as the Duke of Grafton, the Earl of Bute, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. However, he was paid very little for his work, and on August 24, 1770, at age 17, he committed suicide with arsenic. It was after Chatterton's death that controversy over the Rowley manuscripts and poems began.

From the description of Papers chiefly relating to Thomas Chatterton, 1671-1782. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702185498


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  • English poetry--18th century


  • Antiquarians


  • India, Asia (as recorded)
  • Dublin, Ireland (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)