Thomas Lovell Beddoes

1803–1849

Poet and playwright Thomas Lovell Beddoes was born in Clifton, Bristol, England, to a literary and educated family. Beddoes was still an undergraduate at Oxford when he published his first book, The Improvisatore (1821), as well as his first play, The Bride’s Tragedy (1822). During this time, he met and began a lifelong friendship with Thomas Forbes Kelsall, who appreciated and preserved many of Beddoes’s original works. Although his play was critically praised, Beddoes left England in 1825 to study medicine in German.

Obsessed with death, Beddoes struggled with manic depression and alcoholism. He continued to write plays in verse during his medical studies, composing a dramatic poem titled Death’s Jest-Book, or The Fool’s Tragedy, which remained unpublished during his lifetime. A “nightmarish drama of murder, disguise, revenge, and ghosts,” Death’s Jest-Book draws upon “Jacobean tragedy, English and German terror tales … and the more fantastic … writings of Percy Bysshe Shelley,” according to the W.W. Norton website. Beddoes committed suicide in 1849.

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

LIFE SPAN 1803–1849

Biography

Poet and playwright Thomas Lovell Beddoes was born in Clifton, Bristol, England, to a literary and educated family. Beddoes was still an undergraduate at Oxford when he published his first book, The Improvisatore (1821), as well as his first play, The Bride’s Tragedy (1822). During this time, he met and began a lifelong friendship with Thomas Forbes Kelsall, who appreciated and preserved many of Beddoes’s original works. . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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