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So, who was Thomas Ashe?

I wrote about him on this page before:

He was the editor of Coleridge’s works in the late 19th century, and himself a poet.

Without the time to do some research on him, here’s a somewhat randomly selected, but fairly complete summary of his life and times.

First, from Wikipedia:

Thomas Ashe (1836–1889) was an English poet.

He was born in Stockport, Cheshire in 1836. His father, John Ashe (d. 1879), originally a Manchester manufacturer and an amateur artist, resolved late in life to take holy orders, was prepared for ordination by his own son, and became vicar of St. Paul’s at Crewe in 1869. Thomas was educated at Stockport Grammar School and St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he entered as a sizar in 1855 and graduated B.A. as senior optime in 1859.[1]

He took up scholastic work in Peterborough, was ordained deacon in 1859 and priest in 1860; at Easter 1860 he became curate of Silverstone, Northamptonshire. But clerical work proved distasteful, and he gave himself entirely to schoolmastering. In 1865 he became mathematical and modern form master at Leamington College, whence he moved to a similar post at Queen Elizabeth’s School, Ipswich. He remained there nine years. After two years in Paris he finally settled in London in 1881.

Here he was engaged in editing Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s works. The poems appeared in the ‘Aldine Series’ of poets in 1885. Three volumes of prose were published in Bohn’s ‘Standard Library’;Lecture and Notes on Shakspere in 1883′, Table Talk and Omniana in 1884, and in Miscellanies, Aesthetic and Literary, in 1885. Ashe died in London on 18 Dec. 1889, but was buried in St. James’s Churchyard, SuttonMacclesfield; a portrait is given in the Illustrated London News and in The Eagle (xvi. 109).

Ashe was a poet of considerable charm. He wrote steadily from his college days to the end of his life; but, although his powers were recognized by some of the literary journals, his poems failed entirely to gain the ear of his generation. A lack of vigour and concentration impairs the permanent value of his larger poems; but the best of his shorter lyrics have a charm and grace of their own which should keep them alive.

Some of his works are also named in the same article:

  • Poems (1859)
  • Dryope and Other Poems (1861)
  • Pictures, and Other Poems (1865) 
  • The Sorrows of Hypsipyle: a Poem (1867)
  • Edith: or, Love and Life in Chesire, a Poem (1873) 
  • Poems (1885)
  • Songs of a Year (1888)

Another entry from… I am not quite sure what this page is – something, something, Cambridge alumni catalogue – , but for somebody interested in the profiling Mr Ashe a bit more thoroughly, it might still be useful:

Ashe, Thomas.
Adm. sizar at ST JOHN’S, July 5, 1855.
S. of John, cotton-spinner [who afterwards took Holy Orders]. B. 1836, at Stockport, Cheshire.
Bapt. Aug. 21, 1836. [School, Stockport Grammar.] Matric. Michs. 1855; B.A. 1859.
Founded, together with W. E. Mullins and J. M. Wilson, the College Magazine, The Eagle, the first number of which appeared in the Lent term, 1858.
Ord. deacon, 1859; priest (Peterb.) 1860; C. of Whittlebury with Silverstone, Northants., 1860-5. Assistant Master at Leamington College, Warws., 1865-7; at Queen Elizabeth’s School, Ipswich, 1867-76.
Went to Paris; lived there for 2 years; finally settled in London, at 10, Worcester Street, St George’s Square, 1881.
Edited Coleridge’s works.
Dropped the title ‘Reverend’ and ceased to wear clerical dress.
Author, Poems. Died Dec. 18, 1889, in London.
Buried at Sutton, Macclesfield.

Now, the best, and most telling entry is from another text:

Chapter on Thomas Ashe


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.


Something more than a neighbourhood of birth-years connects Thomas Ashe with Noel and de Tabley, though he was certainly inferior to both of them as a poet. He, too, began with a classical drama, The Sorrows of Hypsipyle, which, at the time, tempted some who read it, though they knew the danger and deception of these closet dramas, to expect not a little from him. After leaving Cambridge, he was, for the greater part of his not very long life, a schoolmaster and, latterly, a working man of letters; but he never left off verse-writing, and divided his practice between longer poems, such as the drama just mentioned, a narrative piece on the story of Psyche—often told but so charming that nobody but a blockhead could spoil it wholly—and lyrics. The general impression of Ashe’s work is that given by much modern poetry, namely, that compression, distillation—any of the metaphorically allied processes which, without importing actually foreign qualities, bring out and bring together those which exist in a too diffused condition—might have made of him a poet of real value. In further comparison with some of his near contemporaries, he takes far higher rank; for, in almost his least good work there is always what analysts call a “trace” of poetry. But the trace rarely rises to a distinctly appreciable, and, perhaps, never to a high, percentage.
To this decade, likewise, belonged Theodore Watts, in the later years of his life known as Watts-Dunton, a solicitor, a sonneteer and the author of a novel, Aylwin, which had a great popularity for a time, as well as a frequent, a voluminous and a highly serious critic of poetry. He was, and, no doubt, still more will be, best known from the generous and faithful friendship and hospitality which he showed to the poet Swinburne. Only coterie enthusiasm could regard him as being himself a very noteworthy poet, 37 but he had cultivated his natural gifts that way by much frequentation, not merely of Swinburne but of the Rossettis and others, and some of his sonnets are not unworthy of his society.
Note 37: He was, at any rate, a better one—he certainly belonged to a better school—than his namesake Alaric Alexander Watts, who might have been noticed in the last chapter on this subject, but most of whose work belonged to the earlier part of this. The elder Watts was unlucky enough to provoke the wicked wit of Lockhart and to live (with perversion of his second name) in the “singing flames” of

I don’t like that Alaric Attila Watts,
His verses are just like the pans and the pots, etc.
The pans were neatly enough polished, and the pots were quite clean; but they were turned out by mould and machinery, and there was very little in them. Their author was an industrious and ingenious, though not very fortunate, journalist and bookmaker, and his principal collection Lyrics of the Heart (1850), besides serious things very much of the kind suggested by the title, contains the rather well-known alliterative amphigouri,

An Austrian army awfully arrayed,
which has had an unexpected illustration in very recent times. Alaric “Attila” was a very harmless person, but not a very meritorious poet