1902 Encyclopedia > Thomas Percy

Thomas Percy
Bishop of Dromore
(1729-1811)




THOMAS PERCY (1729-1811), bishop of Dromore, the editor of the Percy Reliques, was born at Bridgnorth 13th April 1729 and baptized at St Leonard's Church 29th April. His father, Arthur Lowe Percy, a grocer by trade, lived in a large house at the bottom of the street called " The Cartway," and acquired sufficient means to send his son, who had received the rudiments of his education at Bridgnorth grammar-school, to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1746. He graduated in 1750 and proceeded M.A. in 1753. In the latter year he was appointed to the vicarage of Easton Maudit, Northamptonshire, and three years later instituted to the rectory of Wilby in the same county, benefices which he retained until 1782. On the 24th of April 1759 Percy was married at Desborough, North-amptonshire, to Anne, daughter of Barton Gutteridge. During his residence in the delightful but secluded neigh-bourhood of Easton Maudit most of the literary work for which he is now remembered—including the Reliques— was completed. When his name became famous through his publications he complied with the request of the duke and duchess of Northumberland that he would reside with them as their domestic chaplain, and was tempted into the belief that he belonged to the illustrious house of Percy. Through this connexion he became dean of Carlisle in 1778 and bishop of Dromore in Ireland in 1782, from which date he was a constant resident in his adopted country. His wife predeceased him at Dromore Palace, 30th December 1806; the good bishop, blind but otherwise in sound health, lived until 30th September 1811; both of them were buried in the transept which he added to Dromore Cathedral.

For many years Dr Percy enthusiastically laboured in the fields of literature. He translated the Song of Solomon and published a key to the New Testament, a work often reprinted; he edited poetry from the Icelandic language and translated Mallet's Northern Antiquities. His reprint of The Household Book of the Earl of Northum-berland in 1512 is of the greatest value for the illustrations of domestic life in England at that period. But all of these works are of little estimation when compared with the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, a publication which has entranced successive generations of schoolboys and students since its first appearance in February 1765. It was based on an old manuscript collection of poetry, but, unfortunately for the editor's peace of mind, it was modernized in style, a circumstance which exposed him to the sneers and suspicions of Ritson. The work as originally issued by Percy has been re-edited by many British antiquaries, whilst selec-tions have been issued for boys and girls, and the manuscript on which he worked has been edited in its complete form by J. W. Hales and F. J. Furnivall. The bishop was possessed of great poetic feeling. His ballad of "The Hermit of Warkworth" was too simple for the austere taste of Dr Johnson, but it has always and deservedly been popular; and his song now generally known as " 0 Nanny, wilt thou gang wi' me?" is a universal favourite, from its own merits as well as from the musical setting of an Irishman called Thomas Carter. The greater part of the seventh volume of Nichols's Illustrations of the Literary History of the l&th Century is filled with Bishop Percy's correspondence.






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