Thomas Wright (antiquarian)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Thomas Wright (April 21, 1810 – December 23, 1877) was an English antiquarian and writer.


Wright was born near Ludlow, in Shropshire, descended from a Quaker family formerly living at Bradford, Yorkshire. He was educated at the old grammar school, Ludlow, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1834.

While at Cambridge he contributed to the Gentleman's Magazine and other periodicals, and in 1835 he came to London to devote himself to a literary career.

His first separate work was Early English Poetry in Black Letter, with Prefaces and Notes (1836, 4 vols. 12mo), which was followed during the next forty years by an extensive series of publications, many of lasting value. He helped to found the British Archaeological Association and the Percy Society, the Camden and the Shakespeare Society. In 1842 he was elected corresponding member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres of Paris, and was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries as well as member of many other learned British and foreign bodies.

In 1859 he superintended the excavations of the Roman town of Viroconium Cornoviorum (Wroxeter), near Shrewsbury, and issued a report.

A portrait of him is in the Drawing Room Portrait Gallery for October 1, 1859.

He was a great scholar, but will be chiefly remembered as an industrious antiquary and the editor of many relics of the Middle Ages.

He died at Chelsea, London in his 67th year. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery.

Selected works

  • Queen Elizabeth and her Times, a Series of Original Letters (1838, 2 vols.)
  • Reliquiae antiquae (1839-1843, again 1845, 2 vols.), edited with Mr JO Halliwell-Phillipps
  • W. Mapes's Latin Poems (1841, 4to, Camden Society)
  • Political Ballads and Carols, published by the Percy Society (1841)
  • Popular Treatises on Science (1841)
  • History of Ludlow (1841, etc.; again 1852)
  • Collection of Latin Stories (1842, Percy Society)
  • The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman (1842, 2 vols.; 2nd ed., 1855)
  • Biographia literaria, vol. i. Anglo-Saxon Period (1842), vol. ii. Anglo-Norman Period (1846)
  • The Chester Plays (1843-1847, 2 vols., Shakespeare Society)
  • St Patrick's Purgatory (1844)
  • Anecdota literaria (1844)
  • Archaeological Album (1845,410)
  • Essays connected with England in the Middle Ages (1846, 2 vols.)
  • Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1847-1851, Percy Society), a new text with notes, reprinted in 1 vol. (1853 and 1867)
  • Early Travels in Palestine (1848, Bohn's Antiq. Lib.)
  • England under the House of Hanover (1848, 2 vols., several editions, reproduced in 1868 as Caricature History of the Georges)
  • Mapes, De nugis curialium (1850, 4to, Camden Society)
  • Geoffrey Gaimar's Metrical Chronicle (1850, Caxton Society)
  • Narratives of Sorcery and Magic (1851, 2 vols.)
  • The Celt, the Roman and the Saxon (1852; 4th ed., 1885)
  • History of Fulke Fitz Warine (1855);
  • de Garlandia, De triumphis ecclesiae (1856, 4to, Roxburghe Club)
  • Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English (1857)
  • A Volume of Vocabularies (1857; 2nd ed., by RP Wülcker, 1884, 2 vols.)
  • Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles (Paris, 1858, 2 vols.)
  • Malory's History of King Arthur (1858, 2 vols., revised 1865)
  • Political Poems and Songs from Edward III to Richard III (1859-1861, 2 vols; "Rolls" series)
  • Songs and Ballads of the Reign of Philip and Mary (1860, 4to, Roxburghe Club)
  • Essays on Archaeological Subjects (1861, 2 vols.)
  • Domestic Manners and Sentiments in England in the Middle Ages (1862, 410, reproduced in 1871 as The Homes of other Days)
  • Roll of Arms of Edward I (1864, 4to)
  • Autobiography of Thomas Wright (1736-1797), his grandfather (1864)
  • History of Caricature (1865, 4to)
  • On the Worship of the Generative Powers during the Middle Ages of Western Europe (1865) (Attributed) Appended to the 1865 reprint of Sir Richard Payne Knight's An account of the remains of the worship of Priapus. Scanned facsimile available on Internet Archive
  • Womankind in Western Europe (1869, 4to)
  • Anglo-Latin Satirical Poets of 12th Century (1872, 2 vols., Rolls Series).

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