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Thomas Wright of Olney – biographer and school master

May 14, 2020

Bob Forrest has recently been researching the life and works of  Thomas Wright, biographer and schoolmaster who lived most of his life in Olney near Bedford.  Born in 1859, he became the principal of a school he set up in the town, as well as an energetic author, whose books include several extensive biographies of earlier poets as well as collections of his own poems and other writings.

RF Thos WrightFor Rubaiyat enthusiasts, Wright is of particular interest for two things.  These are his The Life of Edward FitzGerald (2 volumes, Grant Richards, London 1904) and his later book of Omar–related verse, Heart’s Desire (Long’s Publications Ltd, London 1925.)  The biography of FitzGerald is one of the earliest such works, and contains reports on many interviews with people who had known the poet, as well as early photographs of people and places from his life.  There are also valuable appendices, including a facsimile of the Museum Book 1833, one of FitzGerald’s early commonplace books.

Wright’s second Rubaiyat related work, Heart’s Desire, is described as being “principally a presentment from various translations of the quatrains of Omar Khayyam that relate to SAKI, the beautiful CUPBEARER.” The book reflects, inter alia, Wright’s friendship with the writer and linguist John Payne, who had made his own translation of Khayyam’s Rubaiyat from the Persian.  Heart’s Desire is illustrated by Cecil W. Paul Jones, and Bob Forrest’s report on his research shows several of these illustrations as well as giving many examples of the verses collected in the book.

Bob’s full report can be found on his web site at http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Thomas_Wright/Thomas_Wright.htm.  It contains more details about Wright’s life and friendships as well as information on his many other publications.  Altogether it provides a fascinating picture of the busy life of a hard working writer and local activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Our congratulations to Bob Forrest for pulling all this research together and our thanks to him for sharing it with us.

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