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Thomas Noon Talfourd

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Talfourd, Sir Thomas Noon I Mr. Justice Talfourd, Justice Talfourd l, 1795–1854, judge, author. Attended a dissenters' school, then Reading grammar school. Admitted at Middle Temple, 1813; called to the bar, 1821; serjeant-at-law, 1833; judge of the Common Pleas, 1849; knighted 1849. Three times returned M.P. for Reading; introduced Custody of Infants Bill and Copyright Bill. Universally respected for his high moral character, his integrity. Died suddenly on the Bench while delivering to jury a charge in which he deplored the lack of understanding and sympathy between the rich and the poor. Contributed to Pamphleteer, Monthly Repository, New Monthly, Retrospective Review, London Magazine, Edin. Rev., and other periodicals, including professional journals. Author of Poems on Various Subjects, 1811; Ion, a classical tragedy famous in its day, produced by Macready in 1836; and other plays: The Athenian Captive, Glencoe, The Castilian. As literary executor of his friend Charles Lamb, brought out edition of Lamb's Letters, 1837; also Final Memorials of Lamb, 1848.


      Talfourd held a place of some prominence in the legal, political, and literary world when Dickens became acquainted with him and, in 1837, dedicated to him the book publication of Pickwick. The dedication, wrote Dickens, was in tribute to Talfourd's important work in the matter of copyright legislation; it was also a token of Dickens's "fervent admiration" of Talfourd's fine qualities of head and heart, and "a memorial of the most gratifying friendship I have ever contracted." Dickens had no friend, wrote Forster, to whom he was more attached than he was to Talfourd. The association of the two men was frequent. Talfourd was vice-chairman at the Pickwick celebration dinner and took part also in celebrations commemorating the publication of other of Dickens's books. The two writers presented each other copies of their works, and each expressed high admiration of the other's writing. Talfourd, in presenting Dickens a copy of the privately printed Ion, wrote of him as "the subtlest and the most genial delineator of human manners and affections who has arisen among us since the days of Fielding"; his friendship with Dickens was to him "one of the greatest blessings and honors" of his life (in Pilgrim Letters, I, 685). Talfourd also addressed a eulogistic sonnet to Dickens on his Oliver Twist. At Dlckens's request, he contributed a sonnet to The Pic Nic Papers, 1841, the volume brought out for the benefit of John Macrone's widow. Talfourd served as Dickens's counsel in the suit that Dickens brought in 1844 against publishers who plagiarised his books. Various commentators have suggested that Dickens modelled Traddles of Copperfield in part on Talfourd.
       On Talfourd's death, Dickens published in H.W., March 25, 1854, his tribute to "this upright judge and good man." Crabb Robinson, on reading the article – Dickens's "deeply feeling lines" – recorded in his diary: "A little overdoing is to be expected, but it is not excessive here" (On Books and Their Writers, II, 739). Mention of Talfourd appeared in occasional other H.W. articles. Whitehead, in "Off! Off!", referred to Talfourd as "Lamb's excellent biographer." Morley, in "The Manchester Strike," quoted Talfourd's last words: "If I were asked what is the greatest want in English society to mingle class with class, I would say in one word, the want of sympathy"; striking workers, wrote MorIey, had headed one of their manifestos with Talfourd's words, and certain millowners had chosen them as a motto. Dixon, in "Quite Revolutionary," recalled to readers' memories "good Justice Talfourd's dying words."
       The Office Book records payment for none of Talfourd's contributions, the first of which ["Sonnet to Lord Denman. Retiring from the Chief Justiceship of England, I, 60. April 13, 1850] is marked "Not to be paid." Evidently Dickens accorded Talfourd the privilege of writing for the periodical as his personal friend, rather than as paid contributor.
       Browning, on being assured that the H.W. sonnet "To Robert Browning" was by Talfourd, sent the author, from Paris, his thanks for "this public appreciation" of his writing (Letters of Robert Browning, ed. Hood, p. 37).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            D.N.B.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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