Bibby, Thomas (DNB00)

BIBBY, THOMAS (1799–1863), poetical writer, was a member of a respectable family long settled in Kilkenny. A John Bibby was portreeve or chief magistrate of the corporation of Irish town from 1691 till 1694.

Bibby commenced his education at the grammar school of Kilkenny founded by the first Duke of Ormonde (generally known by the erroneous title of Kilkenny College), an institution which gave letters to Swift, Congreve, Berkeley, and many other men of eminence in their day. The head-master was, in Bibby's time, the Rev. Andrew O'Callaghan, of whom the young poet in after years always spoke with affectionate respect. At a very early age displaying a taste for classical literature, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, and obtained a scholarship; hence the sobriquet of 'scholar Bibby,' which stuck to him through life. At the age of thirteen he obtained the gold medal for science from among a host of competitors — two hundred, it is said. He soon became one of the best Greek students of his day. After the classics his greatest delight was in the study of ancient and modern history. Save a single contribution to a local newspaper, he seems to have published nothing except two dramatic poems, 'Gerald of Kildare,' 1854, and its sequel, 'Silken Thomas,' 1859. His style was verbose, but clear. In the blank verse there are some passages not without spirit and beauty, and an address to his son, which prefaces the work last named, exhibits a degree of pathos and delicate feeling not often discovered. The notes display an amazing amount of varied reading and of original if not eccentric thought. Bibby lived completely alone. He was seldom seen abroad in the daytime. His most intimate friend and biographer, the editor of the 'Kilkenny Moderator,' never met him otherwise than by moonlight, except twice. He is said however, for the last few years of his life to have regularly attended the cathedral of St. Canice. Bibby had an eccentric affection for rats. He occupied but a single room in his house. All other rooms from attic to cellar were devoted to books, old china, which had the second place in his regard, cobwebs, and dust. He never permitted anybody else to have access to these rooms. Many parcels of books from London and Dublin were found at his death unopened, lying just as they had arrived in their cases, but stained and partially rotten. Bibby, having an income of 300l. per annum, was deemed by certain members of his family incompetent to manage his affairs, and they shut him up in a private lunatic asylum at Dublin; but he was released by one or two literary friends. He became almost indigent towards the close of his life. His manners, in spite of his seclusion, were not morose, He died, aged 46, on 7 Jan. 1863, after a painful illness, at his house at St. Canice's steps, an old prebendal residence formerly but long ago connected with that cathedral. A few days before his death he preferred a request to a literary friend that to avoid being buried alive one leg should be amputated, and his heart removed and replaced; but upon a remonstrance Bibby withdrew his petition, requiring only that his death should be certainly determined. His brother, Samuel Hale Bibby, who practised as a surgeon in Green Street, Grosvenor Square, was endowed with much of the literary taste of Thomas without his eccentricity.

[Kilkenny Moderator, 10 and 14 Jan. 1863; Gent. Mag. ccxiv. 248.]

J. M.