Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Keightley, Thomas (1789-1872)

937125Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 30 — Keightley, Thomas (1789-1872)1892Sidney Lee

KEIGHTLEY, THOMAS (1789–1872), author, born in October 1789, was son of Thomas Keightley of Newtown, co. Kildare, and claimed relationship with Thomas Keightley (1650?–1719) [q. v.] He entered Trinity College, Dublin, on 4 July 1803, but took no degree, and owing to ill-health relinquished a design of going to the Irish bar. In 1824 he settled in London, and engaged in literary and journalistic work. Thomas Crofton Croker [q. v.] befriended him, and he aided Croker in his 'Fairy Legends of South Ireland,' 1825 (Bates, Maclise Gallery, p. 51). In 1828 he brought out on his own account his 'Fairy Mythology' (anon.), 2 vols. It was dedicated to Lord Francis Gower [see Egerton, Lord Francis, (1800–1857)], was illustrated by W. H. Brooke, and was published by William Harrison Ainsworth. Jacob Grimm is said to have praised the work, and a new edition, with the author's name on the title-page, appeared in Bohn's 'Antiquarian Library' in 1850. Keightley in a pretentious preface confessed to 'high hopes of immortality for his work.' His 'Tales and Popular Fictions; their Resemblances and Transmissions from Country to Country,' appeared in 1834.

Keightley was long occupied in compiling historical manuals for educational or popular purposes. His 'Outlines of History' down to 1815 was issued in Lardner's 'Cabinet Cyclopædia' in 1829, and was frequently revised until the latest edition in 1850. His 'History of the War of Greek Independence' (1830) forms volumes lx. and lxi. of 'Constable's Miscellany.' 'The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy,' a useful work for 'students at the university,' appeared in 1831 (other editions 1838, 1854, and in Bohn's 'Collegiate Series,' 1859). A smaller version for schools is dated 1832 (2nd edit. 1834). His 'History of England' (1837–9), 2 vols., although based on Lingard, was intended to counteract that writer's catholic tendencies. A new edition appeared in 1845–9. American reprints were issued at New York in 1843–5 in five volumes, and in 1848 in two, and in 1847 a German translation was published at Hamburg, with an introduction by Lappenberg. His 'History of Greece' appeared in 1835 (3rd edit. 1839; New York, 1848); that of Rome in 1836 (other editions 1837, 1840, 1842; New York, 1848); that of the Roman Empire in 1840 (New York, 1848); and that of India in 1846–7. 'Questions,' intended for young students of his Roman, Greek, and English histories, were published by Keightley, on the first two works in 1836, and on the last in 1840; and elementary histories of England and Greece, in 12mo, are dated 1841. He prepared elaborate 'Notes on the Bucolics and Georgics of Virgil with Excursus, terms of Husbandry, and a Flora Virgiliana,' London, 1846, 8vo, and edited Virgil's 'Bucolics and Georgics' (1847), Horace's 'Satires and Epistles' (1848), Ovid's 'Fasti' (1848), and Sallust's 'Catilina and Jugurtha' (1849). Turning to the English classics he produced editions of Milton (2 vols. 1859, with very good notes) and of Shakespeare (6 vols. of the text only, often very rashly emended, 1864). His 'Account of the Life, Opinions, and Writings of John Milton, with an Introduction to Paradise Lost' (London, 1855), and his 'Shakespeare Expositor' (1867) are both succinct and useful compilations (cf. Masson, Life of Milton, vol. i. p. xi). Samuel Warren, in his 'Legal Studies,' 3rd ed. 1854 (i. 235–6, 349), highly praises his historical work. Keightley spent some time in Italy (Notes on the Bucolics, Pref.), and was an accomplished linguist. But he ludicrously overestimated all his performances, and his claim to have written the best history of Rome in any language, or to be the first to justly value Virgil and Sallust, could not be admitted by his friends. During the last years of his life he received a pension from the civil list. He died at Erith, Kent, on 4 Nov. 1872.

Besides the works already mentioned Keightley was author of 'The Crusaders, or Scenes, Events, and Characters from the times of the Crusaders' (1834), and 'Secret Societies of the Middle Ages,' which was published anonymously, and against his wish, in Knight's 'Library of Entertaining Knowledge,' in 1837 (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. 359, 435, 489, 541). He also issued 'The Manse of Mastland,' a novel translated from the Dutch of C. E. Van Koetsveld, 1860, 8vo.

[Extract from Register of Trin. Coll. Dublin, kindly supplied by the Rev. J. W. Stubbs, D.D.; Times, 7 Nov. 1872; Keightley's Fairy Mythology in Bohn's Antiquarian Library, 1850, Preface; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biog. p. 585.]

S. L.