Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rackett, Thomas

RACKETT, THOMAS (1757–1841), antiquary, born in 1757, was son of Thomas Rackett of Wandsworth, Surrey. At the age of fourteen he recited to Garrick the latter's ode for the Shakespearean jubilee so admirably that Garrick presented him ‘with a gilt copy of it.’ Next year (1771) Garrick gave him a folio copy of Shakespeare with a laudatory inscription. Forrest and Paul Sandby taught Rackett drawing. John Hunter directed his attention as a boy to the study of natural history, and gave him, what Rackett much valued, a piece of caoutchouc, then little known in England. He matriculated from University College, Oxford, on 16 Nov. 1773, and graduated B.A. in 1777 and M.A. in 1780. At the same time he became rector of Spetisbury with Charlton-Marshall, Dorset, and held the living for more than sixty years.

Rackett, although he devoted himself to his parish, was interested in every branch of science, and was a good musician. But his leisure was mainly occupied in antiquarian researches, and he spent much time in scientific study in London. He came to know Gough, King, Sir R. C. Hoare, and Canon Bowles. He helped Hutchins in the second edition of his ‘History of Dorset,’ and rambled on his pony over the whole of that county exploring its antiquities. Late in life he collected and took casts of ancient seals and coins. In 1794 and 1796 he accompanied Hatchett and Dr. Maton in a tour through the western counties and collected minerals. When an octogenarian he enthusiastically studied conchology, and, in conjunction with Tiberius Cavallo [q. v.] (to whom he offered a home at Spetisbury), pursued astronomy. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, of the Society of Antiquaries, and of the Linnean Society. He died at Spetisbury on 29 Nov. 1841. Rackett married, in 1781, Dorothea, daughter of James Tattersall, rector of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, and of Streatham. All his children predeceased him except Dorothea, wife of S. Solly of Heathside, near Poole, Dorset.

Rackett wrote:

  1. ‘A Description of Otterden Place and Church and of the Archiepiscopal Palace at Charing in the county of Kent; accompanied by Genealogical Memoirs of the Family of Wheler and Anecdotes of some of the early Experiments in Electricity,’ London, 1832. Rackett drew the frontispiece of Otterden Place and also the view of the palace. This book, written to please Mrs. Wheler, his niece, first appeared as an essay in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1832.
  2. ‘An Historical Account of Testaceological Writers,’ in conjunction with W. G. Maton, M.D. (published in ‘Transactions of the Linnean Society’); a bound copy, now in the British Museum, was presented in 1804 to Sir J. Banks ‘with the respectful compliments of the authors.’

[Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. v. 853, vi. 237–41; Gent. Mag. 1841, ii. 428.]

M. G. W.