Poole, Thomas (DNB00)

POOLE, THOMAS (1765–1837), friend of Coleridge, eldest son of Thomas Poole, tanner, of Nether Stowey, Somerset, was born at Nether Stowey on 14 November 1765. The father, a rough tradesman, brought up the son to his own business, and thought book-learning undesirable. The younger Thomas was never sent to a good school, and resented his father's system. He managed to educate himself, and learnt French and Latin with the help, in later years, of a French emigrant priest. He stuck to his business not the less; and in 1790 was elected delegate by a meeting of tanners at Bristol, who wished to obtain from Pitt some changes in the duties affecting the trade. He visited London on this errand in 1791, and was afterwards engaged in preparing memorials to Pitt. About 1793 he seems to have carried out a plan for improving his knowledge of business by working as a common tanner in a yard near London. A story that while thus working he made acquaintance with Coleridge, then in the dragoons, seems to be inconsistent with dates (Sandford, Thomas Poole and his Friends, pp. 54, 70–84). Upon his father's death in July 1795, Poole inherited the business. He met Coleridge, probably for the first time, in 1794, and describes the ‘Pantisocracy’ scheme. Poole was a whig rather than a Jacobin, but sympathised with the revolution in its earlier phases. Coleridge and his friends were on the same side at this time. An intimacy soon began, and in September 1795 Coleridge again visited Stowey, when Poole wrote an enthusiastic copy of verses about his friend. Poole supported the ‘Watchman’ in 1796, in which Coleridge also published a paper of his upon the slave trade. He got up a small subscription of 40l., which was presented to Coleridge on the failure of the periodical, and which was repeated in 1797. Poole found Coleridge a cottage at Nether Stowey at the end of 1796. He also became intimate with Thomas Wedgwood and his brothers, to whom he introduced Coleridge. A lifelong friendship with Sir Humphry Davy was another result of the same connections. The friendship with Coleridge continued after Coleridge's voyage to Germany, and Mrs. Coleridge wrote annual letters to Poole for many years, showing her confidence in his continued interest. In October 1800 he wrote some letters upon ‘Monopolists and Farmers’ which Coleridge published, with some alterations, in the ‘Morning Post,’ and which are reprinted in Coleridge's ‘Essays on his own Times’ (ii. 413–55). In 1801 a slight tiff, arising from Poole's unwillingness or inability to lend as much as Coleridge had asked, was smoothed over by an affectionate letter from Coleridge on the death of Poole's mother. In 1807 Coleridge again visited Poole at Stowey after his return from Malta, when De Quincey, then making his first acquaintance with Coleridge, also saw Poole. In 1809 Poole advanced money for the ‘Friend.’ He corresponded with Coleridge occasionally in later years. He contributed to the support of Hartley Coleridge at Oxford, received him during vacations, and took his side in regard to the expulsion from Oriel. He saw Coleridge for the last time in 1834, and offered help for the intended biography.

Coleridge's correspondence shows that he thoroughly respected the kindness and common sense of Poole, who even ventures remarks upon philosophical questions. Although self-taught, Poole had made a good collection of books, and he was active in all local matters. He kept up a book society; was an active supporter of Sunday-schools, and formed a ‘Female Friendly Society.’ He was also much interested in the poor laws, and in 1804 was employed by John Rickman [q. v.] in making an abstract of returns ordered by the House of Commons from parish overseers (printed in May 1805). In 1805 Poole took into partnership Thomas Ward, who had been apprenticed to him in 1795, and to whom he left the charge of the business, occupying himself chiefly in farming. Poole was a man of rough exterior, with a loud voice injured by excessive snuff; abnormally sharp-tempered and overbearing in a small society. His apology for calling a man a ‘fool’ ended, ‘But how could you be such a damned fool?’ He was, however, heartily respected by all who really knew him; a staunch friend, and a sturdy advocate of liberal principles; straightforward and free from vanity. He died of pleurisy on 8 Sept. 1837, having been vigorous to the last. He never married, but was strongly attached to his niece, Elizabeth, daughter of his brother Richard, a doctor, who died in 1798, just at the time of her birth. Elizabeth was the ‘E’ of Mrs. Kemble's ‘Records of my Childhood,’ and married Archdeacon Sandford.

[Thomas Poole and his Friends, by Mrs. Henry Sandford, 2 vols. 8vo, 1888; Life of Coleridge by J. Dykes Campbell.]

L. S.