Rickman, Thomas ‘Clio’ (DNB00)


RICKMAN, THOMAS ‘CLIO’ (1761–1834), bookseller and reformer, son of John Rickman of The Cliffe, Lewes, by his wife, Elizabeth Peters, was born there on 27 July 1761. Both his parents were quakers. He was intended for the medical profession, and was apprenticed to an uncle practising as a doctor at Maidenhead. When about seventeen years old he revisited Lewes, and became intimate with Thomas Paine [q. v.] the freethinker, who was settled there as an exciseman. Both joined the Headstrong Club, which met at the White Hart Inn. Here Rickman's precocious poetical and historical taste procured for him the sobriquet of ‘Clio.’ He wrote much under that pseudonym, and permanently incorporated it with his other names. His friendship with Paine, and an early marriage with a non-member, led the Sussex Friends to disown Rickman in 1783. Thereupon he left Lewes and settled in London as a bookseller, first at 39 Leadenhall Street, and afterwards at 7 Upper Marylebone Street, which was his abode for the rest of his life.

Paine lodged in his house in 1791 and 1792, and there completed the second part of ‘The Rights of Man.’ On the small table at which Paine wrote, Rickman afterwards fixed a tablet with a commemorative inscription. It was exhibited, with many other relics of Rickman, at the Paine exhibition, December 1895. Like Paine, Rickman had a mechanical turn, and he assisted the former in his inventions for iron bridges, besides patenting a signal trumpet. The two friends became the centre of a circle of reformers; their frequent visitors included Mary Wollstonecraft, Romney, Horne Tooke, and others. Rickman supplied interesting sketches of them all in his chief work, the ‘Life of Paine,’ which he published in 1819, 8vo. He was under suspicion as an associate of Paine, and was often in trouble for selling his books. At the close of 1792, while in hiding for this reason, he was protected for a night by Maria Anne Fitzherbert [q. v.] (manuscript diary). More than once he was obliged to flee to Paris, where Paine subsequently lived, and on the last journey of the latter to America Rickman accompanied him to Havre, where, on 1 Sept. 1802, the friends finally parted. Rickman's devotion to Paine and his principles was boundless, and the christian names of his children—Paine, Washington, Franklin, Rousseau, Petrarch, and Volney—testified to his enthusiasm for liberal ideas. Rickman died at 7 Upper Marylebone Street on 15 Feb. 1834, and was buried as a quaker at Bunhill Fields. He was twice married, but outlived both his wives and most of his children.

Rickman possessed a vein of satirical humour, and from the age of fifteen wrote much in verse and prose. Some pieces appeared in the ‘Black Dwarf’ and other weekly journals. Many of his republican songs were published as broadsides, often with music. His chief books are:

  1. ‘The Fallen Cottage,’ 4to, 1786.
  2. ‘The Evening Walk, a Tale,’ 8vo, 1796.
  3. ‘A Collection of Epigrams,’ 12mo, 1796.
  4. ‘Emigration to America considered,’ 1798.
  5. ‘Mr. Pitt's Democracy manifested,’ 1799, 8vo.
  6. ‘Hints upon Hats,’ 12mo, 1803.
  7. ‘Poetical Scraps,’ 2 vols. 8vo, 1803.
  8. ‘An Ode on the Emancipation of the Blacks in San Domingo,’ 4to, 1804.
  9. ‘Corruption, a Satire,’ London, 8vo, 1806.
  10. ‘An Ode on T. Paine's Birthday,’ 1818.
  11. ‘The Atrocities of a Convent,’ 3 vols. n.d., based on observations made in a tour in Spain, [1785].
  12. ‘Rights of Discussion, or a Vindication of Dissenters of every Denomination.’

Portraits of him by William Hazlitt and Robert Dighton were engraved. The latter, a full-length coloured print in walking costume, is called ‘A Citizen of the World;’ some of Rickman's verses are inscribed on it.

[Moncure D. Conway's Life of Paine, 2 vols. 1892; Rickman's Life of Paine; Smith's Cat. and Suppl., Friends' Biographical Cat. p. 568; Gent. Mag. 1834, p. 450; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. i. 372, 475; information from Clair J. Grice, LL.D., and the Cat. of the Paine Exhibition at South Place, December 1895.]

C. F. S.