Songs now and then

Thomas Ashe (1836-1889), Songs Now and Then. Wentworth Press, 2019. Courtesy

Thomas Ashe (1836 - 18 December 1889) was an English poet.


Ashe was born in Stockport, Cheshire. His father, John Ashe (died 1879), originally a Manchester manufacturer and an amateur artist, resolved late in life to take holy orders, was prepared for ordination by his own son, and became vicar of St. Paul's at Crewe in 1869. Thomas was educated at Stockport Grammar School and St. John's College, Cambridge , where he entered as a sizar in 1855, earnining a B.A. as senior optime in 1859.[1]

He took up scholastic work in Peterborough, was ordained deacon in 1859 and priest in 1860; at Easter 1860 he became curate of Silverstone, Northamptonshire. But clerical work proved distasteful, and he gave himself entirely to schoolmastering. In 1865 he became mathematical and modern form master at Leamington College, from which he moved to a similar post at Queen Elizabeth's school, Ipswich. He remained there 9 years.[1]

After 2 years in Paris he finally settled in London in 1881. There he was engaged in editing Coleridge's works. The poems appeared in the 'Aldine Series' of poets in 1885. 3 volumes of prose were published in Bohn's 'Standard Library'; Lecture and Notes on Shakspere in 1883', Table Talk and Omniana in 1884, and in Miscellanies, Aesthetic and Literary, in 1885.[1]

Ashe died in London and was buried in St. James's Churchyard, Sutton, Macclesfield.[1]


Ashe was a poet of considerable charm. He wrote steadily from his college days to the end of his life; but, although his powers were recognized by some of the literary journals, his poems failed entirely to gain the ear of his generation. A lack of vigour and concentration impairs the permanent value of his longer poems; but the best of his shorter lyrics have a charm and grace of their own which should keep them alive.[1]

Critical introductionEdit

by George Saintsbury

Something more than a neighbourhood of birth-years connects Thomas Ashe with Noel and de Tabley, though he was certainly inferior to both of them as a poet. He, too, began with a classical drama, The Sorrows of Hypsipyle, which, at the time, tempted some who read it, though they knew the danger and deception of these closet dramas, to expect not a little from him. After leaving Cambridge, he was, for the greater part of his not very long life, a schoolmaster and, latterly, a working man of letters; but he never left off verse-writing, and divided his practice between longer poems, such as the drama just mentioned, a narrative piece on the story of Psyche — often told but so charming that nobody but a blockhead could spoil it wholly — and lyrics.

The general impression of Ashe’s work is that given by much modern poetry, namely, that compression, distillation — any of the metaphorically allied processes which, without importing actually foreign qualities, bring out and bring together those which exist in a too diffused condition — might have made of him a poet of real value. In further comparison with some of his near contemporaries, he takes far higher rank; for, in almost his least good work there is always what analysts call a “trace” of poetry. But the trace rarely rises to a distinctly appreciable, and, perhaps, never to a high, percentage.[2]

Recognition Edit

2 of his poems, "Meet We No Angels, Pansie?" and "To Two Bereaved," were included in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.[3] [4]

Publications Edit



Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[7]

See alsoEdit


Notes Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Bayne, 80.
  2. George Saintsbury, Thomas Ashe, "Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century," Volume 13: The Victorian Age (Part 1), Cambridge History of English and American Literature (New York: Putnam, 1907-1921)., Web, June 29, 2013.
  3. "Meet We no Angels, Pansie?". Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 13, 2012.
  4. "To Two Bereaved". Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 13, 2012.
  5. Poems (1859), Internet Archive. Web, June 29, 2013.
  6. Thomas Ashe, Poems. Google Books, Web, June 19, 2013.
  7. Search results = Thomas Ashe, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, June 29, 2013.

External links Edit


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement (edited by Sidney Lee)​. London: Smith, Elder, 1901. Original article is at: Ashe, Thomas (1836-1889)

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