RICKMAN, Thomas ‘Clio’ (1761-1834) — London
Bookseller, author, publisher, stationer, bookbinder, owner of a circulating library; political reformer and poet. Etched and engraved Daniel Constable, A new and correct map of Brighthelmston ca. 1809. Best known for publishing political pamphlets and broadsides, including pamphlets on emigration, dissenters, and income tax. Also known for music, etc.
Born 27 May 1761 into a Quaker family at Lewes, Sussex, the youngest son of John Rickman (1715-1789), a brewer and the freeholder of the Bear Inn at Cliffe, and his wife Elizabeth Peters (1725?-1795). Initially intended for a medical career, he was apprenticed to his brother Joseph Rickman (1749-1810) — father of the architect Thomas Rickman — a surgeon and apothecary at Maidenhead, where Rickman began his career as author and poet, adopting the pen-name of ‘Clio’ (the Greek muse of history). He abandoned his medical training and returned to Lewes in 1779, where he married (1) Maria Emlyn (1762?-1784), a daughter of Henry Emlyn FSA (1729-1815), Windsor architect and builder, at St. Thomas at Cliffe, Lewes, 15 Apr 1783. Rickman was at that time described as a coal-merchant in a press announcement of the marriage (Reading Mercury, 21 Apr 1783). After her early death he travelled to France, Holland, and Spain, before moving to London to become a bookseller in 1785, continuing to write satirical material for the magazines. He married (2) Jane Gritham (Greetham) Wall (1764-1811), with whom he had at least eight children, at St. Luke Finsbury on 12 Mar 1791, moving at the same time to new premises in Upper Marylebone Street. He was a friend, publisher, and later a biographer of Tom Paine, who lived with the Rickmans while writing the second part of “The rights of man” — a friendship which necessitated occasional sojourns in France to evade the authorities, producing there a translation of “La Marseillaise” shortly after it was written in 1792. He was also a friend of John Horne Tooke and Mary Wollstonecraft, and corresponded with the young Percy Bysshe Shelley. In 1800 he obtained a patent for a signal trumpet for use at sea. He published his poem, “Corruption, a satire : with notes”, in 1806 and his gothic novel, “The atrocities of a convent” in 1808. His second wife died at the age of forty-seven in 1811 — “She was woman of uncommon virtues, talents, and energies, and besides conducting a considerable business, brought up and educated, at home, large family; 6 boys and one girl, of whom, with their most afflicted father, are left for ever to mourn the irreparable loss of their guide, philosopher, and friend” (Kentish Weekly Post, 15 Mar 1811). Rickman himself announced in the same newspaper a few weeks later that he and his daughter were to continue the business. Later that year one of his sons drowned in a boating accident. Traded as “T. & S. Rickman” 1820-1821. In 1823, he chaired a grand celebration of the birth of Tom Paine, attended by over 300 people, as “his oldest friend”. He died 15 Feb 1834 at his home and was buried 21 Feb 1834 at Bunhill Fields. The press reported that “He retained his faculties to the last minute, which was consistent with a long life spent in advocating the principles of reform both of Church and State”. He was remembered by contemporaries for “his square, squat figure, ruddy countenance, short jacket, and straw hat … [he] appears in the same dress at all times, and all his sons are dressed after the same manner” (Literary Gazette, 1834). Rickman was a notable collector of radical and nonconformist memorabilia — Tom Paine’s desk is now in the People’s History Museum, Manchester.
39 Leadenhall Street — 1785
7 Upper Marylebone Street, Fitzroy Square — 1791-1834
BBTI. BM. BNA. Humphries & Smith. LHD. Maxted (1977). ODNB. Todd.