Papers of T. E. Brown

Scope and Content

The deposit includes approximately one hundred and sixty autograph letters (1868-1892) from T.E. Brown to individuals such as Henry G. Dakyns (1838-1911), Reverend Frederick La Mothe (1844-1921) and Horatio Brown (1854-1926). Further material includes approximately sixty letters (1897-1908) to Henry G. Daykns from T.E. Brown’s friends and family including individuals such as Dora Brown, Ethel Brown, Miss C.E. Graves, Horatio Brown, Sidney T. Irwin (1848-1911), W.E. Henley (1849-1903), A.T. Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) and R. Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). There are approximately sixty manuscript poems and unpublished notes (1868-1893) of T.E. Brown and two octavo books of T.E. Brown. Printed material includes four journals (1901-1908) with articles relating to T.E. Brown.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897) was a scholar, teacher, poet and theologian from the Isle of Man. In a poll conducted by the Isle of Man Newspapers in 2003, Brown was voted ‘greatest Manxman of all time’ ( New Manx Worthies, 2006: 29) for his ability to create verses with scholarly language and the Manx dialect also made him worthy of the title ‘Manx National Poet’.

Brown was born on the 5 May 1830 in the Grammar School house in New Bond Street (now demolished) Douglas, Isle of Man. His father was Reverend Robert Brown (c.1792-1846) and his mother was Dorothy (née Thompson). Robert was the schoolmaster and chaplain to Old St Matthew’s Church: by 1832 he had been appointed curate at Kirk Braddan, becoming vicar in 1836. T.E. Brown was the younger brother of Hugh Stowell Brown (1823-1886) the notable Baptist minister of Myrtle Street, Liverpool. Thomas received his first taste of Latin and the English Classics from his father which was further developed through his schooling at King William’s College (1845-1849), Castletown, Isle of Man.

From his time at the College it was clear to all the masters and students that Brown ‘had exceptional intellectual ability’ ( New Manx Worthies, 2006: 30) which eventually led him to obtain a servitorship (duties of a servant/attendant to another) at Christ Church, University of Oxford. His experience as a servitor was not a happy one; although he received benefits such as free tuition and housing he was viewed as a ‘poor scholar’ and was treated very differently to his peers. Brown wrote about his experiences at Oxford in ‘Christ-Church servitors in 1852' ( Macmillan’s Magazine, 1868). Brown read classics and law and history, achieving first classes in both and became a Fellow of Oriel College in 1854. Whilst in Oxford he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England.

In 1855 Brown returned to the Island to fill the vacant position of vice-principal at his former school King William’s College and served in this capacity until 1861. In 1857 he was married at Kirk Maughold to his cousin Amelia Stowell (d.1888). In 1861 he left again for England, becoming headmaster of the Crypt School in Gloucester until 1863, after which he taught history and English literature at Clifton College, Bristol for nearly thirty years. His popularity amongst students was captured in J.R. Mozley’s description, having ‘an aspect not sentimental; rapid, decisive motion and speech; great power of command, and of supporting that command by missiles of humour and scorn aimed at the disobedient; a large and generous heart’ ( Clifton Memories, 1927: 15). Alongside his duties at Clifton Brown was also the curate of St Barnabas, Bristol from 1884-1892.

In addition to his scholastic skills, Brown was a talented poet and by 1870 had written his first poem in Manx dialect, Betsy Lee. This was followed by works such as The Doctor (1876) The Christening (1878), Peggy’s Wedding (1878) and Tommy Big Eyes (1880). By 1881 the London publisher Macmillan agreed to publish his poems in a volume entitled Fo’c’s’le Yarns (however some passages had to be censored). Further publications included The Doctor and Other Poems (1887) and The Manx Witch and Other Poems (1889). In 1892 Brown retired from Clifton and returned to the Isle of Man, settling in Ramsey. In his retirement he did not publish much poetry (except Old John and Other Poems, 1893) however he was a frequent contributor of short prose stories and articles in publications such as the Macmillan’s Magazine, the National Observer, the Isle of Man Times, the Isle of Man Examiner and the Ramsey Courier. Brown also gave talks, enjoyed letter-writing and was an active member in the Manx ecclesiastical community. On the 29 October 1897 while Brown was visiting Clifton College he unfortunately died and was buried alongside his wife in Redland Churchyard near Clifton.

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Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Dollin Kelly’s (ed.) New Manx Worthies (2006: 29-32), A.W. Moore’s Manx Worthies (1901: Chapter 5), J.R. Mozley’s Clifton Memories (1927: 15) and Thomas Seccombe, ‘Brown, Thomas Edward (1830–1897)’, rev. Sayoni Basu, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 15 Oct 2015].

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), October 2015.


Much of the Papers of T.E. Brown ( Fonds) have been transcribed and published in Andrew G. Dakyns and Belinda Robertson's (eds.) Newly Discovered Letters of T.E. Brown (2004, 2 vols).