The English writer Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849) is one of the great figures in 19th century poetry and drama. He is renowned for his interest in death and the macabre.
Beddoes was born at Clifton, July 20, 1803, and studied at the Charterhouse and at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1825 and an M.A. degree in 1828. The major portion of his studies in medicine and physiology were pursued in Germany and Switzerland. In Basel in 1848, Beddoes attempted suicide by cutting himself on the leg. Gangrene later forced the amputation of his leg, and he lingered on until Jan. 26, 1849, when he ended his life.
Beddoes himself published only two books, The Improvisatore (1821), which he attempted to call back and destroy, and The Bride's Tragedy (1822). He worked on Death's Jest-Book from 1825 until his death and produced three different versions, from which his literary executor, T. F. Kelsall, pieced together a single text to publish in 1850. The play is heavily influenced by Beddoes' admiration for Shelley and by his wide acquaintance with Elizabethan dramas of blood and revenge. Its effectiveness depends upon the beauty of the verse and upon the sensationalism of individual scenes, written in what has been described as "florid Gothic style."