Jul 032020

I must admit I know very little about Richard Tickell – and what little I did know was linked to his appearance in the Tête-à-Tête  section of the Town & Country Magazine. This scurrilous feature specialized in gossip, and suggested that he was having an affair with a woman known as Mrs Barnes – described as “the Barn-door Fowl”

So I was delighted when I heard from a reader of this blog called Angela Humby, who introduces herself with the words: “I’ve been interested in all things from the 18th century for about 4 years now, with a keen interest in the Georgian Theatre. Also reading about 18th century aristocrats/ gentlemen and the crazy things some of them got up to. I love to visit historic places in the UK to see country mansions, gardens and follies/grottoes.  I am a member of the Folly Fellowship. I am (trying!) to learn Latin in order to read 18th century inscriptions and monuments. Based near Portsmouth and married”.

Angela has researched Richard Tickell and has kindly agreed to do a guest blog for me – so, over to you Angela!

Richard Tickell by Thomas Gainsborough, c 1778

“I first came face to face with Richard ‘Anticipation’ Tickell in January 2019 in Bath, England.  That is to say with the original handsome portrait of him on loan to The Holburne Museum in Bath as part of the ‘Gainsborough & the Theatre’ temporary exhibition being held there at the time.

As the exhibition only ran from the end of 2018 to 20 January 2019, I nearly missed the chance to see this fine portrait, finding out about its inclusion in the exhibition only on 6th January 2019!

Richard Tickell was born in 1751, it is said in Bath. He was originally married to Mary Linley whose famous father Thomas Linley was an English bass and musician and taught his children music – including Mary and her sister, Elizabeth Linley.

Sisters Mary and Elizabeth Linley – the future Mrs Tickell and Mrs Sheridan –  by Thomas Gainsborough, shown courtesy of Dulwich Art Gallery

Elizabeth married the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan – thus Tickell and Sheridan became brothers in law. Both Tickell and Sheridan were very competitive with each other as Richard Tickell was also a playwright. This competitiveness also showed itself in their family life with both Richards being fond of practical jokes. Sheridan got the better of Tickell once when he took every plate in the house and stacked them up in a room which allowed only a small narrow way through. Sheridan showed Tickell the way through and got past the plates with no problems. However, when Tickell tried to follow him all the plates started to topple on him causing him to receive some severe cuts and bruises. Tickell was naturally very angry at this and vowed to get even with Sheridan (which no doubt he did!)  but was said to have commented to Lord John Townshend “but how amazingly well done it was!”

Richard Tickell was clever, and wrote a pamphlet called “Anticipation” which came  out several days before the opening day of Parliament in 1778. He wrote it anonymously but when it became a great success and was attributed to Tickell it earned him the name of ‘Anticipation Tickell’. One of the presentation copies sent out was to the actor David Garrick whom Tickell was known to. Accompanying the pamphlet, Tickell wrote: “Dear Sir, Pray like Anticipation – I shall not regret any literary effort, if it happens to please those whose taste and good opinion I most wish to cultivate”.

1781 was the pinnacle of his success as Lord North awarded him a place in the Stamp Office and a set of rooms in Hampton Court. Very sadly, his first wife Mary died in 1787 leaving him inconsolable. However, two years later he had re-married  to Sarah Ley, a beautiful girl of 18! Richard was 38 at the time….

Sarah Ley by George Romney, c 1789. Both images shown courtesy of the National Trust.

Sarah (after Richard Cosway) by Jean Condé. (The NT attributes it as being a portrait of first wife Mary).













It was during this second marriage that a bond which Tickell had given was called in,
leaving him in serious financial difficulties. He wrote to his friend Warren Hastings asking for a loan of £500 which was granted to him as shown by a second letter he wrote back to Hastings saying:

“Dear Sir, I feel it impossible to express by any words how deeply I am impressed with every sentiment of respect and gratitude for your spirited and noble manner of acceding to my request. It will ever be the pride and pleasure of my life to remember your goodness to me with the most perfect attachment and request. Believe me, Dear Sir, Your most obliged and faithful, Richard Tickell”.

Tragically, five months later Tickell met with his death on the 4th November 1793, by falling from the parapet by his window at Hampton Court Palace. Here he had been in the habit of sitting and reading. It has been suggested this was in fact not an accident but suicide, however this remains unproven. His brother-in-law Sheridan convinced the authorities it was an accident, allowing Richard to be buried in the crypt in St.Mary’s Church in Hampton.

Richard Tickell’ s memorial plaque

Richard Tickell’s portrait is now back in private ownership so I feel very lucky to have seen it as it has inspired me to find out more about the man and his works.”

Thanks, Angela, for filling me in about an interesting satirist and playwright – one of those peripheral figures whose name crops up in connection with the greats such as Garrick and Sheridan.

  One Response to “An introduction to Richard (“Anticipation”) Tickell (1751–1793)”


    Richard Tickell is quite a handsome young man. The sisters are beautiful: Mary in blue looking rather wistful and Elizabeth in chestnut, looking out at us rather boldly! Great blog, really enjoyed it.

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