Thomas Percy

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Percy, Thomas (1729–1812). Percy was the son of a grocer from Bridgnorth in Shropshire and educated at Christ Church, Oxford. He took orders, from 1757 to 1782 held the living at Easton Maudit in Northamptonshire, and for the rest of his life was bishop of Dromore in Co. Down. A scholar and antiquarian, he began early in life collecting ancient ballads, having rescued from a friend in Shifnal an old manuscript folio of verse which the maids were using to light the fire. Negotiations with printers were difficult, but he received encouragement from Shenstone and from Samuel Johnson, who wrote the dedication. The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry came out in 1765 and was a leap forward in the preservation and understanding of medieval ballads. Johnson's ridicule and well-known parodies were directed, not at Percy's ballads, but at contemporary imitations. Percy's scholarly interests were increasingly hampered by his episcopal duties and by failing eyesight.

J. A. Cannon

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Thomas Percy, 1729–1811, English antiquary and churchman, b. Shropshire. In 1782 he became Protestant bishop of Dromore (Ireland). He achieved literary fame as the editor of the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (3 vol., 1765), a collection of 176 English and Scottish ballads. Its publication initiated a general interest in earlier literary forms and exercised a great influence on the romantic poets in Germany as well as England.

See his letters (ed. by C. Brooks and D. N. Smith, 6 vol., 1944–61).