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Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827)

Thomas Jameson’s early life in the Lake District was closely connected not only with those of several other artists in the area but also with the Wordsworths. His maternal grandfather was the Rev. Joseph Sympson (died 1807 aged 92), the rector of Wythburn for over fifty years and a highly cultivated man who inspired the character of the incumbent of a small rural chapel in The Excursion (VII.31-291). Dorothy’s Grasmere Journal includes almost daily references to the Sympson and Jameson families, ‘little Tommy’ making a first appearance in early June 1800 when he brought gooseberries to Dove Cottage; Dorothy accompanied him for part of his walk home to High Broadrain, north of the village and facing Helm Crag. Evidently Thomas and his siblings were staying with their grandparents during the illness of their father, for three weeks later Dorothy recorded: ‘Tommy’s Father dead’. The Jameson children remained in Ambleside, their mother taking in paying-guests but struggling to make ends meet and within a few years falling into debt. During this period Thomas’s younger brother Robert formed a close friendship with Coleridge’s son Hartley, a fellow-pupil at school in Ambleside, while his aunt Elizabeth Sympson scandalised local society by falling pregnant by the son of the artist Julius Caesar Ibbetson (considerably her junior). Their marriage, at the end of 1803 was followed – within the year – by the deaths of both Elizabeth and her infant daughter. Thomas’s penchant for art was clearly inherited from (and presumably fostered by) his grandfather who is known to have made engravings and excellent drawings in his spare time (Grasmere Journal, 22 February, 13 June 1802) but little remains of his artistic output. In his teens he received encouragement from John Harden, knew the work of William Green and met William Havell. In 1808 he was mentioned as talented (but over-confident) to Joseph Farington by the artist George Arnald (IX.3276) and in May 1809 Harden paid for him to go to London to gain a broader experience of art by studying works by both the Old Masters and modern painters (IX.3456, 3457). (This journey can be dated to 7 May since Dorothy Wordsworth used him to carry a letter to De Quincey.) Harden paid Jameson’s mother’s debts, which were preying on his mind, and settled him in lodgings, hoping he could contribute to the family income by giving drawing lessons (IX.3467-8). This plan did not succeed. By August 1810 he had decided to abandon the pursuit of art and had become a schoolmaster at Egremont (X.3705-6) where another Thomas Jameson (probably his paternal grandfather) had been rector from c.1743 until his death in 1776. The younger Thomas soon also entered the church, being priested at Haile (just south of Egremont) in 1813. The following year he became curate of Sherburn, Fenton and Saxton in Yorkshire and sought private pupils in order to boost his income (in this he was assisted by Wordsworth who in April 1814 recommended him to his influential Yorkshire friend Francis Wrangham); in 1822 he was appointed Master of the Free Grammar School at Sherburn. He must have been admirably suited for both these situations; as Dorothy wrote to her sister-in-law Priscilla Wordsworth in 1815, ‘He is very religious and is a good Teacher, but he has not had a College Education’ (Hill, 1981, p. 138). He died on 22 November 1827 at the age of 38 and is commemorated by a monument in Sherburn church. Thomas’s elder brother Joseph also entered the church, becoming a minor canon at Ripon. His sister Mary remained in contact with the Wordsworths, obtaining the position of governess at the school in Appleby run by Sara Hutchinson’s friend Anna Weir, to which Dora Wordsworth was sent in 1811. His brother Robert became a barrister (and later a judge in Canada) and married Anna Murphy, daughter of the miniature-painter Dennis Brownell Murphy with whom Harden had visited the Lakes in 1798; she later achieved fame in her own right as an author after their separation. (Taken from 'Savage Grandeur & Noblest Thoughts' catalogue, 2010. (AK, 17.12.2011)) Thomas Jameson, was the son of Mary Jameson, born Simpson, and her husband a builder Thomas Jameson, and grandson of Joseph and Mary Simpson who lived at High Broadrain. By 1808 Tommy was trying his hand as an artist in London. (Pamela Woof's edition of the 'Grasmere Journal', p.169) The career of Thomas Jameson – or ‘little Tommy’ as he first appears in Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere journal in 1800 – was closely connected to the Wordsworths and their circle. His maternal grandfather, the Rev. Joseph Sympson, was the rector of Wythburn church just north of Grasmere while other members of his family developed links with Hartley Coleridge and the Hutchinsons. Jameson’s talent for drawing was noticed by John Harden of Brathay while he was still in his teens; Harden introduced him to visiting artists, accompanied him to exhibitions and art collections in London and settled him in lodgings there, hoping he might find work as a drawing-master. This plan did not succeed, however. Jameson returned to his northern roots, becoming a country clergyman and schoolmaster at Sherburn in Yorkshire. After the death of Jameson’s father in 1800, his widowed mother in Ambleside was hard pressed to make ends meet and the spectre of poverty was never far away. (copied from 'Savage Grandeur' exhibition text)
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Reference Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827)
There are 24 works by Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827) in the Trust's collection, e.g.:
1991.78.1 # Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827). - Untitled: cattle by river. - Undated. - Watercolour. - 124 x 193mm
1991.78.2 # Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827). - Untitled: Gentleman's house. - Undated. - Watercolour on cream paper. - 132 x 210mm
1991.78.3 # Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827). - Tree, river and stile. - 19th Century. - Grey wash on cream coloured paper. - 108 x 157mm
1991.78.4 # Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827). - Untitled: Rydal Park with oak trees, and Wansfell in the distance. - Undated. - Watercolour on cream paper. - 160 x 240mm
1991.78.5 # Jameson, Thomas (1789-1827). - Water and stepping stones, probably over the river Rothay near Ambleside. - 19th Century. - Watercolour on grey paper. - 103 x 115mm.


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