The Life of Thomas Gent





Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four


Text-only version


  Preface to the 1832 edition

THE name of GENT is well known to the collectors of English topography, and of typographical curiosities, as that of a printer who sometimes employed his press upon productions of his own; and who, in his character of author, produced numerous volumes, which are far from being destitute of merit. To the collectors of portraits, he is known by a fine mezzotinto print, after a painting by NATHAN DRAKE.

Even the close inquirers into the history of the county in which he resided, and on which his topographical labours were directed, could collect little concerning his life, except what might be learned from his publications; when, lo! a manuscript appears in the hands of Mr. THORPE the bookseller, in Bedford street, Covent garden, in the handwriting of the author, and entitled by him, "Of the Life of THOMAS GENT, Printer." It was written in 1746, when he was in his fifty-third year. This manuscript was discovered by Mr. Thorpe, in a collection from Ireland, the country of which GENT was a native, and where he had relations, into whose hands the work may be supposed to have fallen on the death of its author.

Besides being a very minute account of a man about whom some curiosity may reasonably be supposed to exist, the narrative contains a few notices of other persons more the object of public interest than our author, and also of the manners and transactions of his time. Those who feel no curiosity about GENT, may peruse it as the short and simple annals of a life in which we perceive good conduct finding its appropriate reward; and at the same time, an instance of the inconstancy of the world, in the falling fortunes of one in whom these qualities were still to be found. Those who are familiar with his published writings, and have formed from them an idea of the peculiar constitution of his mind, will perceive. that this narrative is throughout quite characteristical.

Three of the large and closely written folio leaves are lost, the first, the third, and the ninth. The first leaf must, doubtless, have contained an account of his parents, who were residents of Dublin; of his education in that city; and of his being placed with a printer there, to learn the business. We find him, when the narrative opens upon us, forming, on a sudden, the resolution of abandoning his master, his family, and his country; and he sets sail for Liverpool without money, and without a rational prospect of gaining any.