Thomas Talfourd

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Thomas Noon Talfourd

Personal details
Born(1795-05-26)26 May 1795
Reading, Berkshire
Died13 March 1854(1854-03-13) (aged 58)
Stafford, Staffordshire

Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd SL (26 May 1795 – 13 March 1854) was an English judge, politician and author.

Serjeant-at-law Member of an order of barristers at the English bar

A Serjeant-at-Law (SL), commonly known simply as a Serjeant, was a member of an order of barristers at the English bar. The position of Serjeant-at-Law, or Sergeant-Counter, was centuries old; there are writs dating to 1300 which identify them as descended from figures in France before the Norman Conquest. The Serjeants were the oldest formally created order in England, having been brought into existence as a body by Henry II. The order rose during the 16th century as a small, elite group of lawyers who took much of the work in the central common law courts. With the creation of Queen's Counsel during the reign of Elizabeth I, the order gradually began to decline, with each monarch opting to create more King's or Queen's Counsel. The Serjeants' exclusive jurisdictions were ended during the 19th century and, with the Judicature Act 1873 coming into force in 1875, it was felt that there was no need to have such figures, and no more were created. The last Irish Serjeant-at-Law was Serjeant Sullivan. The last English Serjeant-at-Law was Lord Lindley.



The son of a well-to-do brewer, Talfourd was born in Reading, Berkshire. He received his education at Hendon and Reading grammar school. At the age of 18, he was sent to London to study law under Joseph Chitty, a special pleader. Early in 1821, he joined the Oxford circuit, having been Called to the Bar at Middle Temple earlier in the year. Fourteen years later, he was created a serjeant-at-law. In 1849 he succeeded Thomas Coltman as judge of the Court of Common Pleas. [1]

Reading, Berkshire Place in England

Reading is a large, historic university and minster town in Berkshire, England, of which it is now the county town. It is in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway. Reading is 70 miles (110 km) east of Bristol, 24 miles (39 km) south of Oxford, 40 miles (64 km) west of London, 14 miles (23 km) north of Basingstoke, 12 miles (19 km) south-west of Maidenhead and 15 miles (24 km) east of Newbury as the crow flies.

Hendon suburb situated in the London Borough of Barnet

Hendon is a London urban area in the Borough of Barnet, 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Charing Cross, between the A41, A406 and the M1 motorway. Hendon was an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex and has been part of Greater London since 1965. Hendon had a population of 52,972 in 2011 which includes the West Hendon and Colindale wards that are separated from Hendon by the NW9 postcode area

A special pleader was a historical legal occupation. The practitioner, or "special pleader" in English law specialised in drafting "pleadings", in modern terminology statements of case.

In politics

At the general election in 1835 he was elected MP for the Parliamentary Borough of Reading, a result repeated in the general election of 1837. He chose not to run in the general election of 1841, but stood again in the general election of 1847 and was elected. In the House of Commons, Talfourd introduced a copyright bill in 1837, but the dissolution of Parliament in 1837 following the death of William IV meant that it had to be reintroduced in the new Parliament in 1838. By that time, the bill was met with strong opposition. Talfourd re-introduced it again in 1839, 1840 and 1841. It finally became law in 1842, albeit in modified form, and at a time when Talfourd was not in Parliament. Charles Dickens dedicated The Pickwick Papers to Talfourd. [1]

1835 United Kingdom general election

The 1835 United Kingdom general election was called when Parliament was dissolved on 29 December 1834. Polling took place between 6 January and 6 February 1835, and the results saw Robert Peel's Conservatives make large gains from their low of the 1832 election, but the Whigs maintained a large majority.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that grants the creator of an original creative work an exclusive legal right to determine whether and under what conditions this original work may be copied and used by others, usually for a limited term of years. The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. A major limitation on copyright on ideas is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves.

William IV of the United Kingdom King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover 1830-1837

William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death in 1837. The third son of George III, William succeeded his elder brother George IV, becoming the last king and penultimate monarch of Britain's House of Hanover.

Literary work

In his early years in London, Talfourd was dependent in great measure on his literary contributions. He was then on the staff of the London Magazine , and was an occasional contributor to the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly Review , the New Monthly Magazine , and other periodicals; on joining the Oxford circuit, he acted as law reporter to The Times . His legal writings on literary matters are excellent expositions, animated by a lucid and telling, if not highly polished, style. Among the best of these are his article On the Principle of Advocacy in the Practice of the Bar (in the Law Magazine, January 1846); his Proposed New Law of Copyright of the Highest Importance to Authors (1838); Three Speeches delivered in the House of Commons in Favour of an Extension of Copyright (1840); and Speech for the Defendant in the Prosecution, the Queen v. Moxon, for the Publication of Shelley's Poetical Works (1841), a celebrated defence of Edward Moxon. [1]

The Edinburgh Review has been the title of four distinct intellectual and cultural magazines. The best known, longest-lasting, and most influential of the four was the third, which was published regularly from 1802 to 1929.

<i>Quarterly Review</i> British literary and political periodical

The Quarterly Review was a literary and political periodical founded in March 1809 by the well known London publishing house John Murray. It ceased publication in 1967.

<i>The Times</i> British daily compact newspaper owned by News UK

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

Talfourd's tragedy Ion was privately printed in 1835 and produced the following year at Covent Garden theatre. It was also well received in America, and was revived at Sadler's Wells Theatre in December 1861. His dramatic poem turns on the voluntary sacrifice of Ion, king of Argos, in response to the Delphic oracle, which had declared that only with the extinction of the reigning family could the prevailing pestilence incurred by the deeds of that family be removed. [1]

Covent Garden district in London, England

Covent Garden is a district in London, on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit-and-vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and with the Royal Opera House. The district is divided by the main thoroughfare of Long Acre, north of which is given over to independent shops centred on Neal's Yard and Seven Dials, while the south contains the central square with its street performers and most of the historical buildings, theatres and entertainment facilities, including the London Transport Museum and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Sadlers Wells Theatre theatre in Clerkenwell, Islington, London (currently the sixth building on that site)

Sadler's Wells Theatre is a performing arts venue in Clerkenwell, London, England located on Rosebery Avenue. The present-day theatre is the sixth on the site since 1683. It consists of two performance spaces: a 1,500 seat main auditorium and the Lilian Baylis Studio, with extensive rehearsal rooms and technical facilities also housed within the site. Sadler's Wells is renowned as one of the world's leading dance venues. As well as a stage for visiting companies, the theatre is also a producing house, with a number of associated artists and companies that produce original works for the theatre. Sadler's Wells is also responsible for the management of the Peacock Theatre in the West End, during times not used by the London School of Economics.

Argos Place in Greece

Argos is a city in Argolis, the Peloponnese, Greece and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is the largest city in Argolis and a major center for the area.

Two years later, at the Haymarket Theatre, The Athenian Captive was acted with moderate success. In 1839 Glencoe, or the Fate of the Macdonalds, was privately printed, and in 1840 it was produced at the Haymarket. The Castilian (1853) did not excite much interest. [1]

Massacre of Glencoe massacre which took place in Glen Coe, in the Highlands of Scotland

The Massacre of Glencoe took place in Glen Coe in the Highlands of Scotland on 13 February 1692, following the Jacobite uprising of 1689-92. An estimated 30 members and associates of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces billeted with them, on the grounds they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William III of England and II of Scotland and Mary II.

Talfourd also wrote:


Lough's memorial to Talfourd in the Shire Hall, Stafford Memorial to Thomas Noon Talfourd in Shire Hall Stafford.jpg
Lough's memorial to Talfourd in the Shire Hall, Stafford

Talfourd died in 1854 in Stafford, after an apoplectic seizure in court while addressing the jury from his judge's seat [2] at the town's Shire Hall, where he is commemorated by a bust, sculpted by John Graham Lough. [3]

Dickens was amongst the mourners at his funeral at West Norwood Cemetery.


Talfourd married Rachel, daughter of John Towill Rutt. Francis Talfourd ("Frank") was their eldest son. [4]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Chisholm 1911.
  2. Hall 2004.
  3. Anon. The Shire Hall Gallery Guide. Staffordshire County Council.
  4. Garnett 1898.

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Fyshe Palmer
Charles Russell
Member of Parliament for Reading
With: Charles Russell 1835–1837
Charles Fyshe Palmer 1837–1841
Succeeded by
Charles Russell
Viscount Chelsea
Preceded by
Charles Russell
Viscount Chelsea
Member of Parliament for Reading
With: Francis Piggott
Succeeded by
Francis Piggott
John Frederick Stanford