Thomas Edward Brown, commonly known as T. E. Brown, was born at Douglas, Isle of Man, the sixth of ten children of a vicar. One of his older brothers was the renowned Baptist preacher and social reformer, Hugh Stowell Brown. Home-tutored by his father and the parish schoolmaster until the age of fifteen, he then entered King William’s College, the island’s premier school. A brilliant scholar, he went on to Christ Church, Oxford, graduating with a double first. Refused a Fellowship at Christ Church for snobbish reasons because he had been a servitor (a student with a free place), he was offered an equivalent post at Oriel College in 1854, but only stayed for a few terms.
He left to take up a position of deputy headmaster at his old school. He was ordained deacon in 1856 but did not proceed to priest’s orders until much later. In 1856 he married his cousin, Edith Stowell and they went on to have six children. In 1857 he became the headmaster of the Crypt School in Gloucester but found the administration side of the job tedious and left in 1863 to take up a position as a teacher at Clifton College. He was to remain there for almost thirty years as a much loved and highly respected member of staff until 1892. He then retired to his beloved Isle of Man. His wife predeceased him and he himself died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage on a return visit to his school in 1897.
T. E. Brown produced several volumes of poetry: the first, Fo’c’s’le Yarns in 1881, which included the poem Betsy Lee, which had been published earlier; the second, The Doctor and Other Poems in 1887; a second edition of Fo’c’s’le Yarns in 1889, which included several new poems; The Manx Witch and Other Poems in the same year; and Old John and Other Poems in 1889. Some of his narrative poetry was written in Manx dialect. Overall, his poetry displays a simple piety, a clever admixture of mirth and sorrow, a scholarly use of language and an island patriotism that fully justifies his title as Manx national poet. A famous line in his poem My Garden is “A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot”. There is a statue commemorating him in Douglas.