‘To Thomas’: Poet Debjani Chatterjee’s Response to the Monument to Thomas Newton (1719-1807), by Richard Westmacott, 1807
THOMAS NEWTON (1719–1807)
The lamp of Knowledge shines upon the scene:
two children studying. Your wards, maybe?
Your namesake, Thomas, poised with quill in hand,
and little Sarah sitting by his knee.
A young matron stands behind the children;
perhaps she is Mary, your loving wife.
And all around are strewn books and parchments:
important symbols of an author’s life.
Your gaze holds an earnest benevolence.
A novelist and biblical scholar,
a faithful friend, childless family man,
and liberal public benefactor.
That lamp of generosity still shines
through the bequest of your worldly estate.
Generations of writers praise and bless –
Thomas Newton, a name to celebrate.
About Debjani Chatterjee
Dr Debjani Chatterjee is a poet, writer and arts psychotherapist. Awarded an MBE for services to Literature in 2008, and an honorary doctorate by Sheffield Hallam University, she has had over 75 books published, including eight poetry collections, most recently Laughing with Angels (2022). Debjani is a former chair of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) and the Arts Council’s Translations Panel, and she is a Royal Literary Fund (RLF) Associate Fellow. She has been called ‘Britain’s best-known Asian poet’ (Elisabetta Marino) and ‘a national treasure’ (Barry Tebb).
Find Debjani on LinkedIn.
About the Monument
As recorded on his monument in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, Thomas Newton (1719–1807) left a generous legacy to the Literary Fund, founded by Rev. David Williams in 1790. Now the Royal Literary Fund, the charity continues in its work today.
In the relief panel above the inscription, sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott has represented Newton with a woman, a youth and a girl, seemingly deep in conversation about a book that Newton is holding: possibly his wife and wards, as referenced in Debjani’s poem.