Lamb, Thomas Davis (1775–1818)

Politician. The eldest son of Thomas Phillipps Lamb and his wife Elizabeth Davis. Educated at Westminster (adm. 1788); Edinburgh University (1792) and Christ Church, Oxford (matric. Dec 1793). Lamb’s family were wealthy, politically influential and well-connected. His father was the government manager at Rye, Sussex. Lamb’s career benefited from the patronage of Lord Liverpool (1727–1808; DNB) and his eldest son, Lord Hawkesbury, a future Prime Minister. Lamb was private secretary to Hawkesbury, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1801–1802, and in 1802 was offered but rejected the consulship at Lisbon, a post worth between £2000–2500 per year. He sat as an MP for Rye from 1802–1806, though he seems never to have spoken in the House of Commons. He vacated his seat when appointed to the post of Law Clerk at the Home Office by the Ministry of ‘Talents’. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, he was Mayor of Rye from 1803–1804, 1809–1810 and 1816–1817. He never married. Southey described Lamb as ‘one of my oldest — & once one of my most intimate friends’. The two met whilst pupils at Westminster and Southey stayed with Lamb’s family in Rye on more than one occasion. They drifted apart (though, Southey later noted, ‘without dissention’) during Southey’s time at Oxford. Lamb seems to have made an effort to renew their acquaintance, seeking Southey out in London in 1802. In later years, however, Southey’s opinion of him soured. He described him as one who had ‘discarded decency’ and on reading of Lamb’s death in a newspaper admitted that he had: ‘ ... thought more of him, poor fellow, in consequence, than I had done for the last four-and-twenty years ... [He] had become a mere idle heir of fortune, and not having his estates to manage while his father lived, had not even that occupation to keep him from frivolities. He was an old man at thirty, and that too being of a family in which it is degeneracy to die at an age short of fourscore.’

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