What Prof Wu Said

Now there was no doubt in my mind that we had the right man, I got back in touch with Professor Wu at Oxford and told him what I knew. Thomas had been born in 1778 at Mawbray. His parents were called Jacob and Sarah (nee Allison). Jacob was a joiner. At some time the family had moved to Cockermouth, his mother's birthplace (and also that of William Wordsworth), where Jacob set up in business as a cabinet maker and grocer. They were members of the Quaker meeting there.

I said I was quite amazed that a boy of such humble origins had become a successful publisher and wondered where he could have received an education to fit him for such a profession. I also mentioned that we had found his will and that he had appointed a friend, Joseph Johnson, bookseller, of St Paul's Churchyard, as executor and trustee to wind up his business. I asked if Professor Wu knew anything about this man.

I received a two-page email in reply. He told me that Thomas's friend Johnson was a distinguished Unitarian publisher, at the centre of educated middle-class society in London. He published Hazlitt's father (a Unitarian preacher) as early as 1766, and was to publish Hazlitt, the essayist's, first book in 1805. He was also the publisher of Wollstonecraft, Blake, Paine, and most radical and

PUT IT IN PRINT: Details of a book published by Peter Ostle's ancestor, Thomas II.

dissenting authors of the day. Wordsworth published his first book with Johnson in 1793. Coleridge published with him in 1798. I was astonished that my forbear was moving in such distinguished circles.

Professor Wu asked me if I thought Thomas I might have left the Quakers and become a Unitarian like his friend Johnson. He said he thought he must have been educated at Cockermouth Grammar School. I wasn't sure about either of these ideas and now called on my other cousin, Pauline, who lives near Cockermouth, for help.

I thought it was possible that Thomas I had been educated near his original home in Mawbray. There was a locally famous school - Greenrow Academy -run by Joseph Saul whose family had connections with the Ostells. I knew I could find out exactly when the family moved to Cockermouth. Whenever a Quaker moved, the Friends always issued a 'removal notice', a sort of letter of introduction to his new meeting. I went through the records to see if it was there. It was. Jacob and his family had moved to Cockermouth when Thomas was aged two, so he must have gone to school there.

Pauline searched the Cockermouth records for more information. She looked in the Quaker minutes to see if there was a notice of Thomas's removal to London but the volume covering those years was missing. There was nothing at all on the Grammar School, but she did find a reference to the Unitarians. A group had broken away from the Cockermouth Congregational Chapel to form a Unitarian meeting, but this had occurred some years before Thomas and his family arrived in the town.

It seemed that we had found out all we could about Thomas I. Then, one wet morning, I thought how nice it would be to have a copy of a book published by our hero. I went to an antiquarian book website and typed 'Ostell' into the search box.

Several links appeared. These didn't refer to Hazlitt's book, but to Ostell's New General Atlas. There were

Thomas II's daughter

The local lass who married the vicar

Olivia Mary Margaret, the only surviving daughter of Thomas II, must have been brought up by her relatives at Moorhouse. In 1856, she married the Rev John Burton Norman, the perpetual curate of Grinsdale, a tiny parish inhabited by just 138 souls, on the River Eden, a few miles from Carlisle.

But sadly the couple had only a year together, for Olivia died in 1857. John must have been devastated by her death and erected this beautiful memorial to her at Kirkandrews-on-Eden. John stayed at Grinsdale until 1865 when he was appointed Vicar of Stanmore in Middlesex.

FINAL RESTING PLACE: The family grave of Charles Price and wife, Dorothy (Mattock) with their grandchildren, Nicola and Harvey Price illustrations of several maps from this book, published in 1804. And single pages were being offered for sale for as much as $300!

Then Joan found a book on London Printers and Publishers. It listed not only our two Thomases but two more Ostells as well. One day we may get around to researching them. For the moment, we are resting on our laurels and basking in our glory. What's more, Professor Wu is going to give us a footnote in his new book. • •

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