Colton, Rev. Caleb C.


Miscellaneous Devonshire Gleanings, Trans. Devon Assoc., 1881, Vol XIII., p. 135.


W. Pengelly, FRS etc

Prepared by Michael Steer

The Rev. Colton was decidedly an eccentric Tiverton ‘character’. His extensive and entertaining obituary appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. 151, p. 564, a copy of which is available through Google Books, He was educated at Eton and King’s College Cambridge. In 1801 he was presented by the College to the Perpetual Curacy of Tiverton, moving to the Vicarage of Kew and Petersham in 1818. He wrote and was published extensively; his “Lacon- or Many Things in Few Words” is perhaps his most well-known legacy. He travelled extensively throughout the United States and eventually died in Paris. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

(Copied from the Note Book of Mr. O. Blewitt.)

"Mr. Dickinson of Knightshayes, Tiverton, who afterwards took the name of Walrond, on succeeding to the Estate of Bradfield near Collumpton, .... told me that Caleb Colton, the author of 'Lacon,' was considered the best shot in the county.

"When Colton lived at Tiverton, he had apartments in a house which overlooked the Exe. One day, a friend of Mr. Dickinson called on him, and found him sitting in the window, with pistols lying on the table, and a row of empty bottles by his side. He asked him what he was doing. 'Practising with the pistol’ replied Colton; and, taking up a bottle, he threw it out of the window, and seizing a pistol smashed the bottle to pieces before it reached the river.

"On another occasion, Mr. Dickinson said, Sir John Trevelyan, of Nettlecombe Court, Somerset, had a dispute with a neighbouring farmer, who finding it impossible to bring Sir John to terms, wrote off to Colton, and promised him a good day's sport if he liked to come over from Tiverton. Colton was only too glad to accept the invitation, and on his arrival the Farmer took him out to some of his land adjacent to Sir John Trevelyan's preserves, and contrived to frighten the birds so as to make them fly over his fields. Colton, of course, had rare sport; and when the Gamekeeper, alarmed by the incessant firing, came out to see what it meant, he was so amazed at the destruction going on, that he ran into the house and told his master that the Farmer had got a man in his fields who brought down everything that flew across them, and that not a bird would be left at Nettlecombe at the end of the day. Sir John Trevelyan immediately went out and looked over the hedge, when he exclaimed, as he saw bird after bird fall under the gun of the stranger, 'If that is not Caleb Colton it is the devil. Go round to Mr. _____ and say that if he will stop the firing I will agree to his terms’.

"The 'Mysterious Disappearance of the Rev. Caleb Colton' was almost a standing heading of paragraphs in Devonshire Papers for many years after this occurrence. He died in Paris by his own hand. O.B."