Poetry & philanthropy
As a child living in Eskdale, Telford developed a love of literature and poetry. In his younger years, he read books lent to him by Miss Pasley, and one of the first books to make a real impact on him was Milton's Paradise Lost.
Telford wrote his own poetry throughout his life, referring to his writings as "word fritterings". He is known to have written at least twelve poems, some of which were published. His first published work was a poem addressed to Robert Burns that appeared in Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine in 1779.
Through his love of poetry, he formed a friendship with Rev. Archibald Alison who he met when working at Sudborough Rectory in 1783. Telford never married but formed firm and long-lasting friendships like this one. They both became friends with Thomas Campbell, an up-and-coming Scottish poet, who they mentored and encouraged in his literary career.
From 1800, Telford lived in rooms at the Salopian coffee house in Charing Cross, London. By this time Telford was rich, but also very generous. Not only did he support Campbell, who stayed with him for some time, he also gave financial help to friends and family.
He maintained strong links with relatives back in Scotland and when a distant relative, James Jackson, got into debt, he paid for apprenticeships for all Jackson's children and sent extra money to help the rest of the family.
He was also generous with his time, and a supportive mentor to his pupils and trainee engineers. By 1821, Telford had moved to Abingdon Street in Westminster. It was a large house and a busy household with some rooms being used by his pupils and assistants. Joseph Mitchell, whose father had worked with Telford on the highland roads, stayed there with him. So did James Little, son of Andrew Little, a childhood friend from Eskdale, who was pursuing a business career in London.