1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Parnell

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 3:518.



THOMAS PARNELL, was born at Dublin, in 1679; and, after having received the rudiments of education at a grammar-school, was sent. to Trinity College, at the early age of thirteen. In 1700, he graduated M.A., and was ordained deacon; entered into priest's orders in 1703; and, in 1705, was preferred to the archdeaconry of Clogher. About the same time, he married, and afterwards, paying annual visits to England, he became a member of the Scriblerus Club, formed by Pope, Gay, Swift, and Arbuthnot. At first a Whig, but afterwards a Tory, he, towards the latter end of Queen Anne's reign, in the anticipation of church preferment, took every opportunity of displaying his eloquence in the pulpit. The death of the queen, however, putting an end to his hopes, he abated his zeal, and having also lost his wife, he began, says Goldsmith, to throw himself into every company, and to seek from wine, if not relief, insensibility. By the recommendation of Swift, to Archbishop King, he obtained a prebend, and the vicarage of Finglas, in the diocese of Dublin; a preferment he only enjoyed a year, dying at Chester, in July, 1717, "in some measure," observes Goldsmith, "a martyr to conjugal fidelity." A collection of his poems was published after his death, by Pope, and another posthumous volume was Printed at Dublin, in 1758; but are so inferior to the former that they may be doubted to have been from the same pen. His best and most popular performances are, The Hermit, The Allegory on Man, and A Night Piece on Death; they are characterised, as are most of his poems, by easiness and sweetness of diction, sprightliness without effort, and propriety without pains. Johnson has justly observed of them, that it is impossible to say whether they are the productions of nature so excellent as not to want the help of art, or of art so refined as to resemble nature.