1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Coombe

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 92 (September 1822) 276-77.



The late Rev. Dr. Coombe, the outlines of whose life we have recorded in p. 188, was a native of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pennsylvania (his father being a gentleman no less distinguished for his loyalty than for a philosophic turn of mind). He received his education at the College of that City, and proceeded to the usual degrees of Batchelor and Master of Arts. In 1768 he came to England for Holy Orders, and was ordained Deacon by Dr. Terrick, Bishop of London, at the age of twenty-one. In 1771 he was appointed Chaplain to the Marquis of Rockingham, and in the same year he returned to Philadelphia, having been previously admitted into Priest's Orders. At an early period of life he was in possession of very valuable preferment in the city of his nativity, where he was attached by every endearing tie, and by very extensive prospects. But on America declaring her Independence of Great Britain, as his conduct was regulated by a steady adherence to his allegiance, he soon became obnoxious to the ruling party. He was arrested by the Executive Council of Philadelphia upon a general charge of having uniformly evinced a disposition inimical to the cause of America; and was sentenced to Augusta County, in Virginia; the execution of which cruel and unjust decree, notwithstanding the remonstrance of many corporate bodies, was only interrupted by an illness which rendered his removal impracticable. In the mean time the British army arrived, and under its protection he was enabled to reach New York, from whence (with a letter of high recommendation from the Commissioners, Lord Carlisle, Mr. Eden, and Governor Johnstone) he came to England (in 1779), content to relinquish his country and connexions solely from considerations of conscience, and from motives of loyalty to his Sovereign. In 1780 Dr. Coombe was nominated Chaplain to the Earl of Carlisle, and accompanied his lordship upon his appointment to the Vice-Royalty to Ireland, and was there advanced by him to the situation of Private Secretary. In 1781 he obtained from the Lord Lieutenant the Rectory of Donagh-Henry, co. Tyrone (which was afterwards resigned), and, in the same year was gratified by an unsolicited mark of respect from the University of Dublin, being admitted by that learned body to the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Upon the breaking up of Lord North's administration in 1783 he returned to England with Lord Carlisle. In 1789 he had an offer from Lord Auckland to accompany him to the Hague as Chaplain to his Embassy, but which was declined from motives of prior obligation. Dr. Coombe was appointed Chaplain in Ordinary to the King in 1794, and was for many years Minister of Curzon Chapel. In 1800, through the medium of his friend and patron, the Earl of Carlisle, he was preferred to a Prebendal Stall at Canterbury, and in 1801 he was presented by the Dean and Chapter of that Cathedral to the Vicarage of Tenterden, Kent, and which he was permitted to resign in favour of his elder son in 1806. In 1808 the Dean and Chapter presented him to the Rectory of St. Michael's, Queenhithe.

Dr. Coombe was a Member of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade; and those who were connected with him in that benevolent undertaking, will bear testimony to his abilities and zeal in the cause.

Dr. Coombe was an eloquent and impressive Preacher; as a Scholar he was entitled to a distinguished place among the learned of his day; his reading was various and extensive, and under the veil of an unambitious retirement, he had acquired a knowledge of general principles which would have added lustre to the highest situations. Among his acquaintances he had numbered Sir Joshua Reynolds, Johnson, Goldsmith, Jortin, and Beattie, with the latter of whom he was in habits of correspondence. He also possessed by inheritance the affectionate friendship of Dr. Franklin. Hence his conversation, enriched with literary anecdote, and tempered by a refined and judicious taste, was both entertaining and instructive, while a peculiar benevolence of disposition, joined to that most unaffected piety, rendered this wise and unpretending man a pattern of Christian excellence.