1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Pennant

David Pennant, "Further Particulars relating to Thomas Pennant" European Magazine 37 (June 1800) 400-41.



The Biography of this valued Author having been already given in our Magazine for May 1793, to that period little remains to be added. To that time his health and felicity had experienced little interruption; the illness of an amiable daughter then began to embitter his days, and, after the most unremitting attention that parental fondness could dictate, he felt the cruel pang of separation on the 1st of May 1794: this shock his spirits never completely recovered. In the April of the ensuing year, the patella of the knee snapped, while descending a flight of steps, an accident which confined him long to his room, yet, notwithstanding his advanced age, and the bone never again reuniting, he recovered sufficiently not only to walk without difficulty, but to pursue his usual exercise on horseback.

The year 1796 gave to the world his "Account of the Parishes of Whitford and Holywell." The infirmities of nature now began to shew themselves more evidently. The loss of a friend and neighbour, the worthy Sir Roger Mostyn; the subsequent distractions of the county of Flint, by jarring politicks; the melancholy situation of public affairs; the progress of Gallic barbarism, which threatened to overturn all institutions social and sacred; operated too forcibly on a mind of the acutest feeling and most exquisite sensibility. Mental agitation affected the corporeal system; a difficulty of breathing, a cough, and other pulmonary affections, induced him to apply for medical aide from his friend Dr. Haygarth, then resident at Chester, all the assistance that art could give. Considerable discharges of blood from the nose increased the alarming symptoms; still the energy of his mind sustained itself; he continued his literary pursuits, and employed his leisure hours, during the greatest part of 1797, in preparing for the press, and rendering as perfect as possible, his interesting "View of HINDOSTAN," which was published early in the following year. Oedematous swellings in the legs announced the fatal cause of his disease; but to expatiate more minutely on the sad catalogue of human ills, might be irksome; suffice it then to say, that he bore their trial with fortitude and resignation; a natural strength of constitution, aided by a life of uniform temperance, enabled him long to struggle against infirmity. The progress of the disorder becoming more rapid, towards the close of October he collected his nearest relatives, and received with them the mysterious seal of our Redemption; conscious of his approaching end, his eye beamed with hope, tempered by the most serene and dignified resignation; combining charity with devotion, he observed that the ceremony would be incomplete indeed, were it not accompanied by an act of beneficence to the poor. This was the last duty of religion he performed; his life had been a preparation for the awful conclusion. Though soon after reduced to the inability of moving, and suffering much, he continued to share the conversation of his friends and relations, except during the extreme pressure of pain, or when opiates, employed to procure a disturbed sleep, or relieve the body from a few pangs, produced their powerful effect, and sacrificed the reasoning powers and the nobler faculties of the soul. On the 16th of December 1798, the powers of nature were exhausted, and the venerated author of my being expired without a groan!

The pen of a son may not be calculated to record the character of an affectionate and beloved parent; the bias of natural affection may operate too forcibly; yet the silence of the person most intimately acquainted with the various virtues of THOMAS PENNANT, would justly draw down the reproach of ingratitude.

His religious principles were pure and fervent, yet exempt from bigotry; though firmly attached to the Established Church, he, by his writings and conduct, conciliated the esteem of those of a different persuasion. A steady friend to our excellent Constitution, he ever laboured to preserve it entire; this induced him to petition for the reform of some abuses during the administration of Lord North, at a period when the influence of the Crown was supposed to have exceeded its due bounds: this brought him forward in later times, with additional energy, to resist the democratic spirit, which menaced tenfold evils. The duties of a Magistrate he exercised with candour; with a temperate yet zealous warmth to protect the oppressed. His benevolence to the poor was unbounded; his repeated exertions to relieve the wants of a populous neighbourhood, by the importation of corn, in times of scarcity, were truly munificent. Temperate in diet, he enjoyed the fruits of abstinence, and, until a few years previous to his decease, possessed an unusual share of health and vigour. His conversation was lively, replete with instruction, and brilliant with sallies of true humour; yet too great sensibility at times lowered his natural flow of spirits, and occasioned severe dejection.

Of his literary character the public is the impartial judge; and that public, not only in this but in foreign countries, has fixed on it the stamp of approbation. Blest with a memory the most retentive, his powers of composition were rapid; his works were generally printed as they flowed from his pen, with little or now correction — hence some inaccuracies may be expected, but their numbers are trifling.

Such, candid reader! is the true but imperfect, sketch of the character of a man, who to superior talents united the utmost goodness of heart.

Accept, sainted spirit! this unavailing tribute of filial duty! May the example of thy virtues stimulate my exertions! May my latter end resemble thine!

DAVID PENNANT,

Downing,

April 12, 1800.