This truly poetical genius was the son of the Reverend Mr. Penrose, Rector of Newbury, in Berkshire; a man of high character and abilities, descended from an ancient Cornish family, beloved and respected by all who knew him. Mr. Penrose, jun. being intended for the church, pursued his studies with success, at Christ-Church Oxon, until the Summer of 1762, when, his eager turn to the naval and military line overpowering his attachment to his real interest, he left his college, and embarked in the unfortunate expedition against Nova Colonia, in South-America, under the command of Captain Macnamara. The issue was fatal. The Clive, (the largest vessel) was burnt. And though the Ambuscade escaped, (on board of which Mr. Penrose, acting as Lieutenant of Marines, was wounded) yet the hardships which he afterwards sustained in a prize-sloop, in which he was stationed, utterly ruined his constitution.
This fatal disaster furnished Mr. Penrose with the opportunity of writing the following pathetic Elegy, in every line of which his own melancholy Muse appears:
While the torn vessel stems her lab'ring way,
Ere yon blue hills sink ever from my view;
Let me to Sorrow raise the tribute lay;
And take of them my long, my last adieu.
Adieu! ye walls; thou fatal stream farewel;
By war's sad chance beneath whose muddy wave
Full many a gallant youth untimely fell,
Full many a Briton found an early grave.
Beneath thy tide, ah! silent now they roll,
Or strew with mangled limbs thy sandy shore;
The trumpet's call no more awakes their soul!
The battle's voice they now shall hear no more.
In vain the constant wife and feeble sire
Expectant with their lov'd return to see;
In vain their infants' lisping tongues enquire,
And wait the story on their father's knee.
Ah! nought avails their anxious, busy care;
Far, far, they lie, on hostile seas they fell;
The wife's sire's, infant's joy no more to share,
The tale of glorious deeds no more to tell.
Learn then, ye Fair, for others woes to feel,
Let the soft tear bedew the sparkling eye;
When the brave perish for their country's weal,
'Tis Pity's debt to heave the heart-felt sigh.
Ah! glorious Drake! far other lot was thine,
Fate gave to thee to quell the hostile pride;
To seize the treasures of Petosi's mine,
And sail triumphant o'er La Plata's tide.
But Providence, on secret wonders bent,
Conceals its purposes from mortal view;
And Heaven, no doubt with some all-wise intent,
Deny'd to numbers what it gave to few.
Returning to England, with ample testimonials of his gallantry and good behaviour, he finished, at Hertford-College, Oxon, his course of studies; and, having taken orders, accepted the curacy of Newbury, the income of which, by the voluntary subscription of the inhabitants, was considerably augmented. After he had continued in that station about nine years, it seemed as if the clouds of disappointment, which had hitherto overshadowed his prospects, and tinctured his poetical essays with gloom, were clearing away; for he was then presented by a friend, who knew his worth and honoured his abilities, a living worth near £500 per annum. It came however too late; for the state of Mr. Penrose's health was now such as left little hope, except in the assistance of the waters of Bristol. Thither he went, and there he died, in 1779, aged 36 years. In 1768, he married Miss Mary Slocock, of Newbury, by whom he had one child, Thomas, now on the foundation of Winton-College.
Mr. Penrose was respected for his extensive erudition, admired for his eloquence, and equally beloved and esteemed for his social qualities. By the poor, towards whom he was liberal to his utmost ability, he was venerated to the highest degree. In oratory and composition his talents were great. His pencil was ready as his pen, and on subjects of humour had uncommon merit. To his poetical abilities, the Public, by their reception of his Flights of Fancy, &c. have given a favourable testimony. To sum up the whole, his figure and address were as pleasing as his mind was ornamented.
Multis ille bonis flebilis occidit—
How did the Good, the Virtuous, mourn,
And pour their sorrows o'er his urn!