1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Parnell

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:576.



Another friend of Pope and Swift, and one of the popular authors of that period, was THOMAS PARNELL (1679-1718). His father possessed considerable estates in Ireland, but was descended of an English family long settled at Congleton, in Cheshire. The poet was born and educated in Dublin, went into sacred orders, and was appointed archdeacon of Clogher, to which was afterwards added, through the influence of Swift, the vicarage of Finglass, in the diocese of Dublin, worth £400 a-year. Parnell, like Swift, disliked Ireland, and seems to have considered his situation there a cheerless and irksome banishment. As permanent residence at their livings was not then insisted upon on the part of the clergy, Parnell lived chiefly in London. He married a young lady of beauty and merit, Miss Anne Minchen, who died a few years after their union, His grief for her loss preyed upon his spirits (which had always been unequal), and hurried him into intemperance. He died on the 18th of October, 1718, at Chester, on his way to Ireland.

Parnell was an accomplished scholar and a delightful companion. His life was written by Goldsmith, who was proud of his distinguished countryman, considering him the last of the great school that had modelled itself upon the ancients. Parnell's works are of a miscellaneous nature — translations, songs, hymns, epistles, &c. His most celebrated piece is the "Hermit," familiar to most readers from their infancy. Pope pronounced it to be "very good," and its sweetness of diction and picturesque solemnity of style must always please. His "Night Piece on Death" was indirectly preferred by Goldsmith to Gray's celebrated "Elegy;" but few men of taste or feeling will subscribe to such an opinion.