1730 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Parnell

Alexander Pope, 1730 ca.; in Spence, Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters ed. Singer (1820) 139n.



[Parnell took to dramming (on the loss of a wife or mistress), [and] turned to the Tory side in order to ingratiate himself with Lord Oxford (to whom he was recommended by Swift) a little before the Queen died. On that, he drank more, was ready to turn short again, and died. — Pope in Spence, Anecdotes, ed. Osborn (1966) 1:210]

In the first MS. memoranda of this conversation, Pope is made to say, that Parnell is "a great follower of drams; and strangely open and scandalous in his debaucheries." — As this was omitted in the transcript, Spence probably thought it not quite correct. — Poor Parnell did indeed give into excesses after the death of his wife, whom he tenderly loved, and had the misfortune to lose in 1712; this event made such an impression on his spirits, that he could hardly bear to be alone, he sought therefore to obliterate his grief by company and conviviality; "those helps that sorrow first called in for assistance, habit soon rendered necessary, and he died in his thirty-eighth year, in some measure a martyr to conjugal fidelity." Pope can hardly be suspected of having any motive to calumniate the man whom he had described in his Epistle to Lord Oxford as

—Just beheld and lost, admir'd and mourn'd!
With sweetest manners, gentlest arts adorn'd!

Whose company he seems to have been extremely fond of, and whose posthumous fame he had been particularly solicitious to increase! — Joseph Weller Singer.