1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Penrose

Richard Polwhele, in Biographical Sketches in Cornwall (1831) 2:38-39.



From the Allegro [Samuel Foote], well may we say, we turn to the Penseroso, whilst the Spirit of PENROSE stands before us in the sable stole of melancholy, or helmeted and mailed, in warlike array.

Penrose was indisputably one of "the inspired." But he was not a native of Cornwall. Yet he was descended from an ancient Cornish family; — the son of the Rev. Mr. Penrose, rector of Newbury, Berks. With a view to the Church, he was sent to Oxford; where (at Ch. Ch.) he pursued his studies with success till the summer of 1762: — when his eager turn to the naval and military line overpowering his attachment to his real interests, he left his college and embarked in the unfortunate expedition against Buenos Ayres, 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 Penrose afterwards sustained in a prize sloop, in which he was stationed, utterly ruined his constitution. 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, to a living worth near 500 per annum. It came however too late; for the state of Mr. Penrose's health was now 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.

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 in 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, have given a favourable testimony.