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Such were the notes thy once lov'd poet fung,
POPE'S EPISTLE TO TIE EARL OF OXFOAN.
For the life of Parnell, the world is obliged to Goldsmith, à biographer worthy of his virtue and his genius. It is much to be regretted, that so masterly a writer had not the means of being more tompletely informed. Goldsmith not only did not know him himself, but was “ obliged to take his chara&er from such as knew but little of him, or who perhaps could have given very little information if they had known more.”
The facts stated in the present accoudt of Parnell, are principally taken from Goldsmith, whose narrative is written with an adivity of research, that leaves little to be supplied, and an agreeable manner of communication, that approaches so near perfection, as to preclude the most distant hope of improvement.
* The life of Parnell is a talk," says Dr. Johnson, " which I hould very willingly decline, fince it has been lately written by Goldsmith, a man of such variety of powers, and such felicity of performance, that he always seemed to do best, that which he was doing; a man who had the art of being minute without tediousness, and general without confusion ; whose language was copisus without exuberance, exact without constraint, and easy without weakness. What fuch an arthor has told, who would tell again ?"
Thomas Parnell was descended froni an ancient family, that had for some centuries been settled * Congleton, in Cheshire. His father, Thomas Parnell, who had been attached to the CommonFealth party, upon the Restoration went over to Ireland, where he purchased an estate, which, with his lands in Cheshire, descended to the poet, who was his eldest son, and fill remain in the family.
He was born in Dublin, in 1679, and received the first rudiments of his education at the school of Dr. Jones, in that city.
When he was only thirteen years old, he was admitted a member of Trinity College, Dublin, which may be considered as a presumption, that he had niade great progress in learning at a very carly age ; for young men, proposed to be entered at that University, are expected to be well acquainted with the Latin, and to have attained some proficiency in the Greek.
" His progress,” says Goldsmith, “ through the College course of Audy was probably marked with but little splendor ; his imagination might have been too warm to relish the cold logic of Burgerdicius, or the dreary subtleties of Sniglesius; but it is certain, that as a classical scholar, few could equal him. His own compositions shew this, and the deference which the mox eminent men of his tinc paid him upon that head, pur it beyond a doubt.”
He was admitted to che degree of Master of Arts, July 9. 1700, and was the same year ordained a deacon by Dr. King, Bishop of Derry, having obtained a dispensation from the Primate, as being under the canonical age.
About three years afterwards, he was made a priest by Dr. King, then Archb:shop of Dublin, and in 1705, Dr. St. George Alhe, Bishop of Clogher, conferred on him the Archdeaconry of Clogher.
About the same time, he married Miss Anne Minchin, a young lady of great merit and beauty, ofon whom he wrote the song beginning, My days bave been so wond'rous free,
His first excursions to England began about the year 1706, where his company was desired, and his friendship was fought by persons of every rank and party, even before he made aby figure in the literary world.
He had been bred a Whig, and for some time adhered to that party; but afterwards attached himself to the Tories. Private affection and friendship, have often a very powerful influence on political principles. Men of vigorous understandings, and of upright intentions, frequently approve of measures and systems, merely because they are embraced or supported by men whom they love and cíteem.
He was the intimate friend of Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot, and Swist, and was probably induced to join the Tories by the persuasions and arguments of the latter; who, after he had joined that party hinself, was very eager to make converts of other men of genius.
It is certain, whatever was the cause, that, at the dismission of the Whig Ministry, in the end of Queen Anne's reign, he changed his party, not without much cenfure from those whom he deserted, and was received, by the new Ministry, as a valuable reinforcement.
Swift introduced him to Harley, whom he had before highly prepoffeffed in his favour. When Harley was told, chat Parnell waited among the crowd in an outer-room, he went, by the persuasion of Swift, with his Treasurer's staff in his hand, to bid him welcome; and admitted him as a 'favourite companion of his convivial hours. Pope compliments Harley on the delicacy of his choice of intimate friends, and mentions Parnell among the number.
For him, thou oft hast bid the world attend,
And pleas’d to 'scape from flattery to wit. His companionable talents, and classical erudition, procured him admission into the society, called the Scriblerus Club, formed by Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot, Swift, and Jervas. It is probable, the club began with Parnell; for it is not mentioned, during his intimacy with Addison, Steele, and Con. greve, previous to his connection with the Tory Ministry. How long it lasted is not exactly ascer. tained. Few societies have been productive of a greater variety of frolics and whimsical conceits. They wrote many things in conjunction; and, according to Goldsmith, Gay usually was amanuensis. Of those joint productions, in which Parnell had a principal share, the Origin of ibe Sciences from the Monkies in Ethiopia is particularly mentioned,
The connection between these wits advanced the fame and interest of them all. They submit. ted their productions to the review of each other, and readily adopted alterations, dictated by taste and judgment, unmixed with envy or any linister motive. With those friends Parnell conti. nued intimately connected during his life. Every year, as soon as he had collected the rents of his estate, and the revenue of his benefices, he came over to England, and spent some months. He lived in an elegant style, when he was in the world, and rather impaired than improved his estate.
Pope was particularly fond of Parnell's company, and seems to have been under several literary obligations to him, for his allistance in the translation of Homer.
“ My business,” says he,“ depends entirely upon you. The moment I loft you, Eustathius, with nine thousand contra&ions of the Greek charader, arose to view! Spedanus, with all his auxiliaries, in number a thousand pages, (value three shillings) and Dacier's three volumes, Barnes's two, Val. teries three, Cuperus, half in Greek, Leo Allatius, three parts in Greek, Scaliger, Macrobius, and (worse than them all) Aulus Cellius! All these rushed upon my soul at once, and whelmed me under a fit of the headach. Dear Sir, not only as you are a friend and a good natured man, but as you are a Christian and a divine, come back speedily, and prevent the increase of my fins; for at the rate I have begun to rave, I Mall not only damn all poets and commentators who have gone before, but be damned myself by all who come after me. In short, conie down forthwith, or give me good reasons for delaying, though but for a day or two, by the next pot. If I find them juft, I will come up to you, though you know how precious my time is at present; my house were never worth so much money before."
Gay was obliged to Parnell on another account ; for, being always poor, he was not above receive ing from him the copy-money which he got for his writings.
* Your Zoilus,” says Pope,“ really transcends the expectation 1 had conceived of it. I have put it into the press, beginning with the poem Betrachom. Inform me upon what terms I am to deal with the bookseller, and whether you design the copy-money for Gay, as you formerly talked. I scarce lee any thing to be altered in the whole piece. In the poem you sent, I will take the liberty you allow me. The story of Pondera, and the Eclogue upon Health, are the most beautiful things I ever read."
The Life of Homer, prefixed to the translation of the Iliad, was written by Parnell, and corrected by Pope; and he assures us, the correction was not effected without great labour. “ It is still ftiff," says he," and was written ftill ftiffer; as it is, I verily think, it cost me more pains in the correcting than the writing would have done." In one of his letters to Parnell, he treats the Life of Homer with much greater respect. “ If I were to tell you,” says he, “ the thing I wish above all things, it is to see you again; the next is to see your treatise of Zoilus, with the Batreobomuomacbia, and the Pervigilium Veneris, both which poems are master-pieces in their several kinds, and I question not, the prose is as excellent in its sort as the Ejay on Homer.”
Pope, in this instance, is almost inexcusable ; as what he seems to condemn in one place, he wery much applauds in another. What he says in both places may very easily be reconciled to truth; for every thing of Parnell's, that has appeared in prose, is written in a very awkward inelegant man ner; but who can defend his candour and his sincerity?
It would be hard, however, to suppose, that there was no real friendship between these great men. The benevolence of Parnell's disposition remains unimpeached, and Pope, though subject to starts of passion and envy, yet never missed an occasion of being serviceable to him. When he had a miscellany to publish, he applicd to Parnell for poetical allistance, and the latter as implicitly submitted to him for correction.
Parnell seems to have been one of those poets who take delight in writing. He was one of the sontributors to the Spectator and Guardian, and probably published more than he owned, and certainly wrote more than he published.
As he expected very reasonably to rise to high preferment in the Church, he applied himself to preaching, and displayed his elocution with great applause in the pulpits of London; but the Queen's death putting an end to his cxpe&ations, he abated in his diligence. Amidst his expectations, he had the afliction to lose his wife, by whom he had two sons who
young, and a daughter, who was living in 1770. Swift, in his “ Journal to Stella," Aug. 24 1712, says, “ I am heartily sorry for poor Mrs. Parnell's death; she seemed to be an excellent good-natured young woman, and I believe the poor lad is much afflicted; they appeared to live perfe&ly well together.” This event is supposed to have made an indelible impression on his spirits, and Pope represents him as falling from that time into intemperance of wine.
He was now to derive every future addition to his preferments from his personal interest with his private friends. He was warmly recommended by Swift to Archbishop King, who gave him a prebend in 1713, and the vicarage of Finglass, in the diocese of Dublin, worth 400 l. a year, May 31. 1716. His gratitude is beautifully expressed in an encomiastic poem on Swift's birth day, 1713.
Such notice from such a man,” says Dr. Johnson, " inclines me to believe, that the vice of which he has been accused was not gross or notorious."
During the two or three last years of his life, he was more fond of company than ever, and could (carce bear to be alone. The death of his wife was a loss to him, that he was unable to support
“ From that time," says Goldsmith, “ he could never venture to court the muse in solitude, where he was sure to find the image of her who first inspired his atten pts. He began, therefore, to throw himself into every company, and to seek from winc, if not relief, at least infenAbility. Those helps, that sorrow first called in for allisance, habit soon rendered accessary, and he died before his fortieth year, in some measure, a martyr to conjugal fidelity.”
His end, whatever was the cause, was now approaching. He enjoyed his preferment lfetle more than a year. The whole of his poetical existence was not of mere than ten years continuance. In