Penn, John (1760-1834) (DNB00)

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PENN, JOHN (1760–1834), miscellaneous writer, born in London on 22 Feb. 1760, and baptised at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 21 March, was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Penn [q. v.] and of his wife Juliana, daughter of Thomas Fermor, first earl of Pomfret. William Penn [q. v.], founder of Pennsylvania, was his grandfather. On the death of his father in 1775 John succeeded to his property, which included the moiety of the proprietorship of the province of Pennsylvania, with hereditary governorship, and Stoke Pogis Park in Buckinghamshire, which his father had purchased in 1760. On the outbreak of the American war of independence in 1775, John apparently accompanied his mother to Geneva. He was entered at Clare Hall, Cambridge, as a nobleman (by virtue of his maternal descent), was created M.A. in 1779, and LL.D. on 28 June 1811. In 1782 he went to America to attend to his Pennsylvania property, and, remaining there some years, built the house called Solitude at Schuylkill. He and his cousin John Penn (1729–1795) [q. v.] received from the assembly in 1786 the grant of 15,000l. annually as payment for the estate vested in the commonwealth as by law passed 18 Jan. 1786. In 1789 he returned to England, and in the following year received his portion of the annuity granted by parliament in consideration of the losses in Pennsylvania. The house at Stoke Pogis having fallen into decay, he commenced, in 1789, the erection of a new one in the centre of the park, from designs by Nasmith, which were completed by James Wyatt (view in Neale, Seats, vol. i.) In 1798 Penn was sheriff of Buckinghamshire, and he represented the borough of Helston, Cornwall, in the parliament of 1802. He was appointed governor of Portland, Dorset, in 1805. Shortly before that date he erected on Portland Island, from designs by Wyatt, a mansion which he styled Pennsylvania Castle. He was lieutenant-colonel of the 1st (Eton) troop of the 1st (South) regiment of the Royal Bucks yeomanry and commandant of the royal Portland legion. The publication of an anonymous poem called ‘Marriage,’ in the ‘Monthly Magazine,’ in the summer of 1815, led Penn to organise in 1817 a ‘matrimonial society,’ which had for its object an improvement in the domestic life of married persons. Extending its aims to other schemes of domestic utility, the society changed its name in May to that of the Outinian Society. During the summer of 1818 meetings of the society took place at Penn's house, 10 New Street, Spring Gardens, and later at Stoke Park. Penn, who acted as president, edited the works of the society for publication. The ‘Second Lecture’ appeared in 1819, the ‘General Address of the Outinian Lecturer’ in 1822, ‘Records of the Origin and Proceedings of the Outinian Society’ in 1822, ‘A Proposal of the Outinian Society’ in 1823 (written by Penn), and the ‘Seventh Outinian Lecture’ in 1823. The society was still existing in 1825.

Penn died at Stoke Park on 21 June 1834, and was succeeded in his estates there and at Portland by his brother Granville [q. v.] He was unmarried. A drawing by Tendi, from a bust of him by Deare, was engraved by L. Schiavonetti, and published in 1801. Two portraits of him in oils are at Pennsylvania Castle: one of these, in yeomanry uniform, painted by Sir W. Beechey, P.R.A., was engraved by R. Dunkerton, and published in 1809.

His chief published works are:

  1. ‘The Battle of Eddington, or British Liberty,’ London, 1792, 1796, 1832 (anon.), which was performed at Sadler's Wells Theatre on 11 Oct. 1832, at Windsor on 8 and 13 Jan. 1824, at Covent Garden on 19 July 1824, and at the Haymarket for a night or two privately.
  2. ‘Poems,’ London, 1794 (anon.), printed at the private press at Stoke Park.
  3. ‘Letters on the Drama,’ London, 1796 (anon.)
  4. ‘Critical, Poetical, and Dramatic Works,’ London, 1797.
  5. ‘A timely Appeal to the Common Sense of the People of Great Britain,’ London, 1798.
  6. ‘Further Thoughts on the Present State of Public Opinion,’ London, 1800.
  7. ‘Poems, consisting of original Works, Imitations, and Translations,’ London, 1801, 1802.
  8. ‘Observations in illustration of Virgil's Fourth Eclogue,’ London, 1810.
  9. ‘Poems, being mostly reprints,’ London, 1811. 10. ‘Historical Account of Stoke Park,’ London, 1813 (anon.).
  10. ‘Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, with notes’ (selected from No. 8 above), Dublin, 1825.

[Gent. Mag. 1811 p. 37, 1834 pt. ii. pp. 650–651; Graduati Cantabr. p. 296; Official Lists of M.P's, pt. ii. p. 216; Penn's Account of Stoke Park, passim; Watson's Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, i. pp. 125–6; Proposal of the Outinian Society, passim; Genest's Account of the English Stage, ix. 260; Hutchins's Hist. of Dorset, ii. 817, 830.]

B. P.