Penrose, Thomas (DNB00)

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PENROSE, THOMAS (1742–1779), poet, baptised at Newbury, Berkshire, on 9 Sept. 1742, was the eldest son of Thomas Penrose, rector of that parish, who died on 20 April 1769. He matriculated from Wadham College, Oxford, on 30 May 1759 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.), but, according to his brother-in-law, J. P. Andrews, was also at Christ Church. After 1762 he quitted the university and joined a private expedition, partly English and partly Portuguese, which was formed for the attack of Buenos Ayres, under the command of a bold adventurer named Captain Macnamara. The party left the Tagus on 30 Aug. 1762, and on its way attacked the settlement of Nova Colonia de Sacramento in the River Plate, which had been seized by the Spanish. Operations were at first successful; but the chief ship, the Lord Clive, caught fire, and Macnamara was drowned, with most of the crew. The second vessel, the Ambuscade, of 40 guns, in which Penrose served as a lieutenant of marines, escaped, and ultimately arrived at the Portuguese settlement of Rio Janeiro. He had been wounded in the fight; and, although he recovered from his wounds, the hardships of the next month in a prize sloop undermined his constitution. Very soon afterwards he returned to England, and again settled at Oxford, graduating B.A. from Hertford College on 8 Feb. 1766.

Penrose took holy orders, and became curate to his father at Newbury. About 1777 he was appointed by a friend to the rectory of Beckington-cum-Standerwick, near Frome in Somerset; but his health failed. He died at Bristol on 20 April 1779, and was buried at Clifton, where a monument was erected in his memory. In 1768 he married Mary, eldest daughter of Samuel Slocock of Newbury. She married at Newbury, in February 1786, the Rev. Thomas Best, master of the free grammar school, and died about 1840, at the age of ninety-four. Penrose's only child, Thomas, was admitted on the foundation of Winchester College, became fellow of New College, Oxford, and vicar of Writtle-cum-Roxwell (d. February 1851). He wrote ‘Sketch of the Lives and Writings of Dante and Petrarch’ (anon.), 1790.

Penrose is described as possessing learning, eloquence, and good social qualities, and as being ready with pencil and pen. His chief productions are mainly imitative of Collins and Gray; but several of his poems deal in a natural vein with his disappointments in life. A poetical essay, ‘On the Contrarieties of Public Virtue,’ shows powers of irony and satire. Mathias, in the first dialogue of ‘The Pursuits of Literature’ (1798 edit. p. 54), says:

Have you not seen neglected Penrose bloom,
Then sink unhonour'd in a village tomb?
Content a curate's humble path he trod,
Now, with the poor in spirit, rests with God.

His chief works were: 1. ‘Flights of Fancy,’ 1775. 2. ‘Address to the Genius of Britain,’ 1775, a poem in blank verse, proposing a limit to our ‘civil dissensions.’ 3. A posthumous volume of poems, 1781, with a biographical introduction by James Pettit Andrews [q. v.], who had married his sister Anne. His productions were included in Anderson's ‘Collection of the Poets,’ vol. xi.; Park's ‘British Poets,’ vol. xxxiii.; Pratt's ‘Cabinet of Poetry,’ vol. v.; in the Chiswick edition of the ‘British Poets,’ vol. lxiii.; and several of his poems are in Bell's ‘Fugitive Poetry,’ vols. xii. and xiii. A sprightly poem by Penrose on the ‘Newberry Belles,’ signed ‘P., Newbury, 8 May 1761,’ is in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1761, pp. 231–2, the characters in which are identified by Godwin; and two more of his poetical pieces are in the same periodical for 1799, pt. ii. pp. 1177–8. Campbell included two of Penrose's pieces—‘The Helmets’ and ‘The Field of Battle’—in his ‘Specimens of the British Poets;’ and Peter Cunningham, in his edition of that work, adds that Campbell, in ‘“Adelgitha,” and, above all, in “The Wounded Hussar,”’ has given a ‘vigorous echo’ of ‘The Field of Battle,’ a poem ‘which wants little to rank it high among our ballad strains.’

Penrose's portrait, from a drawing by Farrer in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Penrose, was engraved by W. Bromley.

[Godwin's Newbury Worthies, pp. 52–3, 66–7; Boase's Collect. Cornub. p. 715; Life in Anderson's Poets.]

W. P. C.