Blenerhasset, Thomas (DNB00)

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BLENERHASSET, THOMAS (1550?–1625?), poet and writer on Ireland, was a younger son of William Blenerhasset of Horsford Park, near Norwich, who died in 1598. He was probably born about 1550, and was, according to his own account, educated at Cambridge without taking a degree. He subsequently entered the army, and was stationed for some years as captain at Guernsey Castle. At the beginning of the seventeenth century he took service with the English in Ireland, and in 1610 was one of the 'undertakers' for the plantation of Ulster. In 1611 he received 2,000 acres at Clancally in Fermanagh, and in 1612 he, with thirty-nine others, appealed to the lord-deputy. Sir Arthur Chichester, to grant them jointly a part of Sligo, 60,000 acres in Fermanagh, and some neighbouring territory, on their undertaking to expend 40,000l. on the land, and to settle upon it 1,000 'able men furnished for all kinds of handiwork,' In his signature to this appeal Blenerhasset describe's himself as being still of Horsford, Norfolk. In 1624 Blenerhasset was stated to own the barony of Lurge and two proportions of Eddernagh and Tullenageane in Femanafigh. According to Ware, the biographer of Irish writers, Blenerhasset died early in the reign of Charles I. His father's will proves him to have been married before 1598, and to have had several children. His eldest brother, Sir Edward Blenerhasset, who shared with him several grants of Irish land, died in 1618.

Blenerhasset's most important literary work was an expansion of the 'Mirrour for Magistrates.' This he accomplished while at Guernsey in 1577. He intended it for the private perusal of a friend, but during his absence 'beyond the seas' it was published in London in 1578 under the title of 'The Second Parte of the Mirrour for Magistrates.' To it was prefixed an interesting letter, containing some autobiographical facts, addressed by the author to the friend for whom the work was written. The original 'Mirrour for Magistrates,' which dealt with episodes in English history from the time of Richard II, had been issued in 1559, under the editorship of William Baldwin [see Baldwin, William fl. 1547], and had been reprinted in 1563, when Sackville's famous 'Induction' was first published as the preface. In 1574 John Higgins wrote a new series of poems on legends drawn from far earlier history than that of which Baldwin's work treated. This book, bearing the title of 'The First Parte of the Mirrour for Magistrates,' was reprinted in 1575. Blenerhasset's contribution to the 'Mirrour' was a continuation of Higgins's book, 'from the conquest of Cæsar unto the commyng of Duke William the Conqueror.' It dealt very feebly and prosaically with the legends of 'Guidericus, Carassus, Queen Hellina, Vortiger, Uter Pendragon, Cadwallader, Sigebert, Lady Ebbe, Alurede, Elgured. Edrious, and King Harolde.' In 1610 ten of these poems of Blenerhasset were included in a complete reprint of the various parts of the 'Mirrour for Magistrates' undertaken by Richard Niccols, and the whole of them were reprinted by Joseph Haslewood in his edition of the 'Mirrour' published in 1815 (i. 345-479) Blenerhasset's literary work also included a translation of Ovid's 'De Remedio Amoris,' executed while at Cambridge but never printed, and a poem called 'A Revelation of the true Minerva,' a panegyric on Queen Elizabeth printed in London in 1582, but of which only one copy, recently in the Heber collection,' is known to be extant. In 1610 Blenerhasset wrote a brief pamphlet dedicated to Prince Henry, entitled 'A Direction for the Plantation in Ulster,' in which he showed how the extirpation of the Irish in Ulster was the best means for the 'securing of that wilde countrye to the crowne of England.

[Norfolk Archæology, vii. 80-92; Irish State Paper Calenders, 1610-24; Ware's Irish Writers, ed. Harris, p. 333; Mirror for Magistrates, ed. Haslewood, i. xxxiv-xxxv; Ritson's Bibliotheca Poetica, p. 132: Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, vii. 429.]

S. L. L.