Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parsons, Philip (1729-1812)

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945480Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43 — Parsons, Philip (1729-1812)1895Gordon Goodwin

PARSONS, PHILIP (1729–1812), divine and miscellaneous writer, descended from a family seated at Hadleigh, Suffolk, was born at Dedham, Essex, in 1729, and was educated at Lavenham grammar school, Suffolk, under the care of his maternal uncle, the Rev. Thomas Smythies, then the master there. Thence he proceeded to Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, went out B.A. in 1752 as third junior optime, and proceeded M.A. in 1776. After taking orders he was appointed to the mastership of Oakham School, Rutland, which he resigned in 1761 on being presented to the school and perpetual curacy of Wye, Kent, by Lord Winchilsea. At Wye he instituted a Sunday-school, and contributed much to the establishment of such schools in Kent by a sermon and some letters which he published (see below). In 1776 Lord Winchilsea gave him the rectory of Eastwell, Kent, and in 1776 Dr. Cornwallis, archbishop of Canterbury, instituted him to the rectory of Snave in the same county. He was also domestic chaplain to Lord Sondes. Parsons died at the college, Wye, on 12 June 1812.

His most important work is entitled ‘Monuments and Painted Glass in upwards of one hundred Churches, chiefly in the eastern part of Kent … with an Appendix, containing three Churches in other Counties; to which are added, a small Collection of detached Epitaphs,’ 4to, Canterbury, 1794. The three churches are those of Hadleigh, Lavenham, and Dedham. Many copies of this useful volume having been destroyed in the fire at Messrs. Nichols's printing office, it has become very scarce.

Parsons wrote also: 1. ‘The Inefficacy of Satire: a Poem,’ 4to, 1766. 2. ‘Newmarket; or an Essay on the Turf’ (anon.), 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1771. 3. ‘Astronomic Doubts; or an Enquiry into the Nature of that Supply of Light and Heat which the superior Planets may be supposed to Enjoy,’ 8vo, Canterbury, 1774. 4. ‘Essays and Letters, with other miscellaneous Pieces’ (anon.), 12mo, Canterbury, 1775. 5. ‘Dialogues of the Dead with the Living’ (anon.), 8vo, London, 1779. 6. ‘Simplicity: a Poem,’ 4to, 1784. 7. ‘Six Letters to a Friend on the Establishment of Sunday Schools,’ 12mo, London, 1786. To vol. ii. of the ‘Student,’ 1751, he contributed the first nine papers, and wrote in the ‘World’ for 1756 an amusing jeu d'esprit ‘On advertising for Curates.’ These essays attracted the notice of Lord Winchilsea, who proved afterwards Parsons's steady patron.

[Gent. Mag. 1812, pt. i. p. 671, pt. ii. pp. 291–2; Smith's Bibl. Cantiana; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anon. and Pseud. Lit.]

G. G.