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time also he married Miss Anne Minchin, a young lady of great merit and beauty, by whom he had two sons, who died young, and one daughter, who is still living. His wife died some time before him; and her death is said to have made so great an impression on his spirits, that it served to hasten his own. On the thirty-first of May, 1716, he was presented, by his friend and patron Archbishop King, to the vicarage of Finglass, a benefice worth about four hundred pounds a-year, in the diocese of Dublin, but he lived to enjoy his preferment a very short time. He died at Chester, in July, 1917, on his way to Ireland, and was buried in Trinity church in that town, without any monument to mark the place of his interment. As he died without male issue, his estate devolved to his only nephew, Sir John Parnell, baronet, whose father was younger brother to the archdeacon, and one of the justices of the King's Bench in Ireland.
Such is the very unpoetical detail of the life of a poet. Some dates, and some few facts scarcely more interesting than those that make the ornaments of a country tombstone, are all that remain of one, whose labours now begin to excite universal curiosity. A poet, while living, is seldom an object sufficiently great to attract much attention; his real merits are known but to a few, and these are generally sparing in their praises. When his fame is increased by time, it is then too late to investigate the peculiarities of his disposition; the dews of the morning are past, and we vainly try to continue the chase by the meridian splendour.
There is scarcely any man but might be made the subject of a very interesting and amusing history, if the writer, besides a thorough acquaintance with the character he draws, were able to make those nice distinctions which separate it from all others. The strongest minds have usually the most striking peculiarities, and would consequently afford the richest materials : but in the present instance, from not knowing Dr Parnell, his peculiarities are gone to the grave with him; and we are obliged to take his character from such as knew but little of him, or who, perhaps, could have given very little information if they had known more.
Parnell, by what I have been able to collect from my father and uncle, who knew him, was the most capable man in the world to make the happiness of those he conversed with, and the least able to secure his own. He wanted that evenness of disposition which bears disappointment with phlegm, and joy with indifference. He was ever very much elated or depressed; and his whole life spent
agony or rapture. But the turbulence of these passions only affected himself, and never those about him: he knew the ridicule of his own character, and very effectually raised the mirth of his companions, as well at his vexations as at his triumphs.
How much his company was desired, appears from the extensiveness of his connexions, and the number of his friends. Even before he made any figure in the literary world, his friendship was sought by persons and party. The wits at that time differed a good deal from those who are most eminent for their understanding at pre
It would now be thought a very indifferent sign of a writer's good sense, to disclaim his private friends for happening to be of a different party in politics; but it was then otherwise, the whig wits held the tory wits in great contempt, and these retaliated in their turn. At the head of one party were Addison, Steele, and Congreve; at that of the other, Pope, Swift, and Arbuthnot. Parnell was a friend to both sides, and with a liberality becoming a scho
every rank lar, scorned all those trifling distinctions, that are noisy for the time, and ridiculous to posterity. Nor did he emancipate himself from these without some opposition from home. Having been the son of a commonwealth's man, his tory connexions on this side of the water gave his friends in Ireland great offence : they were much enraged to see him keep company with Pope, and Swift, and Gay; they blamed his undistinguishing taste, and wondered what pleasure he could find in the conversation of men who approved the treaty of Utrecht, and disliked the Duke of Marlborough. His conversation is said to have been extremely pleasing, but in what its peculiar excellence consisted is now unknown. The letters which were written to him by his friends, are full of compliments upon his ta lents as a companion, and his good-nature as a man. I have several of them now before me. Pope was particularly fond of his company, and seems to regret his absence more than any of the rest.
A letter from him follows thus :
« London, July 29. « Dear Sir, « I wish it were not as ungenerous as vain to complain too much of a man that forgets me, but I could expostulate with you a whole day upon your inhuman silence : I call it inhuman; nor would you think it less, if you were truly sensible of the uneasiness it gives me. Did I know you so ill as to think you proud, I would be much less concerned than I am able to be, when I know one of the best-natured men alive neglects me; and if you
me so ill as to think amiss of me, with regard to my friendship for you, you really do not deserve half the trouble you occasion me. I need not tell you, that both Mr Gay and myself have
written several letters in vain; and that we were constantly inquiring, of all who have seen Ireland, if they saw you, and that (forgotten as we are) we are every day remembering you in our most agreeable hours. All this is true; as that we are sincerely lovers of you, and deplorers of your absence, and that we form no wish more ardently than that which brings you over to us, and places you in
old seat between us. We have lately had some distant hopes of the Dean's design to revisit England; will not you accompany him? or is England to lose every thing that has any charms for and must we pray
for banishment as a benediction ?-I have once been witness of some, I hope all of your splenetic hours : come, and be a comforter in
your turn to me, in mine. I am in such an unsettled state, that I can't tell if I shall ever see you, unless it be this year : whether I do or not, be ever assured, you have as large a share of my thoughts and good wishes as any man, and as great a portion of gratitude in my heart as would enrich a monarch, could he know where to find it. I shall not die without testifying something of this nature, and leaving to the world a memorial of the friendship that has been so great a pleasure and pride to me. It would be like writing my own epitaph, to acquaint you with what I have lost since I saw you, what I have done, what I have thought, where I have lived, and where I now repose in obscurity. My friend Jervas, the bearer of this, will inform you
of all particulars concerning me; and Mr Ford is charged with a thousand loves, and a thousand complaints, and a thousand commissions to you on my part. They will both tax you with the neglect of some promises which were too agreeable to us all to be forgot : if you care for any of us, tell them so, and write so to me. I can say no more, but
that I love you, and am, in spite of the longest neglect of happiness,
« DEAR SIR,
« A. Pope.
Gay is in Devonshire, and from thence he goes to Bath. My father and mother never fail to commemorate you.»
Among the number of his most intimate friends was Lord Oxford, whom Pope has so finely complimented upon the delicacy of his choice.
For him thou oft hast bid the world attend,
Pope himself was not only excessively fond of his company, but under
several literary obligations to him for his assistance in the translation of Homer. Gay was obliged to him upon another account; for, being always poor, he was not above receiving from Parnell the copy-money which the latter got for his writings. Several of their letters, now before me, are proofs of this; and as they have never appeared before, it is probable the reader will be much better pleased with their idle effusions, than with any thing I can hammer oụt for his amusement.
Binfield, near Oakingham, Tuesday.
« DEAR SIR,
I believe the hurry you were in hindered your giving me