The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

VI. Lesser Verse Writers

§ 15. Thomas Parnell

Thomas Parnell is, probably, now less remembered for his verse than because of the fact that his life was written by Goldsmith and Johnson, and that from his younger brother was descended Charles Stewart Parnell. The son of a commonwealth’s man, who, at the restoration, left Congleton in Cheshire, where the family had been long established and, settling in Ireland, purchased an estate which, together with his land in Cheshire, was afterwards owned by the poet, Thomas Parnell was born at Dublin in 1679. In 1693, he was admitted at Trinity college, Dublin, where in 1700 he proceeded M. A., and was ordained deacon under an episcopal dispensation on the score of age. Swift’s friend Ashe, bishop of Clogher, named him archdeacon of that see in 1706, an appointment followed by his marriage to Anne, daughter of Thomas Minchin of Tipperary. Her death in 1711 seems to have unsteadied the young archdeacon’s mind. Swift and Stella conceived a friendliness for the bereaved poet, who was taken to sup with Bolingbroke and was introduced to the lord treasurer (Oxford). By this time, he had changed his political vesture, and, in April, 1713, he wrote a Poem on Queen Anne’s Peace. About this time, he became an intimate of the Scriblerus club and of Pope, who designed him to be one of “the children of Homer.” Swift whipped up his Irish friends to procure Parnell a prebend. In May, 1716, archbishop King presented the poet with the vicarage of Finglass, worth over £100 a year. Meanwhile, he had become inseparable from Pope at Binfield and the Bath, and he retained his position in the Scribleurs circle to the last. He died suddenly at Chester (his end being hastened by habitual intemperance) on his way to Ireland in October, 1718. His publications during his lifetime had been in periodicals; but he left many unprinted compositions, of which those which Pope thought best were selected by him and dedicated to the earl of Oxford, who wrote appreciatively of the Noctes he had spent in the company of Pope, Swift, Parnell and the doctor. Johnson, in conversation, deplored that Goldsmith’s Life of the poet was so thin; but he made his own sketch an opportunity for a most splendid eulogy of Goldsmith’s ease and versatility. Goldsmith wrote a fair epitaph, which was eclipsed by Johnson’s.