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LIFE OF THOMAS PARNELL,
Thomas Parnell was descended from an ancient family, that had for some centuries been settled at Congleton, in Cheshire. His father, Thomas Parnell, who had been attached to the Commonwealth party, upon the Restoration went over to Ireland; thither he carried a large personal fortune, which he laid out in lands in that kingdom. The estates he purchased there, as also that of which he was possessed in Cheshire, descended to our poet, who was his eldest son, and they still remain in the family. Thus want, which has compelled many of our greatest men into the service of the Muses, had no influence upon Parnell; he was a poet by inclination.
He was born in Dublin, in the year 1679, and received the first rudiments of his education at the school of Dr. Jones, in that city. Surprising things are told of the greatness of his memory at that early period, as, of his being able to repeat forty lines of any book at the first reading; of his getting by heart
the third book of the Iliad in one night's time, which was given him as a task, in order to confine him for some days. These stories, which are told of almost every celebrated wit, may perhaps be true; but for my part, I never found any of those prodigies of parts, although I have known enow that were desirous, among the ignorant, of being thought so.
There is one presumption, however, of the early maturity of his understanding. He was admitted a member of the college of Dublin at the age of thirteen, which is much sooner than usual, as at that university they are a great deal stricter in their examination for entrance, than either at Oxford or Cambridge. His progress through the college course of study was probably marked with but little splendour; his imagination might have been too warm to relish the cold logick of Burgersdicius, or the dreary subtleties of Smiglesius; but it is certain, that as a classical scholar, few could equal him. His own compositions show this; and the deference which the most eminent men of his time paid him upon that head, put it beyond a doubt. He took the degree of Master of Arts the 9th of July, 1700; and in the same year was ordained a deacon, by Doctor W. King, Bishop of Derry, having a dispensation from the Primate, as being under 23 years of