Purnell, Thomas (DNB00)

PURNELL, THOMAS (1834–1889), author, son of Robert Purnell, was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, in 1834. He matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1852 (Reg.), but afterwards came to London and embarked in journalism. In 1862 he was, on the recommendation of Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, appointed assistant-secretary and librarian of the Archæological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and he retained the post until 1866. In 1870–1 he contributed to the Athenæum, under the signature ‘Q.,’ a series of dramatic criticisms which attracted notice by their incisive style and the severity of their censures. Charles Reade and Tom Taylor published replies. Of genially bohemian temperament, Purnell was popular in literary society, and founded a little club known as the ‘Decemviri,’ of which Messrs. A. C. Swinburne, Whistler, R. E. Francillon, and Joseph Knight were among the members. He came to know Mazzini, to whom he introduced Swinburne and others. In 1871 he edited Lamb's ‘Correspondence and Works,’ and organised the Charles Lamb centenary dinner. He died at Lloyd Square, Pentonville, London, where his sister kept house for him, on 17 Dec. 1889, after a long illness.

Purnell was the author of: 1. ‘Literature and its Professors,’ London, 1867, post 8vo. 2. ‘Dramatists of the Present Day’ (reprinted from the ‘Athenæum’), by Q., London, 1871, post 8vo. 3. ‘To London and elsewhere,’ London, 1881, 12mo. 4. ‘The Lady Drusilla: a Psychological Romance,’ London, 1886, post 8vo. 5. ‘Dust and Diamonds: Essays,’ London, 1888, post 8vo.

He also edited Dr. John Herd's ‘Historia Quatuor Regum Angliæ’ for the Roxburghe Club, 1868, 4to.

[Archæological Journal, 1862–6; Athenæum, 21 Dec. 1889; Globe, 21 Dec. 1889; private information.]

E. I. C.