An Article on Henry Penneck Curate of Morvah
and His Father Dr Penneck
Taken From -
Notes and Queries :
A Medium of Intercommunication for
Literary Men, General Readers, Etc.
"When found, make a note of." CAPTAIN CUTTLE
Eighth Series, Volume Twelfth.
July - December 1897
Dr. Penneck, a descendant of an old Cornish family, was baptized at Paul, near Penzance, on
5 Jan., 1762. Unfortunately for him, the reasonable practice of paying a surgeon for his visits had
not yet come into fashion ; the only renumeration he received was for the physic supplied, and he was
often accused of sending his patients more medicine than was absolutely necessary. Otherwise he was
a clever man and in advance of his age. In 1831 he published ' An Essay on the Nature and Treat-
ment of Cholera,' a careful work on a subject which had not yet received much attention. He
had previously, in 1802, in conjunction with Robert Dunkin, taken out a patent for "method
of improving the sailing and navigation of ships and vessels"; in 1821 he patented" an improvement
of machinery for lessening the consumption of fuel in working steam-engines." He served as mayor
1817-18, and died at Penzance on 31 March, 1834.
The son, Henry Penneck, junior, was born at Penzance on 7 Aug., 1800, and educated at St.
Peter's College, Cambridge. There is a very romantic incident connected with his history,
which I do not think there can now be any impropriety in relating, as all the persons connected with
it died long ago and the Penneck family is completely extinct. On returning to his home at
Penzance, on the conclusion of his first term at Cambridge, he fell in love with a good-looking
girl, a milliner, named Mary Ann Mathews. He announced to his father his intention of marry-
ing the young lady, and refusing to give her up at his father's desire, was turned out of doors by his
enraged parent. Mrs. George Dennis John, a relative, received him as a guest, and in her house,
under deep anguish of mind, he attempted to terminate his existence by taking poison. The
poison, however, did not kill him, but the effect of it was felt in his eyes, which had always been weak,
and for the remainder of his life his eyes bad a blood-shade. After this he gave up all thoughts of
marriage, and became reconciled to his father, to whom he was the most attached and affectionate
son, paying him the greatest attention and kindness during a long and wearisome illness which
preceded his death. Although from this time be was somewhat morose and ill-natured to mankind
in general, he was capable of the warmest attachments. His old nurse he kept in his own house,
attended on her during her final illness, carried her up and down stairs when she was unable to walk,
and sincerely grieved at her death. Returning to Cambridge, he took his B.A. degree in 1827, his
M.A. in 1830. In 1826 he was ordained, but he never held any benefice. He occasionally took tem-
porary duty in Penzance and the neighouring parishes, and was curate of Morvah from 1840 to
1842. Such, however, was his nervous temperament that he made frequent mistakes while reading
the service, and often used the wrong prayers, psalms, or lessons. There is a kind of proverb in
the parish of St. Levan, which says, ' Be quiet, you boys in the porch, as Parson Penneck said when he
missed the line in his sermon." He was fond of animals, and had several quarrels while defending
the interest of his pet dog. He sent communications to the Gentleman's Magazine, ' N. & Q.,' and other
publications, and supplied botanical notes to J. S. Courtney's ' Guide to Penzance.' He was
for many years very intimate with John Ealfs, the botanist, and knowing him to be in very
straitened circumstances, left him a small nuity. He died at Penzance on 24 April, 1862.
He was a man who never threw away anything, and his executors found among his papers the
receipted bills for sweeping his chimneys during a long series of years. He also left a pedigree tracing
his descent from Edward III., which one of his executors, who had no pedigree of his own, im-
mediately destroyed. GEORGE C. BOASE.
36, James Street, Buckingham Gate.