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BIOGRAPHY AND OBITUARY,
MEMOIRS OF CELEBRATED PERSONS, WHO HAVE
DIED WITHIN THE YEARS 1829–1830.
SIR CHARLES VINICOMBE PENROSE,
VICE-ADMIRAL OF THE WHITE; KNIGHT COMMANDER OF THE
MOST HONOURABLE MILITARY ORDER OF THE BATH; KNIGHT
The family of Penrose is of great antiquity; and has been long settled in Cornwall, where its branches are very numerous. In the 12th of Henry IV., John Penrose was elected member of parliament for Liskeard; and in the 18th of Henry VIII., Richard Penrose, of Penrose, served the office of sheriff of the county.
Charles Vinicombe Penrose was the second son of the Rev. John Penrose, who continued, for thirty-five years,
the worthy vicar of St. Gluvias, in Cornwall. He was born on the 20th of June, 1759; and, at the age of thirteen, was placed in the Naval Academy, at Portsmouth, where he
soon noticed for his application and prepossessing address.
In 1775, he commenced his honourable career by embarking on board the Levant, a frigate commanded by the Honourable George Murray, uncle to the late Duke of Athol. With this upright and intelligent officer, our youth contracted a friendship, which, for a period of twenty-two years, continued unshaken, and was then closed only by death. This invaluable patron not only furthered his progress in the service, but treated him as a member of his family; and there is still at the castle of Blair, in Athol, a tasteful specimen of his early skill, in the large model of a line-of-battle ship, accurately rigged during his visits thither.
The youth's noviciate was passed on the Mediterranean, Channel, and North Sea stations, where he appears to have seen much boat-service. In August, 1779, he was appointed third lieutenant of the Cleopatra, under the command of his friend; and was a spectator of the sanguinary, though indecisive conflict, between Vice-Admiral Parker and Zoutman, on the 5th of August, 1781. It was in this ship, also, that his spirit of observation was manifested in catching, at a glance, the advantage of adopting the numerary signals, which he saw on board a Swedish frigate, instead of our tabular system. He constructed a similar code, and Captain Murray instantly circulated it in the small squadron which he commanded : some of the officers, two of whom are now old and distinguished admirals, fancied it incomprehensible from its numerous combinations; yet it was actually the same which has since become so universal.y practised for its simplicity.
The general peace which followed, allowed the Lieutenant to return home, where he assiduously applied himself to the improvement of his mind; a thirst which he also communi.cated to a brother officer, whom he found employing his half-pay hours in knitting silken purses ! In 1787 he was
united to Elizabeth, the amiable daughter of the Rev. J. Trevennen, who has survived him. Three daughters, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Jane, were the fruits of this union; and perhaps the perfection of our officer's character was in nothing more evident than in the admirable example he exhibited as a husband and a father.
On the call to arms, occasioned by the “ Spanish Armament,” Mr. Penrose joined Captain Murray in the Defence; and was afterwards with him in the Duke, of 98 guns, when she had her main-mast shivered by lightning, while employed in engaging and destroying some French batteries at Martinique. After removing with his patron, successively into the Glory of 98, and Resolution, 74, he was presented with a Commander's commission in 1794, on the anniversary of Rodney's victory; his patron being, at the same time, promoted to a flag.
The Captain's first command was the Lynx sloop of war, with which he assisted at the capture of l’Espérance, a French corvette, on the Halifax station. Being posted in October of the same year, he was fortunate enough to obtain the command of his old and favourite frigate the Cleopatra, and in her was despatched to examine and report upon the eligibility of the Bermudas as a naval resort. This mission was in consequence of the discovery and survey of a valuable anchorage by Lieutenant Thomas Hurd *, who piloted the frigate amongst the rocks with such skill and precision, as to command the admiration of all who witnessed it. In commemoration of this first visit of a man-of-war, the port was called after Admiral Murray.
Continuing his course towards Cape Hatteras, a singular and inexplicable accident befell the Cleopatra, in crossing the Gulf stream. The night was densely dark, and the ship
. under reduced sail, when all at once, in a heavy squall, with vivid lightning and a tremendous explosion, the wind shifted, and brought her head to a high and agitated sea. At the same instant, she plunged the whole of her forecastle so deeply
* The late Hydrographer to the Admiralty,
under water, that the watch despaired of seeing her rise again : when she did recover, it was only by a violent counteraction, which equally immersed the after-part of the ship. The action of the vessel is described to have been similar to her being lifted and cast head foremost into the deep; and the first notice Captain Penrose had of it was, being thrown out of his cot, and dashed violently against the quarter-deck beams! A view of this occurrence appeared in the thirty-first volume of the Naval Chronicle, and on being asked whether it was not exaggerated in the drawing, Sir Charles replied, “ It was a terrific pitch : I really think this must be a tolerable representation.”
Our officer had once more the satisfaction, during Captain Pender's absence, of acting with Vice-Admiral Murray, the only commander under whom he had personally served. When he returned to the Cleopatra, in the latter end of 1796, it was his melancholy lot to take home the wreck of his distinguished friend, who had been struck by paralysis, and never recovered. On this passage he captured the Hirondelle, a mischievous French privateer, of 12 guns and seventy
, two men.
In the spring of 1799, Captain Penrose was appointed to that beautiful ship the Sans Pareil, of 80 guns, which, for a short time, bore the flag of Lord Hugh Seymour ; and was then sent off Rochefort, to join Sir Charles Pole's squadron in the attempt to destroy five line-of-battle ships, which had anchored under the protection of Isle d’Aix. After the unsuccessful issue of this event, he was despatched to the West Indies, to rehoist Lord Hugh's flag; and in escorting a large convoy, the sailing qualities of the Sans Pareil were so superior, that she had scarcely to carry any canvass during the whole passage. Here he remained until the death of his Lordship, in September, 1801: on this event he wrote a concise and affectionate notice of the excellent Admiral, which was published in the Naval Chronicle.
Having suffered severely from a coup de soleil, Captain Penrose returned to England in the Carnatic, 74, and enjoyed