Thomas Purnell (critic)

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Thomas Purnell (1834–1889) was a British author, best known as a dramatic critic writing as "Q".



The son of Robert Purnell, he was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, in 1834. He matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1852, but then went to London and became a journalist. [1]

Tenby town in Wales

Tenby is a walled seaside town in Pembrokeshire, Wales, on the western side of Carmarthen Bay.

In 1862 Purnell was recommended by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy as 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 style and slashing censures. Charles Reade and Tom Taylor published replies.

Charles Reade British writer

Charles Reade was an English novelist and dramatist, best known for The Cloister and the Hearth.

Tom Taylor English playwright

Tom Taylor was an English dramatist, critic, biographer, public servant, and editor of Punch magazine.

Purnell founded a small literary club, the "Decemviri", which included A. C. Swinburne, Whistler, Robert Edward Francillon, and Joseph Knight. He came to know Giuseppe Mazzini, to whom he introduced Swinburne and others. He died at Lloyd Square, Pentonville, London, where his sister kept house for him, on 17 December 1889, after a long illness.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler American painter

James Abbott McNeill Whistler was an American artist, active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in the United Kingdom. He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, and was a leading proponent of the credo "art for art's sake". His famous signature for his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol was apt, for it combined both aspects of his personality: his art is characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. He found a parallel between painting and music and entitled many of his paintings "arrangements", "harmonies", and "nocturnes", emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting is Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871), commonly known as Whistler's Mother, the revered and often parodied portrait of motherhood. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his friendships with leading artists and writers.

Robert Edward Francillon (1841–1919) was an English journalist and author, active in the late 19th century.

Joseph Knight (critic) English dramatic critic and theatre historian

(John) Joseph Knight (1829–1907) was an English dramatic critic and theatre historian.


In 1871 Purnell edited Charles Lamb's Correspondence and Works , and organised the Charles Lamb centenary dinner. He was the author of:

Charles Lamb English essayist

Charles Lamb was an English essayist, poet, and antiquarian, best known for his Essays of Elia and for the children's book Tales from Shakespeare, co-authored with his sister, Mary Lamb (1764–1847).

Letters of Charles Lamb

The 19th-century English writer Charles Lamb's letters were addressed to, among others, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Godwin, and Thomas Hood, all of whom were close friends. They are valued for the light they throw on the English literary world in the Romantic era and on the evolution of Lamb's essays, and still more for their own "charm, wit and quality".

Purnell also edited John Herd's Historia Quatuor Regum Angliæ for the Roxburghe Club, 1868.

The Roxburghe Club is an exclusive bibliophilic and publishing society based in the United Kingdom.


  1. Wikisource-logo.svg  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Purnell, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography . 47. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Purnell, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography . 47. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

The public domain consists of all the creative works to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable.

Sidney Lee 19th/20th-century English biographer and critic

Sir Sidney Lee was an English biographer, writer and critic.

<i>Dictionary of National Biography</i> multi-volume reference work

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