Blanco White - Plaque (1)
Plaque on the Renshaw Memorial in Roscoe Memorial Gardens, Mount Pleasant, Downtown Liverpool

Picture donated by Jonathan P. Neill

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Blanco White

Revered Jose Maria Blanco White was born in Seville in a comfortable home, July 11th 1775, and died, miserably in Liverpool, May 20th 1841.

Blanco was a poet, who composed in Spanish and English, he was also a literary critic, novelist, essayist, journalist and religious controversialist. His father was a merchant, son of an Irish family named White, who moved to Spain, away from religious persecution in Ireland, and then adopted the name Blanco.

Joseph was ordained a Catholic priest in 1799 and quickly rose to the higher ranks of the church as his great intelligence was recognised. He became a royal chaplain, but had grave doubts about the strong influence of the Church on Spanish society and was disillusioned by the government after the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808. He became very friendly with Lord Holland, and as he was fluent in English, he decided to move to England, setting off in one of his father's boats.

In 1812, he attended a service at St James' in Piccadilly, were he found himself profoundly moved for the first time to pray. He then decided to apply for membership of the Church of England. In 1812 he took Anglican orders, after studying in Oxford, where he was welcomed by members of the 'Oxford Movement', especially John Henry Newman, later cardinal. In 1832, he was invited to join Archbishop Whateley in Dublin as a tutor to his children. Still being disturbed by doubts, Joseph read about the Unitarian faith, and decided to move to Liverpool, where it was most active. He attended both chapels in Paradise Street. and Renshaw Street. He had discovered that a son had been born in 1812 to a Spanish women, with whom he had had a liaison, when she died, he brought the boy to England to be educated. The son joined the English army and often visited his father, who was unable to purchase a commission for him when his health deteriorated.

Joseph was befriended by William Rathbone who took him into Greenbank as Blanco was no longer able to look after himself, and there he died in 1841.

Joseph's most famous sonnet, highly praised by Coleridge, was "Mysterious Night". His "Letters from Spain", came out in 1822, and his autobiography, edited by Rev. J.H. Thom, after his death, was published in 1845. All of his books were presented by Rev J.H. Thom to the Athenaeum library after his death. There is also a biography by Martin Murphy.

Brenda Murray 2005

Brenda is a member and committee member of the Liverpool History Society.

For more information about Blanco White see:

The University of Liverpool, Blanco White Collection