PENSO, JOSEPH (known also as Penso Vega or de la Vega):
Merchant, poet, and philanthropist; born at Espejo, Spain, about 1650; died at Amsterdam Nov. 13, 1692. He was the son of Isaac Penso Felix and of Esther de la Vega, whose family name he assumed, and who was a relative of the Vegas that founded a Talmudic school in Leghorn. His father was a Marano, who had made a solemn vow in the dungeon of the Inquisition that within a year after regaining his liberty he would openly profess Judaism. This oath he fulfilled in Middelburg after his escape to Antwerp. Isaac, from the time of his marriage until his death, which occurred in Feb., 1683, distributed 80,000 gulden as tithes from his profits.
Joseph went while still young to Amsterdam, where he was taught by Isaac Aboab and Moses Raphael de Aguilar. When in his eighteenth year he completed his first Hebrew drama, "Asire ha-Tiḳwah" ("Pardes Shoshannim"), in three acts, which appeared in Amsterdam in 1673 (2d ed., Leghorn, 1770), and in which he allegorically depicted the victory of the will over the passions. He became a respected merchant and an elegant Spanish poet, and filled the honorary offices of president of the Academia de los Sitibundos and secretary of the Academia de los Floridos, founded by Manuel de Belmonte. Penso wrote over 200 letters to different princes and statesmen, and was a prolific author, "the marvel of the academies, who made his work proof against criticism by presenting his subject in ordered form; delicate in his sentiments and of true refinement," as De Barrios ("Arbol de las Vidas," p. 90) characterizes him.
Of Penso's works may be mentioned: "Discurso Academico Moral . . . Hécho en la Insigne Academia de los Sitibundos" (Amsterdam, 1683; dedicated to Isaac Senior Texeira in Hamburg); "Triumphos del Aguyla y Eclypses de la Luna" (ib. 1683); "La Rosa, Panegyrico Sacro, Hécho en la Insigne Academia de los Sitibundos" (ib. 1683); "Rumbos Peligrosos por Donde Navega con Titulo de Novelas la Cosobrante Nave de la Temeridad" (Antwerp, 1684); "Discursos Academicos, Morales, Retoricos, y Sagrados Que Recitó en la Florida Academia de los Floridos" (ib. 1685); "Retrato de la Prudencia, y Simulacro del Valor, al Augusto Monarca Guilielmo Tercero, Rey do la Gran Bretaña" (ib. 1690); "Confusion de Confusiones; Dialogos Curiosos," Amsterdam, 1688.
Penso had four brothers: Abraham, the eldest, who was charitable like his father; Joseph, David, and Raphael, who lived in London.
- Rios, Estudios, pp. 633 et seq.;
- Kayserling, Sephardim, pp. 213, 316 et seq.;
- idem, Bibl. Esp.-Port.-Jud. pp. 85 et seq.;
- Delitzsch, Zur Gesch. der Jüdischen Poesie, p. 77;
- Grätz, Gesch. x., pp. xiii. et seq., where his name is erroneously given as (Felice) Joseph Penso.