Eclectic Ethereal Encyclopedia

John Mason Neale

NEALE, JOHN MASON, divine and author, born at 40 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, on 24 Jan. 1818, was only son of the Rev. Cornelius Neale. The latter was senior wrangler and first Smith's prize-man at Cambridge in 1812, fellow of St. John's College, of evangelical views, and a writer of allegories, sermons, and various compositions in prose and verse, which were collected and published after his death, with a memoir of the writer prefixed, by his brother-fellow of St. John's, the Rev. Wilham Jowett [q. v.], a leader of the evangelical party at Cambridge. His mother, Susanna Neale, was a daughter of John Mason Good [q. v.], and her religious opinions resembled those of her husband. Cornelius Neale died at Chiswick in 1823, and the widow, with her son and three daughters, went to live at Shepperton, where the little boy was placed under the charge of the rector, William Russell, with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. In 1829 the family removed from Shepperton, and Neale was educated sometimes at home and sometimes at school, first at Blackheath, next at Sherborne, Dorset, and then for a short time at Farnham, Surrey. Early in 1836 he read with Dr. Challis, professor of astronomy, at Papworth Everard, of which village Challis was incumbent, and in October 1836 he won a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was accounted the best classical scholar of his year; but, although the son of a senior wrangler, he had so rooted a distaste for mathematics that he would not qualify himself to become a candidate for classical honours by gaining a place in the mathematical tripos. The rule which rendered this necessary was rescinded in 1851, but Neale took an ordinary degree in 1840. He won the members' prize in 1838, and after his graduation he acted for a while as chaplain and assistant tutor at Downing college. He was not elected fellow. In 1845 he won the Seatonian prize for a sacred poem, an achievement which he repeated on ten subsequent occasions. The religious movement which is usually identified with Oxford was proceeding in a different way, but with scarcely less force, at Cambridge, and it deeply affected Neale. He warmly espoused high-church views, and in 1839, while yet an undergraduate, was one of the founders of the Cambridge Camden Society, which was afterwards, on its removal to London, called the Ecelesiological Society. Neale was ordained deacon at St. Margaret's, Westminster, by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol (Dr. Monk), on Trinity Sunday, 1841, on the title of his fellowship. He began parochial work at St. Nicholas, Guildford, Surrey, as assistant curate, or rather locum tenens, for his friend Hugh Nicolas Pearson [q. v.]; but as a 'Camdenian' he was now a marked man, and the Bishop of Winchester (Dr. Sumner) would not license him in his diocese. On Trinity Sunday 1842 he was ordained priest by Bishop Monk at St. Margaret's, Westminster, and the next day he accepted the small living of Crawley in Sussex. But the climate was unsuited to his frail health, and he was not instituted. A visit to Penzance proved no more satisfactory, and with his wife, Sarah Norman Webster (whom he had married on 27 July 1842), he went in the first week of 1843 to Madeira. The next three years were spent between Madeira and England, and during this time he was busy with his pen. In the autumn of 1845 Neale removed to Reigate, and in the spring of 1846 he was 'presented by the Ladies Amherst and De la Warr, coheiresses of the third Duke of Dorset,' to the wardenship of Sackville College, East Grinstead. Sackville College was a charitable institution founded in 1608 by Robert Sackville, second earl of Dorset, for the shelter and maintenance of thirty poor and aged householders, under charge of a warden, not necessarily in holy orders, and two sub-wardens. The stipend was only between 20l. and 30l. a year; and this was the only preferment--which was not really any ecclesiastical preferment at all--that Neale held, in spite of his high claims on the church. In 1850 he declined an offer of the deanery, or, as it was called, the provostship, of St. Ninian's, Perth, and he remained at East Grinstead for the rest of his life. Scotland, America, and Russia all showed themselves more appreciative of him than his own country. Harvard University conferred the degree of D.D. upon him, and in 1860 the Metropolitan of Moscow showed the appreciation in which his liturgical labours were held in Russia by sending him a valuable copy of the Liturgy of the Starovertzi (Old Faith dissenters), with an interesting inscription.

Neale's avowal of high-church doctrines and practices and his support of Puseyism raised against him much opposition, and even subjected him occasionally to mob violence. Although extremely gentle in manner, he adhered to his principles with iron inflexibility. When the college building, which were in a ruinous state, were restored early in his career at East Grinstead, he rebuilt the college chapel, adding such ornaments as are now the rule rather than the exception in every well-ordered church. The additional ornaments were brought to the notice of the bishop of the diocese (Dr. Gilbert), who, in a painful controversy, denounced Neale's accessories to worship as 'frippery' or 'spiritual haberdashery,' and inhibited him from officiating in his diocese. Sackville College chapel had not been under episcopal jurisdiction. Neale had desired to place it under the bishop, but the patrons objected. Independently of his natural desire to minister to the spiritual wants of his flock, he now felt bound to contend for the privileges of the college. A suit was instituted, and Neale was defeated. The episcopal inhibition was not formally removed until November 1863. 'So, I hope, writes the warden, 'ends a battle of more than sixteen years; I having neither withdrawn a single word, nor altered a single practice (except in a few instances by way of going further).' Bishop Wilberforce interceded warmly with Bishop Gilbert in behalf of the college. Finally friendly relations were established between Neale and his diocesan, to whom he dedicated the volume of his collected 'Seatonian Poems.'

While at East Grinstead Neale founded a well-known nursing sisterhood. It began in a very small way at Rotherford, Neale working in conjunction with Miss S. A. Gream, daughter of the rector of the parish. In 1856 it was brought back to East Grinstead, where it still flourishes under the name of St. Margaret's Sisterhood. An orphanage, a middle-class school for girls, and a home at Aldershot for the reformation of fallen women were one by one attached to the sisterhood; but the home, after having done much useful work, was abandoned in consequence of the protestant prejudices raised against it. The work grew upon his hands, and he was anxious to see the buildings of the sisterhood enlarged. His last public act was to lay the foundation of a new convent for the sisters on St. Margaret's day (20 July) 1865; but he did not live to see it completed. His health utterly broke down, and, after a period of severe suffering, he died on the Feast of the Transfiguration (6 Aug.) 1866. His domestic life was eminently happy; he left behind him a widow and five children. He had also a circle of devoted friends, among whom may be especially mentioned the Revs. Benjamin Webb and E. J. Boyce (co-founders of the Cambridge Camden Society), E. Haskoll, and Dr. Littledale.

Neale is best known to the outer world as a writer. As a translator of ancient Latin and, still more, Greek hymns he has not an equal; but he was a most voluminous writer on an infinite variety of other subjects. His linguistic powers were enormous; he knew more or less of twenty languages; he was a true poet, and his Latin verses are not less graceful than his English. A story is told by Gerard Moultrie [see under MOULTRIE, JOHN] of Neale's placing before Keble the Latin of one of Keble's hymns with the words, 'Why, Keble, I thought you told me that the "Christian Year" was entirely original.' Keble professed himself utterly confounded until Neale relieved him by owning that he had iust turned it into Latin. His prose style is pure and lucid, and the range of his historical knowledge was very wide. In 1851 he undertook to write three leaders a week for the 'Morning Chronicle,' which he continued to do till the end of 1853, while at the same time he was contributing important articles to the 'Christian Remembrancer,' and afterwards, at the invitation of Mr. J. H. Parker, to the 'National Miscellany' and the 'Penny Post,' and to the 'Churchman's Companion.'

Neale's more important works, many of which appeared after his death, chiefly under the direction of Dr. Littledale, are here arranged under four chief headings: I. Theological and Eccelesiological; II. Hymnological; III. Tales and Books for the Young; IV. Miscellaneous.

I. THEOLOGICAL and ECCLESIOLOGICAL: 1. 'A History of Pews,' 1841 (a supplement to this work appeared in the following year). 2. 'An Historical Outline of the Book of Psalms' (originally written by his father, but revised and edited by him), 1842. 3. 'A Translation of Durandus on Symbolism, with Introductory Essay, Notes, &c.,' 1843. 4. 'A History of Alexandria,' 1844. 5. 'Tetralogia Liturgica, sive S. Chrystostomi, S. Jacobi, S. Marci, Divinae Missae,' 1848. 6. 'The Patriarchate of Alexandria' (the first instalment of his great work on the Eastern church), 1848. 7. 'Ecclesiological Notes on the Isle of Man,' 1848. 8. 'An Introduction to the History of the Holy Eastern Church' (an important work in two thick quarto volumes), 1850. 9. 'Life and Times of Patrick Torry, Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld, and Dunblane,' 1856. 10. 'A History of the so-called Jansenist Church in Holland,' 1858. 11. 'The Liturgies of St. Mark, St. James, St. Clement, St. Chrysostom, and St. Basil,' 1859. 12. 'Voices from the East: Documents on the present State and Working of the Oriental Church, translated from the original Russ, Sclavonic, and French, with Notes,' 1859. 13. 'A Commentary on the Psalms from primitive and medieval Writers,' 1860. 14. 'History of the Council of Florence,' 1861. 15. 'Essays on Liturgiology and Church History,' 1863. There appeared posthumously: 16. 'Twenty-eight Sermons For Children,' 1867. 17. 'Sermons for the Black-Letter Days; or Minor Festivals of the Church of England,' 1868 (a most valuable and interesting volume, quite unique of its kind). 18. 'Thirty-three Sermons for Children,' 1869. 19. 'Via Fidelium, being Litanies, Stations, and Hours, compiled by J. M. N.,' 1869. 20. 'Catechetical Notes and Class Questions, Literal and Mystical, chiefly on the Earlier Books of Holy Scripture,' 1869. 21. 'The Venerable Sacrament of the Altar ('De Sacramento Altaris' of St. Thomas Aquinas), translation commenced by J. M. N.,' 1871. In 1874 was published for the first time the full 'Commentary on the Psalms from primitive and mediaeval Writers,' compiled partly by Neale and partly by Littledale, in 4 vols. In 1873 was published for the first time, in 5 vols., all that Neale wrote--and that only a fragment--on 'The History of the Holy Eastern Church.'

II. HYMNOLOGICAL: 1. 'J. M. Nealii Epistola Critica de Sequentiis,' in the fifth volume of the 'Thesaurus Hymnologicus,' 1841. 2. 'Hymns for the Sick,' 1843. 3. 'Hymns for Children, in Accordance with the Catechism,' 1843. 4. 'Hymni Ecelesiae e Breviariis quibusdam et Missalibus Gallicanis, Germanis, Hispanis, Lusitanis desumpti. Collegit et recensuit J. M. N.,' 1851. 5. 'Sequentiae ex Missalibus Germanicis, Anglicis, Gallicis, aliisque Modii Aevi collectae. Recensuit notulisque instruxit Johannes M. Neale' (a companion volume to the preceding), 1852. 6. 'The Rhythm of Bernard de Morlaix . . . on the Celestial Country' (Latin and English), 1859. [omitted. 'Hymns of the Eastern Church', 1862.] 7. 'Hymns, chiefly mediaeval, on the Joys and Glories of Paradise,' 1865. 8. 'Hymns for Use during the Cattle Plague,' 1866. 9. 'The Invalid's Hymn Book' (with a preface by Dr. Littledale), 1866. 10. 'Sequences, Hymns, and other Ecclesiastical Verses,' 1866.

In 1851 appeared the first part of the 'Hymnal Noted,' the second and more popular part appearing in 1864. The great majority of the hymns in both parts were translated by Neale. In 'Hymns Ancient and Modern' no less than one-eighth of the hymns are from his pen, either originals or translated (this is exclusive of the last appendix). No other hymn-writer is so largely represented in this the most popular of all English hymnals. Two admirable volumes of carols collected by Neale, with music by Helmore, 'Carols for Christmastide' and 'Carols for Eastertide,' were issued in 1863 and 1854 respectively.

III. TALES and BOOKS FOR THE YOUNG: 1. 'Herbert Tresham: a Tale of the Great Rebellion,' 1842. 2. 'Agnes de Tracey: a Tale of the Times of St. Thomas of Canterbury,' 1843. 3. 'Ayton Priory; or the restored Monastery,' 1843. 4. 'Shepperton Manor: a Tale of the Times of Bishop Andrews,' 1844. 6. 'A Mirror of Faith: Lays and Legends of the Church of England,' 1845. 6. 'Annals of Virgin Saints,' 1845. 7. 'Stories of the Crusades,' 1845. 8. 'The Unseen World,' 1847. 9. 'Duchenier: a Tale of the Revolt in La Vendée,' 1847. 10. 'Victories of the Saints,' 1850. 11. 'Stories for Children from Church History,' 1850; 2nd series, 1851. 12. 'The Followers of the Lord,' 1851. 13. 'Evenings at Sackville College: Legends for Children,' 1852. 14. 'The Pilgrim's Progress for the Use of Children in the English Church,' 1863. 15. 'History of the Church for the Use of Children,' pt. i. (no more published), 1853. 16. 'The Egyptian Wanderers: a Story for Children of the Great Persecution,' 1854. 17. 'Lent Legends: Stories from Church History,' 1855. 18. 'The Farm of Aptonga,' 1856. 19. 'Church Papers: Tales Illustrative of the Apostles' Creed,' 1857. 20. 'Theodora Phranza; or the Fall of Constantinople,' 1857 (an excellent story of the events preceding 1453).

In 1845 he commenced a series of tales in the Juvenile Englishman's Library, including 'The Triumphs of the Cross: Tales and Sketches of Christian Heroism' (vol. vi.); 'A History of Portugal' (vol. xvi.), 'Stories from Heathen Mythology and Greek History for the Use of Christian Children' (vol. xix.), 'A History of Greece for Young Persons' and 'English History for Children' ('Triumphs of the Cross,' 2nd ser.), and 'Tales of Christian Endurance' (vol. xxii.) In Parker's series of tales illustrating church history, 'The Lazar House of Leros,' 'The Exiles of the Covenna,' 'Lily of Tiflis,' 'Lucia's Marriage,' &c., were from his pen.

IV. Neale's MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS, translations, and editions include: 1. 'Hierologus; or the Church Tourists,' 1843. 2. 'Songs and Ballads for the People,' 1843. 3. 'Sir Henry Spelman's History and Fate of Sacrilege' (edited by J. M. N.), 1846. 4. 'Songs and Ballads for Manufacturers,' 1850. 5. 'A Few Words of Hope on the present Crisis of the English Church' (in reference to the Gorham controversy), 1850. 6. 'Handbook for Travellers in Portugal,' 1855. 7. 'The Moral Concordances of St. Antony of Padua, translated by J. M. N.,' 1856, 'Mediaeval Preachers.' 8. 'Notes Ecclesiological and Picturesque on Dalmatia, Croatia, Istria, Styria, with a Visit to Montenegro,' 1861. 9. 'Seatonian Poems' (written many years before), 1864. In 1848 he issued a volume called 'Readings for the Aged,' and this was followed by a second series in 1854, a third series in 1856, and a fourth in 1868.

To the Cambridge Camden Society's publications he contributed 'A Few Words to Churchwardens on Churches and Church Ornaments,' 'A Few Words to Church Builders,' 'A History of Pews,' and a 'Memoir of Bishop Montague,' dedicated to his tutor at Trinity, Archdeacon Thorp, and prefixed to a reprint of Bishop Montague's 'Visitation Articles' (1839-41).

[St. Margaret's Magazine from July 1887 onwards (where the fullest and most accurate account of Neale's life and writings will be found); Littledale's Memoir of Dr. J. M. Neale; Neale's own Works, passim; Memoir of the Rev. Cornelius Neale by the Rev. William Jowett; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology, pp. 785-90; Huntington's Random Recollections, 1893, pp. 198-223; Newbery House Magazine for March 1893 (A layman's Recollections of the Church Movement of 1833); Notes and Queries, 8th ser. vi. 383; private information.]

J. H. O.

From: Dictionary of National Biography
See also Works by John Mason Neale at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Eclectic Ethereal Encyclopedia
at the
Christian Classics Ethereal Library