Born: Giovanni Battista Nani, flower and foliage painter, 1616, Venice; Dr. David Hartley, moral philosopher, author of Observations on Man, 1705, Armley, Yorkshire; Johann Christoph Adelung, grammarian and linguist, 1734, Spantekow, in Pomerania; Archdeacon William Paley, author of Natural Theology, Evidences of Christianity, &c., 1743, Peterborough.
Died: Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, committed suicide, 30 a. c., Alexandria; Theodoric the Great, king of the Goths, 526, Ravenna; Pope Alexander III, 1181; Louis XI, king of France, 1483, Plessis-les-Tours; Sultan Soliman II, the Magnificent, 1566; Francis Baily, astronomer, 1844, London; Sir John Ross, Arctic navigator, 1856, London; Sir Richard Westmacott, sculptor, London; John Francis, sculptor, 1861, London.
Feast Day: Saints Felix and Adauctus, martyrs, about 303. St. Pammachius, confessor, 410. St. Agilus or Aile, abbot of Rebais, about 650. St. Fiaker, Fiacre, or Fefre, anchoret and confessor, about 670. St. Rose of Lima, virgin, 1617.
The character of Dr. Paley is strikingly illustrative of the province to which he belonged: strong shrewd sense, great economy, and much per-severing industry, without the graces of refinement, are still the prevailing features of the inhabitants of the north of Yorkshire. Though born at Peter-borough, where his father was a minor canon, he was, at the age of one year, carried to Giggleswick, in Craven, on his mother's lap, she being seated on a pillion behind her husband. The primitive habits of the family were strictly kept up by this clever woman, who taught her son to knit his own stockings, a practice he continued after he was archdeacon of Carlisle. His father being the head-master of the grammar-school of Giggleswick, he received his education there; and to prevent his being made a baker, as Mrs. Paley wished, he was carried by his father to Cambridge, and entered on the books at the early age of fifteen. His falling from his pony no less than seven times on the road there, and the parental carelessness in not even turning his head to see if his son were hurt, merely remarking: 'Take care of thy money, lad,' confirm the opening remarks. His uncouth awkwardness created the greatest mirth among the under-graduates, who dignified him with the sobriquet of 'Tommy Potts.' Idle and extravagant during the first two years, lying in bed until noon, and frequenting fairs, strolling-players, and puppet-shows, he was roused from these habits by the remonstrance of one of his gay companions, who at four o'clock one morning came to him in bed, and spewed how much better his talents might be employed.
In consequence of that word spoken in season, he entirely reformed; began a practice of rising at five, and in a year came out senior-wrangler. In 1766, he was elected fellow of Christ's College, and became one of the tutors, giving lectures on moral philosophy, the substance of which he embodied afterwards in his book on that subject. His friendship with the son of the bishop of Carlisle procured him the living of Musgrave, worth but eighty pounds a year, upon which he married: happily, preferment of various kinds flowed in, and in 1782 he was made arch-deacon of Carlisle. Soon after he began his celebrated works; but the first, Principles of Moral Philosophy, had to wait some time until the author was rich enough to publish it, no one in the trade being willing to run the risk: the sale from the first was so great that Faulder, the publisher, to whom it had been offered for one hundred pounds, was willing to give two hundred and fifty. Whilst the negotiation was pending, another offer came of a thousand pounds, and Paley's distress lest his friend should have concluded the bargain for the lesser sum was sufficiently ludicrous. Horæ Paulinae and some smaller works followed; but the highest commendations were reserved for his View of the Evidences of Christianity, which was greeted by all ranks, from George III downwards, as an antidote to the infidelity which then prevailed. He was immediately made prebend of St. Paul's, and subdean of Lincoln, with the valuable living of Bishop-Wearmouth, raising his income to more than two thousand a year. After eleven years spent in the enjoyment of these good things, and in the society of the distinguished men of the day, among whom were Ellenborough and Mackintosh, he died on the 25th of May 1805.
AN OBSTINATE PRISONER
When the system of imprisonment for debt was in full force, instances were frequent in which men were incarcerated for a long series of years-either because they were too poor to work out their deliverance, or because they disputed the justice of the claim under which they had been captured. A singular case of the latter kind occurred towards the close of the last century. Mr. Benjamin Pope, a tanner in Southwark, made £70,000 by success in trade, and then became a money-lender, discounter, and mortgagee. When his fortune reached £100,000, he was familiarly known as 'Plumb Pope.' His good-fortune gradually deserted him, however. His grasping disposition led him to offend against the usury laws, and he was frequently before the courts. In one serious case he was cast in £10,000 damages. He never ceased throughout the remainder of his life from complaining of this sentence; he went to France for a time, with his property and effects; and when he returned to England in 1782, he voluntarily went to prison rather than pay the above-named damages.
In the King's Bench Prison he remained for the last twelve years of his life. At one time he might have got off by paying £1000 instead of £10,000; but this he refused to do, as 'this would be acknowledging the justice of the debt, which he would die sooner than do' - and he kept his word.
While in prison he carried on his avocation of a money-lender, on a more limited and cautious scale than before. Always penurious and eccentric, he had become still more so. A pint of small-beer lasted him two days, and he always looked at the fulness of the measure before he paid for it. He would drink strong-beer with any one who would give it to him; but he never bought any. If he bought his three-farthing candle at eight to the pound, he would always select the heaviest of the eight, to obtain the most tallow he could for his money. He never had a joint of meat on his table during the whole twelve years of his voluntary imprisonment; a fourpenny-plate from a cook's shop served him for two meals. His friends, though living at a distance, knowing of his penurious habits, often sent him articles of food which he refused to buy for himself. When he died, at the end of August 1794, Mr. Pope still owed the debt which had embittered so many years of his strange life.
JOHN CAMDEN NEILD
In the autumn of 1852, general curiosity was excited by an announcement in the newspapers that an eccentric gentleman, who had died on the 30th of August in that year, had bequeathed an immense legacy to the Queen. This gentleman was John Camden Neild, whose name had hitherto been all unknown to the public; but now reports respecting his eccentricities and the vast amount of his bequest were everywhere rife, and were eagerly devoured. Many of these reports, however, were contradictory, and instead of satisfying, only perplexed and mortified sober inquirers. Nor has any authentic memoir of Mr. Neild since been published. It is therefore hoped that the following biographical sketch, compiled from credible sources, and containing many unpublished anecdotes, will be read with interest.
His father, James Neild, was a native of Knutsford, in Cheshire, and becoming a goldsmith in London, amassed considerable wealth, and purchased estates in the counties of Buckingham, Middlesex, Kent, and Surrey. In these several counties he held the office of magistrate for many years, and in 1804, he was appointed high-sheriff of Buckinghamshire. He was eminently benevolent, especially in his efforts for the improvement of prisons, and originated a society for the relief of Persons imprisoned for small debts. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Camden, Esq., of Battersea, in Surrey, a direct descendant of the renowned antiquary of the same name. He died in 1814, and was buried at Chelsea.
John Camden Neild, the only surviving son of the above, was born in 1780, and after receiving a good classical and general education, was entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took the degree of B.A. in 1801, and M.A. in 1804. He afterwards became a student at Lincoln's Inn, and in 1808 was called to the bar. Succeeding in 1814 to the whole of his father's property, estimated at £250,000, it was at first hoped that he would walk in the paternal footsteps, and prove a benevolent and public-spirited country gentleman. Soon, however, it began to appear that avarice was his ruling passion. His parsimonious spirit increased till he became a confirmed miser, and for the last thirty years of his life, it may be said that he was entirely given over to the accumulation of wealth. His habits and appearance became very peculiar. He lived in a large house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea; but it was meanly and scantily furnished. At one time, it is said, he slept on a bare board, but latterly on an old stump-bedstead, on which he died. His favourite companion was a large black cat, which was present in his chamber when he breathed his last. He kept two female servants, one as housekeeper, whom he placed on low board-wages when he left home, and it was on such occasions that he gave the fullest scope to his penurious inclinations.
He had considerable property at North Marston, in Buckinghamshire, and here he often stayed for days together, besides his half-yearly visits to receive rents. As lessee of the rectory, it was incumbent on him to repair the chancel of the church, and this he did in a very original manner. On one occasion, the leaded roof having become full of chinks and fissures, he had them covered with strips of painted calico, to the number of forty, saying, 'they would last his time.' While these repairs were in progress, he sat all day on the roof, to keep the workmen employed, and even ate his dinner there, which consisted of hard eggs, dry bread, and butter-milk. It may be remarked that he seldom paid his workmen or trades-people without disputing their account, and protesting that they would ruin him with their high charges.
His dress, which was extremely old-fashioned and shabby, consisted of a blue 'swallow-tailed' coat, with gilt buttons, brown trousers, short gaiters, and shoes which were patched and generally down at the heels. He never allowed his clothes to be brushed, because, he said, it destroyed the nap, and made them wear out faster. His stockings and linen were generally full of holes; but when he stayed a night at a tenant's, the mistress often mended them. while he was in bed. On one occasion a night-shirt, which he accident-ally left at a tenant's house, was found to be so tattered and rotten, that the mistress, finding repair impossible, burned it. His personal appearance was unprepossessing.
He was short and punchy, scarcely above five feet in height, with a large round head, and short neck. He always carried with him an old green cotton umbrella, but never, even in the coldest or wettest weather, wore a greatcoat, considering such a luxury far too extravagant for his slender means. Often has he been seen, in a piercingly cold winter's evening, entering Aylesbury on the outside of a coach without the slightest addition to his ordinary clothing; while a poor labourer, sitting by his side, appeared warmly clad in a thick greatcoat. His appearance on such occasions often excited the compassion of his fellow-travellers, who mistook him for a decayed gentleman in extreme poverty.
Just before the introduction of railway-travelling, he had been visiting some of his Kentish property, when, as he was returning to London, the coach stopped at Farningham. It was a bitterly cold day, and, with the exception of Mr. Neild, all the outside passengers, though well wrapped in greatcoats and rugs, entered the inn 'to take something to warm them.' As they sat in the comfortable parlour drinking their brandy and water, they saw with pity their thinly-clad companion still sitting on the coach. Thinking he only remained there in the cold because he was ashamed to enter the inn when he had no money to spend, they subscribed for a good glass of brandy and water, and sent it to the 'poor gentleman,' who drank it off, and thanked his benefactors for their kindness. He often took rather long journeys on foot, especially in Buckinghamshire, where he had estates in different parts, which he could not visit by any public conveyance.
In these walking-journeys he never scrupled to avail himself of any proffered 'lift,' even in the dirtiest farm-cart, and he has been known to sit on a load of coal, to enable him to proceed a little further without expense; though, after all, he would probably give the driver a penny or two for the accommodation; for it is a fact that, miser as he was, he never liked to receive anything without paying for it, though his ideas of remuneration were certainly on a very restricted scale. When he called on the clergymen of the parishes where his estates lay, he always refused to partake of a meal or any refreshment; giving his declinature in a hasty, sharp tone, as if he had been annoyed or surprised at the invitation. With his tenants, especially those of a lower grade, the case was different. With one tenant, whose condition was scarcely above that of a labourer, he remained some days, sharing with the family their coarse meals and lodging. When business required his presence at North Marston, he used to reside with his tenant on the rectory-farm. While staying here about the year 1828, he attempted self-destruction by cutting his throat, and his life was saved chiefly by the prompt assistance of his tenant's wife, a Mrs. Neal. This rash act was supposed to have been caused by a sudden declension in the stocks, in which he had just made a large investment.
During the year 1848, an enclosure was taking place in another parish. in which he had a farm, and he often visited it to attend meetings on the subject. On these occasions he generally slept at Tring, or at the railway station, but ate his dinner at his tenant's. Before entering the house, he was often observed to walk up to the dairy-window, and stand on tip-toe to see what was within. He would then enter the house, and say to his tenant's wife: 'Could you let me have a basin of your nice milk? As he sipped it up, he would keep repeating: '0 how good, how rich! Have you any eggs?' 'No, sir, but I can easily get some.' 'How do they sell now?' 'Eighteen for sixpence, sir.' 'Then that will be three for a penny. Will you get me three?' The eggs were procured, and he had two boiled very hard, and began to eat them, asking for another basin of milk. The third egg he put in his pocket for his breakfast next morning. Sometimes he used to take out of his pocket some sandwiches or bread and butter, and ask leave to place them in a cupboard. Having deposited them there, he would examine if they were safe every time he returned to the house after an absence of even half an hour.
His Sundays he often spent in walking over the farm with his tenant, who, by Mr. Neild's desire, used to carry a pickaxe for examining the quality of the soil at different places. He used to investigate very minutely the nature of his land, and the manner of its cultivation, and keep an account of the number of trees on his estates. He has been known to walk from twelve to fifteen miles to a small portion of his property, and, after counting over the few trees on it, to return the same distance, with no other apparent object for his journey. An idea of Mr. Neild's extreme caution in purchasing land, may be gathered from the following extracts from his letters: 'Lot 3 is described as 'exceedingly rich grazing land.' Does the tenant stock it with oxen or with cows-and if with oxen, are they large or small beasts? or does he dairy the land, and feed one half and mow the other half? .... I have never seen the close . . . . but I feel assured that if Mr. - had an idea that I was desirous of purchasing it, he would put such a price upon it as to render all treaty for it nugatory; and therefore, until I can sec my way a little more in the matter than I do at present, and until the mortgagees shall feel themselves under an absolute necessity of selling the estate, which they have a power to do, what I have here written should not be suffered to transpire, but be kept within ourselves. . . . Six hundred pounds for little more than nine acres of land, and of land, perhaps, not of first-rate quality, and subject to a corn-rent of in lieu of tithes, is a long price; and the offer, suppose you feel inclined to make it, can only at first be of a conditional nature, for I must see the close (although you need not tell Mr. - so) before anything can be concluded.'
Some misers have occasional feasts, though, like angels' visits, short and far between. Such was the case with Mr. Neild. Having some business with a clergyman (perhaps to his own advantage), he invited him to dine with him at an inn where he was staying in Buckinghamshire. On this occasion, he was both courteous and hospitable, having provided for their dinner a leg of lamb, a tart, cheese, beer, and a bottle of sherry. He also once invited another clergyman, with two or three other persons connected with his property, to dine with him at an inn in another Buckinghamshire town, and provided for the occasion quite a generous entertainment. But when the same clergymen applied to him for some charitable assistance for their parishes, to one he gave a very uncourteous refusal, and to the other he sent the following characteristic letter:
CHELSEA, April 24, 1852.
REV. AND DEAR Sir-When you last saw me, I was very infirm, and that infirmity has been increasing ever since, and still is upon the increase, until I am at last arrived at almost the last stage of decrepitude. I am confined to my bedroom, and cannot stir from my chair, except in exquisite pain. Without the summer shall work, I may say, on me a miraculous change, I do not expect ever to be at again.
'All that is wanting at , and, indeed, in all parishes purely agricultural, is a Sunday-school. Mr. P____ tried to establish a daily school there, but did not succeed. I don't know that you are aware that where a daily school is established, it generally brings about with it a heavy pecuniary burden upon the clergyman; subscriptions, although ample at first, yearly fall off, are badly paid, and by degrees discontinued, until the whole charge, or nearly so, falls upon the minister; and then the school is necessarily discontinued. Such has been the fate of many of the parish schools in. Bucks; and such, very recently, of one in Rent, the rector of the parish declining, on account of the charge upon him (as by letters he informs me), to superintend it any longer.
'You may suppose that, in the state in which I am, I do not see any one except upon business of a most urgent nature. - Your most obedient servant,
J. CAMDEN NEILD.
Mr. Neild's ordinary answer to all applications for charitable contributions was a refusal; but in some few instances it was otherwise. He once, but only once, gave a pound for the Sunday-school at North Marston; he contributed £5 or £10 towards building a school at Aton Clinton, Bucks; he sent £50 to the Culham Training College; he was an annual subscriber to the London Asylum for the Blind; and he promised £300 towards the building of an infirmary for Buckinghamshire, but withheld it from an objection to the site. Thus it appears that Mr. Neild, as a miser, did not quite reach the perfection of the character which we see displayed in Dancer, Elwes, and other examples of this deplorable kind of eccentricity.
Neither was it true of him, as said in various obituary notices, that his mind had no intellectuality-that nature had no beauty or endearments for him-that he was ' a frigid, spiritless specimen of humanity.' Mr. Neild, in reality, possessed. considerable knowledge of legal and general literature; and, despite his narrow-mindedness on the subject of money, he retained to the last a love for the ancient classics, and enjoyed poetical pathos and elegant phraseology, both in ancient and modern authors.
So late as the year 1849, the writer of this notice received, from him a letter containing a Latin inscription, with his own comments on it, fully evincing his knowledge of the language, and his taste for refined and elegant diction, and even pointing out the exquisite tenderness of one idea, and the well-chosen words used to express it. Although he might not duly appreciate works of art or the beauties of nature, yet he was not blind to their charms, nor altogether devoid of a certain regard for them. There is one anecdote which, if true, as there is reason to believe it is, presents a pleasing contrast to his general character. It is said that, finding the son of one of his tenants an exceedingly clever boy, he persuaded his father to bring him up for one of the learned professions, and paid him-self, either wholly or in part, the expenses of his school and college education. That boy is now a distinguished scholar, and a dignitary in the Church of England.
In February 1850, Mr. Neild became subject to a very painful disorder, from which he suffered more or less to the end of his life. After that event, among those who were aware of his wealth, his will necessarily came to light, and great was the sensation which it occasioned. After bequeathing a few trifling legacies to different persons, he left the whole of his vast property, estimated at £500,000, to 'Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, begging Her Majesty's most gracious acceptance of the seine, for her sole use and benefit, and her heirs, &c.' The executors were the Keeper of the Privy Purse, for the time being; Dr. Henry Tattam, archdeacon of Bedford; and Mr. Stevens, of Willesborough; to each of whom he bequeathed £100.
He was buried, on 16th September, according to his own desire, in the chancel of North Marston Church-in that very chancel which he had so elaborately repaired with strips of calico. His will had excited such curiosity that, though his life had passed almost unnoticed, a large con-course of persons assembled at Chelsea to witness the removal of his body, and the church and churchyard at North Marston were crowded with wondering-not lamenting-spectators. Among them were many of his tenants, of his workmen, and of the poor of the parish in which he possessed so much property; but not a tear was shed, not a regret uttered, as his body was committed to its last resting-place. He had done nothing to excite their gratitude, to win their sympathy, or to lay them under the slightest obligation. His property had passed into other hands, and they felt it was almost impossible they could suffer by the change. The only remark heard was: 'Poor creature! had he known so much would have been spent on his funeral, he would have come down here to die to save the expense!'
Two caveats were entered against his will, but subsequently withdrawn, and the Queen was left to take undisputed possession of his property. She immediately increased Mr. Neild's bequest to his executors to £1000 each; she provided for his old housekeeper, for whom he had made no provision, though she had lived with him twenty-six years; and she secured an annuity on Mrs. Neal, who had frustrated Mr. Neild's attempt at suicide. Her Majesty has since, in 1855, thoroughly and judiciously restored the chancel of North Marston Church, and inserted an east window of beautifully stained glass, beneath which is a reredos sculptured in Caen stone, and bearing this inscription:
This Reredos, and the stained-glass window above it, were erected by Her Majesty Victoria (D. G. B. R. F. D.) in the eighteenth year of her reign, in memory of John Camden Neild, Esq., of this parish, who died August 30, 1852, aged 72.
The chancel, which was built by the offerings made at the shrine of Sir John Schorne, a sainted rector of the parish in the thirteenth century, is a fine specimen of the perpendicular style, at its best period. It contains sedilia, piscine, niches, &c.-all richly ornamented with elaborate sculpture, so that now, with these all carefully restored, and the addition of its elegant memorial-window, there is perhaps not a more handsome chancel to be found in any village church. The rest of the church, however, is of an earlier and a plainer style of architecture.