A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, by John W. Cousin


Nabbes, Thomas (fl. 1638). — Dramatist, was at Oxford in 1621. He lived in London, and wrote comedies, satirising bourgeois society. He was most successful in writing masques, among which are Spring’s Glory and Microcosmus. He also wrote a continuation of Richard Knolles’ History of the Turks.

Nairne, Carolina (Oliphant), Baroness (1766–1845). — Born at the House of Gask (“the auld house”), married in 1806 her second cousin, Major Nairne, who on reversal of attainder became 5th Lord Nairne. On his death, after residing in various places in England, Ireland, and on the Continent, she settled at the new house of Gask (the old one having been pulled down in 1801). Of her songs — 87 in number — many first appeared anonymously in The Scottish Minstrel (1821–24); a collected ed. with her name, under the title of Lays’ from Strathearn, was published after her death. Although the songs, some of which were founded on older compositions, had from the first an extraordinary popularity, the authoress maintained a strict anonymity during her life. For direct simplicity and poetic feeling Lady N. perhaps comes nearer than any other Scottish song-writer to Burns, and many of her lyrics are enshrined in the hearts of her fellow-countrymen. Among the best of them are The Land of the Leal (1798), Caller Herrin’, The Laird o’ Cockpen, The Auld House, The Rowan Tree, The Hundred Pipers, and Will ye no come back Again? The Jacobitism of some of these and many others was, of course, purely sentimental and poetical, like that of Scott. She was a truly religious and benevolent character, and the same modesty which concealed her authorship withdrew from public knowledge her many deeds of charity.

Napier, Mark (1798–1879). — Historian, son of a lawyer in Edinburgh, was called to the Bar, practised as an advocate, and was made Sheriff of Dumfries and Galloway. He published Memoirs of the Napiers, of Montrose, and of Graham of Claverhouse, the last of which gave rise to much controversy. N. wrote from a strongly Cavalier and Jacobite standpoint, and had remarkably little of the judicial spirit in his methods. His writings, however, have some historical value.

Napier, Sir William Francis Patrick (1785–1860). — was one of the sons of Col. the Hon. George N. and Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, and the object of a romantic attachment on the part of George III. One of his brothers was Sir Charles N., the conqueror of Scinde. Entering the army at 15, he served with great distinction in the Peninsula under Moore and Wellington. His experiences as a witness and participator in the stupendous events of the war combined with the possession of remarkable acumen and a brilliant style to qualify him for the great work of his life as its historian. The History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France from 1807–14 (1828–40) at once took rank as a classic, and superseded all existing works on the subject. Though not free from prejudice and consequent bias, it remains a masterpiece of historical writing, especially in the description of military operations. It was translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Persian. N. also published The Conquest of Scinde (1844–46), mainly a defence of his brother Charles, whose life he subsequently wrote. He became K.C.B. in 1848, and General 1859.

Nash, Thomas (1567–1601). — Satirist, etc., born at Lowestoft, ed. at Cambridge A reckless life kept him in perpetual poverty, and a bitter and sarcastic tongue lost him friends and patrons. He cherished an undying hatred for the Puritans, and specially for Gabriel Hervey, with whom he maintained a lifelong controversy, and against whose attacks he defended Robert Greene (q.v.). Among his writings are Anatomy of Absurdities (1589), Have with you to Saffron Walden, and Pierce Pennilesse, his Supplication to the Divell (1592), all against the Puritans. In Summer’s (a jester of Henry VIII.) Last Will and Testament occurs the well-known song, “Spring, the sweet Spring, is the year’s pleasant King.” Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem (1593) may have indicated some movement towards repentance. Another work in a totally different style, The Unfortunate Traveller, or the Life of Jack Wilton (1594), a wild tale, may be regarded as the pioneer of the novel of adventure. It had, however, so little success that the author never returned to this kind of fiction. A comedy, The Isle of Dogs (now lost), adverted so pointedly to abuses in the state that it led to his imprisonment. His last work was Lenten Stuffe (1599), a burlesque panegyric on Yarmouth and its red herrings. N.’s verse is usually hard and monotonous, but he was a man of varied culture and great ability.

Nayler, James (1617?-1660). — Quaker theologian, son of a Yorkshire yeoman, who, after serving in the Parliamentary army, joined the Quakers in 1651, became one of Foxe’s most trusted helpers, and exercised a powerful influence. By some of the more enthusiastic devotees of the sect he was honoured with such blasphemous titles as “the Lamb of God,” which, however, he did not arrogate to himself, but asserted that they were ascribed to “Christ in him.” He was found guilty of blasphemy, pilloried, whipped, and branded, and cast into prison, from which he was not released until after the death of Cromwell, when he made public confession and resumed preaching. He was the author of a number of short works both devotional and controversial. He ranks high among the Quakers for eloquence, insight, and depth of thought.

Neal, John (1793–1876). — Novelist and poet, born at Portland, Maine, was self-educated, kept a dry goods store, and was afterwards a lawyer. He wrote several novels, which show considerable native power, but little art, and are now almost forgotten. Among those which show the influence of Byron and Godwin are Keep Cool (1818), Logan (1822), and Seventy-six (1823). His poems have the same features of vigour and want of finish. In 1823 he visited England, and became known to Jeremy Bentham. He contributed some articles on American subjects to Blackwood’s Magazine.

Neaves, Charles, Lord (1800–1876). — Miscellaneous author, born and ed. in Edinburgh, was called to the Bar, and became a judge. He was a frequent contributor to Blackwood’s Magazine. His verses, witty and satirical, were collected as Songs and Verses, Social and Scientific. He wrote also on philology, and published a book on the Greek Anthology.

Neckham, Alexander (1157–1217). — Scholar, born at St. Albans, was foster-brother to Richard Coeur de Lion. He went to Paris in 1180, where he became a distinguished teacher. Returning, to England in 1186 he became an Augustinian Canon, and in 1213 Abbot of Cirencester. He is one of our earliest men of learning, and wrote a scientific work in Latin verse. De Naturis Rerum (c. 1180–94) in 10 books. Other works are De Laudibus Divinæ Sapientiæ (in Praise of the Divine Wisdom), and De Contemptu Mundi (on Despising the World), and some grammatical treatises.

Newcastle, Margaret, Duchess of (1624?-1674). — Daughter of Sir Thomas Lucas, and a maid of honour to Queen Henrietta. Maria, married in 1645 the 1st Duke of Newcastle (then Marquis), whom she regarded in adversity and prosperity with a singular and almost fantastic devotion, which was fully reciprocated. The noble pair collaborated (the Duchess contributing by far the larger share) in their literary ventures, which filled 12 vols., and consisted chiefly of dramas (now almost unreadable), and philosophical exercitations which, amid prevailing rubbish, contain some weighty sayings. One of her poems, The Pastimes and Recreations of the Queen of Fairies in Fairyland has some good lines. Her Life of her husband, in which she rates him above Julius Cæsar, was said by Lamb to be “a jewel for which no casket was good enough.”

Newman, Francis William (1805–1897). — Scholar and theological writer, brother of Cardinal N., born in London, and ed. at Oxford After spending three years in the East, he became successively classical tutor in Bristol College, Professor of Classical Literature in Manchester New College (1840), and of Latin in University College, London, 1846–63. Both brought up under evangelical influences, the two brothers moved from that standpoint in diametrically opposite directions, Francis through eclecticism towards scepticism. His writings include a History of the Hebrew Monarchy (1847), The Soul (1849), and his most famous book, Phases of Faith (1850), a theological autobiography corresponding to his brother’s Apologia, the publication of which led to much controversy, and to the appearance of Henry Rogers’ Eclipse of Faith. He also published Miscellanea in 4 vols., a Dictionary of modern Arabic, and some mathematical treatises. He was a vegetarian, a total abstainer, and enemy of tobacco, vaccination, and vivisection. Memoir by I.G. Sieveking, 1909.

Newman, John Henry (1801–1890). — Theologian, son of a London banker, and brother of the above, was ed. at Ealing and Trinity College, Oxford, where he was the intimate friend of Pusey and Hurrell Froude. Taking orders he was successively curate of St. Clement’s 1824, and Vicar of St. Mary’s, Oxford, 1828. He was also Vice-principal of Alban Hall, where he assisted Whately, the Principal, in his Logic. In 1830 he definitely broke with the evangelicalism in which he had been brought up; and in 1832, accompanied by H. Froude, went to the South of Europe, and visited Rome. During this lengthened tour he wrote most of his short poems, including “Lead Kindly Light,” which were published 1834 as Lyra Apostolica. On his return he joined with Pusey, Keble, and others in initiating the Tractarian movement, and contributed some of the more important tracts, including the fateful No. xc., the publication of which brought about a crisis in the movement which, after two years of hesitation and mental and spiritual conflict, led to the resignation by N. of his benefice. In 1842 he retired to Littlemore, and after a period of prayer, fasting, and seclusion, was in 1845 received into the Roman Catholic Church. In the following year he went to Rome, where he was ordained priest and made D.D., and returning to England he established the oratory in Birmingham in 1847, and that in London in 1850. A controversy with C. Kingsley, who had written that N. “did not consider truth a necessary virtue,” led to the publication of his Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864), one of the most remarkable books of religious autobiography ever written. N.’s later years were passed at the oratory at Birmingham. In 1879 he was summoned to Rome and created Cardinal of St. George in Velabro. Besides the works above mentioned he wrote, among others, The Arians of the Fourth Century (1833), Twelve Lectures (1850), Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics (1851), Idea of a University, Romanism and Popular Protestantism, Disquisition on the Canon of Scripture, and his poem, The Dream of Gerontius. Possessed of one of the most keen and subtle intellects of his age, N. was also master of a style of marvellous beauty and power. To many minds, however, his subtlety not seldom appeared to pass into sophistry; and his attitude to schools of thought widely differing from his own was sometimes harsh and unsympathetic. On the other hand he was able to exercise a remarkable influence over men ecclesiastically, and in some respects religiously, most strongly opposed to him. His sermons place him in the first rank of English preachers.

Lives or books about him by R.H. Hutton, E.A. Abbott. Works (36 vols., 1868–81), Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864), etc.

Newton, Sir Isaac (1642–1727). — Natural philosopher, born at Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, the son of a small landed proprietor, and ed. at the Grammar School of Grantham and at Trinity College, Cambridge By propounding the binomial theorem, the differential calculus, and the integral calculus, he began in 1665 the wonderful series of discoveries in pure mathematics, optics, and physics, which place him in the first rank of the philosophers of all time. He was elected Lucasian Prof. of Mathematics at Cambridge in 1669, and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1672, over which body he presided for 25 years from 1703. In the same year his new theory of flight was published in a paper before the society. His epoch-making discovery of the law of universal gravitation was not promulgated until 1687, though the first glimpse of it had come to him so early as 1665. The discovery of fluxions, which he claimed, was contested by Leibnitz, and led to a long and bitter controversy between the two philosophers. He twice sat in Parliament for his University, and was Master of the Mint from 1699, in which capacity he presented reports on the coinage. He was knighted in 1705, and died at Kensington in 1727. For a short time, after an unfortunate accident by which a number of invaluable manuscripts were burned, he suffered from some mental aberration. His writings fall into two classes, scientific and theological. In the first are included his famous treatises, Light and Colours (1672), Optics (1704), the Principia (1687), in Latin, its full title being Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. In the second are his Observations upon the Prophecies of Holy Writ and An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. In character N. was remarkable for simplicity, humility, and gentleness, with a great distaste for controversy, in which, nevertheless, he was repeatedly involved. Life by Sir D. Brewster, second ed., 1855, etc.

Newton, John (1725–1807). — Divine and hymn-writer, son of a shipmaster, was born in London, and for many years led a varied and adventurous life at sea, part of the time on board a man-of-war and part as captain of a slaver. In 1748 he came under strong religious convictions, and after acting as a tide-waiter at Liverpool for a few years, he applied for orders in 1758, and was ordained curate of Olney in 1764. Here he became the intimate and sympathetic friend of Cowper, in conjunction with whom he produced the Olney Hymns. In 1779 he was translated to the Rectory of St. Mary, Woolnoth, London, where he had great popularity and influence, and wrote many religious works, including Cardiphonia, and Remarkable Passages in his Own Life. He lives, however, in his hymns, among which are some of the best and most widely known in the language, such as In evil long I took delight, Glorious things of Thee are Spoken, How Sweet the Name of Jesus sounds, and many others. In his latter years N. was blind.

Nichol, John (1833–1894). — Poet and biographer, son of John P.N., Prof. of Astronomy in Glasgow, ed. at Glasgow and Oxford, and held the chair of English Literature in Glasgow, 1862–1889. Among his writings are Hannibal (1873), a drama, Death of Themistocles and other Poems (1881), Fragments of Criticism, and American Literature; also Lives of Bacon, Burns, Carlyle, and Byron.

Noel, Hon. Roden Berkeley Wriothesley (1834–1894). — Poet, son, of the 1st Earl of Gainsborough, was ed. at Cambridge He wrote Behind the Veil (1863), The Red Flag (1872), Songs of the Heights and Deeps (1885), and Essays on various poets, also a Life of Byron.

Norris, John (1657–1711). — Philosopher and poet, ed. at Oxford, took orders, and lived a quiet and placid life as a country parson and thinker. In philosophy he was a Platonist and mystic, and was an early opponent of Locke. His poetry, with occasional fine thoughts, is full of far-fetched metaphors and conceits, and is not seldom dull and prosaic. From 1692 he held G. Herbert’s benefice of Bemerton. Among his 23 works are An Idea of Happiness (1683), Miscellanies (1687), Theory and Regulation of Love (1688), Theory of the Ideal and Intelligible World (1701–4), and a Discourse concerning the Immortality of the Soul (1708).

North, Sir Thomas (1535?-1601?). — Translator, 2nd son of the 1st Lord N., may have studied at Cambridge He entered Lincoln’s Inn 1557, but gave more attention to literature than to law. He is best known by his translation of Plutarch, from the French of Amyot, in fine, forcible, idiomatic English, which was the repertory from which Shakespeare drew his knowledge of ancient history: in Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus North’s language is often closely followed. Another translation was from an Italian version of an Arabic book of fables, and bore the title of The Morale Philosophie of Doni.

Norton, Caroline Elizabeth Sarah (Sheridan) (1808–1877). — Grand-daughter of Richard Brinsley S. (q.v.), married in 1827 the Hon. G.C. Norton, a union which turned out most unhappy, and ended in a separation. Her first book, The Sorrows of Rosalie (1829), was well received. The Undying One (1830), a romance founded upon the legend of the Wandering Jew, followed, and other novels were Stuart of Dunleath (1851), Lost and Saved (1863), and Old Sir Douglas (1867). The unhappiness of her married life led her to interest herself in the amelioration of the laws regarding the social condition and the separate property of women and the wrongs of children, and her poems, A Voice from the Factories (1836), and The Child of the Islands (1845), had as an object the furtherance of her views on these subjects. Her efforts were largely successful in bringing about the needed legislation. In 1877 Mrs. N. married Sir W. Stirling Maxwell (q.v.).

Norton, Charles Eliot, LL.D., D.C.L., etc. (1827–1909). — American biographer and critic. Church Building in the Middle Ages (1876), translation of the New Life (1867), and The Divine Comedy of Dante (1891); has ed. Correspondence of Carlyle and Emerson (1883), Carlyle’s Letters and Reminiscences (1887), etc.


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