Neal, Thomas

, an Oxford divine, was born at Yeate, in Gloucestershire, in 1519, and was educated under the care of his uncle Alexander Belsire, who was afterwards first president of St. John’s college, at Winchester school. From this he was removed to New college, Oxford, in 1538, and admitted fellow in 1540. He also took his degree of M. A. and six years afterwards was admitted into holy orders. He was reckoned an able divine, but was most noted for his skill in Greek and Hebrew, on which account sir Thomas White, the founder of St. John’s college, encouraged him by a yearly pension often pounds. His adherence to the popish religion induced him to go to the university of Paris, during king Edward the Sixth’s reign, where he took his degree of bachelor of divinity. On his return during Mary’s reign, he held the rectory of Thenford in Northamptonshire, and became chaplain to bishop Bonner but on the accession | of queen Elizabeth, according to Dodd, he suffered himself to be deprived of his spiritualities, retired to Oxford, and entered himself a commoner in Hart-hall. He had not been long here before he professed conformity to the newly-established religion, and in 1559 was appointed Hebrew professor of the foundation of Henry VIII. in which office he remained until 1569. When first appointed he built lodgings opposite Hart-hall, joining to the westend of New college cloister, which were for some time known by the name of Neal’s lodgings. During queen Elizabeth’s visit to the university in 1566, he presented to her majesty, a ms. now in the British Museum, entitled “Rabbi Davidis Kimhi commentarii super Hoseam, Joellem, Amos, Abdiam, Jonam, Micheam, Nahum, Habacuc, et Sophonian; Latine redditi per Thomam Nelum, Heb. linguae profess. Oxonii; et R, Elizabethse inscripti.” He presented also to her majesty a little book of Latin verses, containing the description of the colleges, halls, &c.; and a few days after exhibited a map of Oxford, with small views very neatly drawn with a pen by Bereblock. These views,*


They first were engraved as borders to Aggas’s map of Oxford, but are considerably different from what they appear in —Hearne’s edition.

with the verses, were published by Hearne at the end of “Dodwell de parma equestri.” The verses are in the form of a dialogue between the queen and the earl of Leicester, chancellor of the university, and are not wanting in that species of pedantic flattery so frequently offered to her majesty. Neal, however, was never a conformist irr his heart, and in 1569 either resigned, or being known to be a Roman catholic, was ejected from his professorship, and then retired to the village of Cassington near Oxford, where he lived a private and studious life. Wood can trace him no further, but Dodd says that he was frequently disturbed while at Cassington on account of his religion, and being often obliged to conceal, or absent himself, went abroad. The records of Doway mention that one Thomas Neal, an ancient clergyman, who had suffered much in prison in England, arrived there June 1, 1578, and returned again to England January 7, 1580. How long he lived afterwards is uncertain. He was certainly alive in 1590, as appears by an inscription he wrote for himself to be put upon his tomb-stone in Cassington church, which also states that he was then seventy-one | years old. In the British Museum, among the royal Mss. is another ms. of his, entitled “Rabbinicae qusedam Observationes ex praedictis commentariis.” Wood speaks of one of his names, of Yeate in Gloucestershire, who dying in 1590, his widow had letters of administration granted, and adds, “whether it be meant of our author I cannot justly say, because I could never learn that he was married.” But nothing can be more improbable than the marriage of -a man who had suffered so much for a religion that prohibits the marriage of the clergy, and who was so inveterate against the reformed religion, that we are told the fable of the Nag’s-head ordination was first propagated by him. 1

Ath. Ox. vol. I.—Wood’s Colleges and Halls, and Annals.—Dodd’s Ch. Hist. vol. II.—Life prefixed to his verses by Hearne.Gough’s British Topography.