Needham, Marchamont

, an English political writer, and a model of political prostitutes, was born at Burford, in Oxfordshire, in August 1620. His mother was daughter to an inn-keeper at Burford, and Hftarried to Mr. Marchamont Needham, an Oxford student. He died in 1621, and Mrs. Marchamont, his mother, the next year re-married with Christopher Glynn, vicar of Burford;, and master of the free-school there. This gentleman, perceiving his step-son to have very pregnant parts, took him under his own tuition; and, at the age of fourteen, he was-sent to Alt-Souls college. Here, being made one of the choristers, he continued till 1637; when taking the degree of B. A. which was inconsistent with his chorister’s place, he retired to St. Mary’s Hall, and in 1640 became third under-master of Merchant Taylors’ School. This, however, he resigned in 1642, and his next employment was that of a writer to an attorney in Gray’s Inn, but this too he soon quitted, and commenced his political career in a weekly paper under the title of “Mercurius | Britannicus,” on the side of parliament. This procured him popularity, apparently without respect, as he was familiarly known among the populace by the name of captain Needham, of Gray’s Inn. In this publication he pretended to communicate “the affairs of Great Britain, for the better information of the people.” It began about the middle of August 1643, and came out on Mondays in one sheet, to the“latter end of 1646, or beginning of 1647. Perhaps our author might take the Me from a tragicomedy called” Mercurius Britannicus, or the English Intelligencer," reprinted in 1641, in 4to, written by Richard Brathwayte.

About this time he studied physic, and, in 1645? began to practise; by which, and his political writings, he contrived to subsist, until, in consequence of some affront, he suddenly left his party; and, obtaining the favour of a royalist, was introduced into the king’s presence at Hampton-court in 1641, and, asking pardon upon his knees, readily obtained it. Being now admitted to the king’s favour, he wrote soon after another paper, entitled “Mercurius Pragmaticus;” which being equally witty with the former, as satirical against the presbyterians, and full of Joyalty, made him known and admired by the wits of that side. These papers professed to “communicate intelligence from all, touching all affairs, designs, humours, and conditions, throughout the kingdom, especially from Westminster and the head quarters.” There were two parts of them, and they came out weekly, in one sheet 4to. The first part commenced Sept. 14, 1647, and ended Jan. 9, 1643. The other part, which was entitled, “Mercurius Pragmaticus for king Charles II.” &c. began April 24, 1649, but quickly ended.

Having now rendered himself obnoxious to the popular party, he found it necessary to leave London, and for a time lay concealed at the house of Dr. Peter Heylin, at Minster-Lovel, near Burford; till, at length being discovered, he was imprisoned in Newgate, and would probably have been executed, had not iLenthal, the speaker of the house of commons, who knew him and his relations well, and Bradshaw, president of the high court of justice,‘ obtained his pardon. Thinking his talents useful, and caring* little whom they employed, they made such promises as easily induced him to write on the side of the independents. Needham had no scruples as to principle, | and after accepting their offers, immediately published a third weekly paper, called “Mercurius Politicus,” which came out every Wednesday, in two sheets, 4to, commencing with the 9th of June 1649, and ending with 6th of June 1650, which being Thursday, he began again with Number I. from Thursday, June 6, to Thursday, June 13, 1650, beginning, “Why should not the commonwealth have a fool, as well as the king had,” &c. This paper, which contained many discourses against monarchy, and in behalf of a free state, at least, before Cromwell was made protector, was carried on without any interruption till about the middle of April 1660, when it was prohibited by an order of the council of state, and Needham fled the kingdorn, justly dreading what never was inflicted on him; for after the restoration, by means of a hired courtier of as little principle as himself, he obtained his pardon under the great seal. After this he practised physic, chiefly among the dissenters, and contrived to support himself, and keep up his fame for scurrility by some controversies with the faculty, until his death, which happened suddenly in 1678. Needham’s character may be gathered from the preceding short account. He had natural parts, not much improved by education, and wrote in that coarse and vulgar style of obloquy, which was suited to his readers, and, as we have seen in our own times, will find readers enough to reward the grossest prostitution of talents. Besides the “Mercuries 7 ’ already mentioned, he published a great number of other things, the titles of which are worth transcribing, as a specimen of the style in which political controversy was then carried on 1.A Check to the Checker of Britannicus,“&c. 1624 2, A sharp libel against his Majesty’s late message for Peace, anno 1645 in answer to which was published” The Refusers of Peace inexcusable, by his Majesty’s command,“1645; one sheet 4to. 3.A Hue and Cry after the King, written after the King’s Defeat at Naseby, in 1645.“4.” The Case of the Kingdom, stated according to the proper interests of the several parties engaged,“&e. ‘the third edition in 1647. 5.” The Levellers levelled or the Independents’ Conspiracy to root out Monarchy, an interlude,“1647. 6.A Plea for the King and Kingdom, by way of answer to a late Remonstrance of the Army,“1648. 7.” Digitus Dei; or God’s justice upon treachery and treason, exemplified in the Life and Death of the late James duke of Hamilton,“| &c. 1649. 8. The year before came out a book entitled” The manifold Practices and Attempts of the Hamiltons, &c. to get the Crown of Scotland,“1648, probably written by Needham, as the whole of it is contained in the” Digitus Dei.“9.” The Public Intelligencer,“&c. these came out weekly on Monday, but contained mostly the same matter that was in the” Political Mercuries.“10.” The Case of the Commonwealth of England stated,“&c. 1649. 11.” Discourse of the excellency of a Free State above Kingly Government,“1650, published with the former, and reprinted in 1768, by Richard Baron, a politician of the republican stamp. 12.” An Appendix added out of Claudius Salmasius’s Defensio Regis, and Mr. Hobbes’s de corpore politico.“13.” Trial of Mr. John Goodwin, at the bar of religion and right reason,“&c. 1657. In reply to this, Goodwin took occasion, in a piece entitled” The Triumviri,“to characterize our author as having a foul mouth, which Satan hath opened, ’&c. 1658. 15.” Interest will not lye, &c. in refutation of c The Interest of England stated,“1659. 14.” The moderate Informer, &c. communicating the most remarkable transactions, both civil and military, in the Commonwealth of England,“&c. It commences with the 12th of May 1659, but was not carried on above two or three weeks. Needham, it seems, was dismissed from his place of writing the weekly news, in the time of Richard, by the influence of the Presbyteriaus, and John Can put in his room; yet, in spite of opposition, he carried on the writing of his” Mercuries.“16.” News from Brussels, &c. in a Letter dated 10 March, 1659;“but said to be written by our author against Charles II. and his court, and conveyed to the press by Praise-God Barebones. It was answered about a week after, in” The late News, or Message from Brussels unmasked.“17.A short History of the English Rebellion completed, inverse,“1661; a collection of all such verses as he had printed before each of his” Mercurii Pragmatici.“To it he prefixed” The true Character of a rigid Presbyter;“and added the coat of arms of sir John Presbyter: but the * character was pot of his writing. It was reprinted in 1680, 4to. 18.” Discourse concerning Schools and School-masters,“1663. 19.” MedelaMedicinae,“&c. 1665 answered by two doctors of that faculty, fellows of the college of physicians, viz. John Twisden, in his” Medicina veterum vindtcata,“&c. and Robert Sprackling, in his” Medela | Ignorantiæ.“20.” An epistolary Discourse“before” Medicina Instaurata, &c. by Edward Bolnest, M. D.“1665. 21.A Pacquet of Advices tfnd Animadversions, &c. occasioned by a Letter from a person of quality to his friend in the country, written* By lord Shaftesbury,“1676. 22.A second Palcquet of Advices, &c. in answer to some Considerations upon the Question whether the Parliament b& dissolved by Hs Prorogation for Fifteen Months?“and another, entitled” The Long Parliament dissolved,“written by Denzil lord Holies, but owned by his chaplain, a nonconformist, named Carey, or Carew, who was comAvitted prisoner to the Tower of London in the beginning of February, 1676. 23.A Letter frona a person newly chosen to sit in this Parliament, to a Bencher in the Temple,“&c. 24.A Narrative of the cause and manner of the Imprisonment of the Lords now close prisoners in the Tower of London.“Needham is said to have been encouraged to write these two Pacquets by lord Danby. 25.” Christianissimus Christianandus or Reasons for the Reduction of France to d more Christian state in Europe,“1678. 26.A Preface to `A new idea of the Practice of Physic, written by Francis de la Boe Sylvius,'" 1675.

Our author also translated into English, Selden’s “Mare Clausum,” printed in 1652, or thereabouts, in folio; in which he foisted the name of commonwealth, instead of the kings of England, and suppressed the dedication to the king. He also added an appendix to it, concerning the sovereignty of the kings of Great Britain on the sea, entitled “Additional Evidences,” which he procured, as it is thought, of president Bradshaw. He also made comments and glosses on the book; but after the restoration the copy was corrected, and restored by J. H. gent. (James Howell), and printed in 1662, folio. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. II.