Page images

a philosopher and a man of sound judgment and true taste. His only daughter, who married the baron de Stael, ambassador from Sweden to France, and who has made herself known to the literary world by several publications, published some " Memoirs of the Character and Private Life of her father," written in a high style of panegyric." • NEEDHAM (JOHN TUBERVILLE), a philosopher and divine of the Roman catholic persuasion, was born at London Sept. 10, 1713. His father possessed a considerable patrimony at Hilston, in the county of Monmouth, being of the younger or catholic branch of the Needham family, but died young, leaving only a small fortune to his four children. Our author, his eldest son, studied in the EngJish college of Dovay, where he took orders, and taught rhetoric for several years, but was particularly distinguished for his knowledge of experimental philosophy. .

In 1740 he was employed by his superiors on a mission to England, and had the direction of the school erected at T'wyford, near Winchester, for the education of the Roman catholic youth. In 1744 he was appointed professor of philosophy in the English college at Lisbon, where, on account of his bad health, he remained only fifteen months. After his return he passed several years at London and Paris, chiefly employed in microscopical observations, and in other branches of experimental philosophy. The results of these observations and experiments were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1749, and in a volume in 12mo at Paris in 1750; and an account of them was also given by Buffon, in the first volumes of his natural history. There was an intimate connection subsisted between Mr. Needham and this illustrious French naturalist : they made their experiments and observations together; though the results and systems which they deduced from the same objects and operations were totally different.

Mr. Needham was elected a member of the royal society · of London in 1746, and of the society of antiquaries some

time after. From 1751 to 1767 he was chiefly employed as a travelling tutor to several English and Irish noblemen. He then retired from this wandering life to the English

seminary at Paris, and in 1768 was chosen by the royal . academy of sciences in that city a corresponding member.

1 Annual Register. --Adolphus's Mem. of the French Revolution.-Sketch in Rees's Cyclopædia, &c. &c. &c.

When the regency of the Austrian Netherlands, for the revival of philosophy and literature in that country, formed the project of an imperial academy, which was preceded by the erection of a small literary society to prepare the way for its execution, Mr. Needham was invited to Brussels, and was appointed successively chief director of both these foundations; an appointment which he held, together withi some ecclesiastical preferments in the Low Countries, till his death, which happened December the 30th, 1781. The abbé Mann, from whose account of Mr. Needham we derive the above particulars, says, that “ his piety, temperance, and purity of manvers, were eminent; his attachment to the doctrines and duties of Christianity was invio. lable. His zealous opposition to modern infidels was indefatigable, and even passionate. His probity was una tainted. He was incapable of every species of duplicity : : his beneficence was universal, and his unsuspicious candour rendered him often a dupe to perfidy." The same writer, however, adds, that “his pen was neither remarkable for fecundity nor method ; his writings are rather the great lines of a subject expressed with energy, and thrown upon paper in a hurry, than finished treatises." . .

Mr. Needham's papers inserted in the Philosophical Transactions were, 1. Account of chalky tubulous concretions, called Malm; vol. XLII. 2. Miscroscopical observations on Worms in Smutty Corn; vol. XLII. 3. Electrical Espe. riments lately made at Paris ; vol. XLIV. 4. Account of M. Buffon's Mirror, which burns at 66 feet; ibid. 5. Observations upon the generation, composition, and decomposition of Animal and Vegetable substances; vol. XLV. 6. On the Discovery of Asbestos in France; vol. LI. · His works printed at Paris, in French, are, 1:“ New Micros scopical Discoveries," 1745. 2. “ The same enlarged,"? 1750. 3.“ On Microscopical, and the Generation of Organized Bodies,” 1769, 2 vols.. Besides these he had a considerable share in the controversy that was carried on about sixty years ago at Paris and Rome respecting the origin of the Chinese. He had seen a famous bust at Turin, on the breast and forehead of which several characters were visible, which some antiquaries supposed to be Egyptiani. Mr. Needham having compared them with the characters of a Chinese dictionary in the Vatican, printed at Pekin, in 26 vols. (entitled Ching Zu Tung) perceived a striking resemblance between the two. He drew from this resem

blancé an argument in favour of the opinion of the late De Guignes (see De GUIGNES), concerning the origin of the Egyptians, Phenicians, and Chinese, or rather conceroing the descent of the latter from the former, and pronounced, without hesitation, that the bust was Egyptian. The process of this discovery, or rather opinion, be published in 1761, in a pamphlet entitled “ De Inscriptione quadam Ægyptiaca Taurini inventa, et characteribas Ægyptiis olim et Sinis communibus exarata ; idolo cuidam antiquo in regia universitate servato, ad utrasque academias, Lon dinensem et Parisiensem, rerum antiquarum investigationi præpositas, data Epistola,” Svo. Several others subscribed to this opinion, but it is more generally thought that the conclusion respecting the descent of the Chinese from the Egyptians does not follow from the premises. The very candid and fair manner, however, in which Mr. Needham proceeded in his comparison of the characters on the bast with those in the dictionary, was acknowledged in an attestation very honourable to his probity, signed by several of the literati at Rome, and by two of our countrymen then resident there, sir Richard Lyttelton and the late duke of Grafton.'

NEEDHAM, or NEDHAM (MARCHAMONT), an English political writer, and a model of political prostitutes, was born at Burford, in Oxfordshire, in August 1620. His Inother was daughter to an inn-keeper at Burford, and married to Mr. Marcbamont Needbam, 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 gensleman, 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 All-Souls college. Here, being made one of the chocisters, be 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 gaitted, and commenced his political career in a weekly paper under the title of “ Mercurius

all writer, and amfordshire, in Augu Burford, and

| Life by the abbé Mano, in the Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Brussels, in Month. Rev. vol. LXX.-Hutton's Dict.


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 Needbam, of Gray's Inn. In tbis 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 title 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 1647, 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 loyalty, made him known and admired by the wits of that side. These papers professed to “ communicate intelligence from all, couching 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, 1648. 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 Lenthal, 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. Needbam 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 kingdom, 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 bis 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 vul. gar 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" 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 sbarp 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,” &c.: 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,"

« PreviousContinue »