Beale, John (DNB00)

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BEALE, JOHN, D.D. (1603–1683?), scientific writer, was descended from a good family in Herefordshire, in which county he was born in 1603, being nephew of Sir William Pye, attorney in the court of wards (Boyle, Works, v. 429). He was educated first at Worcester School, and afterwards at Eton, whence he proceeded in 1629 to King's College, Cambridge, where he read philosophy to the students for two years (Harwood, Alumni Etonenses, 228). 'At his entrance into that university he found the writings of the Ramists in high esteem, from which they sunk within three or four years after, without the solicitation of any party or faction, or other concernment, merely by the prevalence of solid truth and reasonable discourse. And the same fate soon after befel Calvinism in both universities' (Birch, Hist. of the Royal Society, iv. 235). From childhood Beale had been diligent in cultivating the art of memory, and he himself has left us an account of the marvellous proficiency which he attained. He says: 'By reading Ovid's "Metamorphoses" and such slight romances as the "Destruction of Troy," and other discourses and histories which were then obvious, I had learned a promptness of knitting all my reading and studies on an everlasting string. The same practice I continued upon theologues, logicians, and such philosophers as those times yielded. For some years before I came to Eton, I did (in secret corners, concealed from others' eyes) read Melancthon's Logicks, Magirus's Physica, Ursin's Theologica, which was the best I could then hear of; and (at first reading) by heart I learned them, too perfectly, as I now conceive. Afterwards, in Cambridge, proceeding in the same order and diligence with their logicians, philosophers, and schoolmen, I could at last learn them by heart faster than I could read them—I mean, by the swiftest glance of the eye, without the tediousness of pronouncing or articulating what I read. Thus I oft-times saved my purse by looking over books in stationers' shops. . . . Constantly I repeated in my bed (evening and morning) what I read and heard that was worthy to be remembered; and by this habitude and promptness of memory I was enabled, that when I read to the students of King's College, Cambridge (which I did for two years together, in all sorts of the current philosophy), I could provide myself without notes (by mere meditation, or by glancing upon some book) in less time than I spent in uttering it; yet they were then a critical auditory, whilst Mr. Bust was schoolmaster of Eton' (Boyle, Works v. 426).

Beale, who graduated B.A. in 1632, M.A. in 1636, and was subsequently created a doctor of divinity, spent some time in foreign travel, being at Orleans in 1636, when he was thirty-three years of age. His love of learning brought him into frequent correspondence with Samuel Hartlib and the Hon. Robert Boyle. Two of his letters to Hartlib on 'Herefordshire Orchards' were printed in 1656, and produced such an effect, that within a few years the author's native county gained some 100,000l. by the fame of its orchards (Gough, Brit. Topog. i. 415). In the preface Beale makes the following autobiographical remarks: 'My education was amongst scholars in academies, where I spent many years in conversing with variety of books only. A little before our wars began, I spent two summers in travelling towards the south, with purpose to know men and foreign manners. Since my return I have been constantly employed in a weighty office, by which I am not disengaged from the care of our public welfare in the peace and prosperity of this nation, but obliged to be the more solicitous and tender in preserving it and promoting it.'

Beale resided chiefly in Herefordshire until 1660, when he became rector of Yeovil, in Somersetshire, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was also rector of Sock Dennis in the latter county. He was an early member of the Royal Society, being declared an honorary one on 7 Jan. 1662-3, and elected a fellow on the 21st of the same month. In 1665 he was appointed chaplain to King Charles II. In his last letter to Boyle, dated 8 July 1682, he mentions that he was then entering into his eightieth year, and adds that 'by infirmities I am constrained to dictate extempore, and do want a friend to assist me.' It is probable that he did not live long after this.

Samuel Hartlib, writing to Boyle in 1658, says of Beale: 'There is not the like man in the whole island, nor in the continent beyond the seas, so far as I know it—I mean, that could be made more universally use of, to do good to all, as I in some measure know and could direct' (Boyle, Works, v. 275).

His works are: 1 . 'Aphorisms concerning Cider,' printed in John Evelvn's 'Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees,' 1644, and entitled in the later editions of that work, 'General Advertisements concerning Cider.' 2. 'Herefordshire Orchards, a Pattern for all England, written in an Epistolary Address to Samuel Hartlib, Esq. By I. B.,' Lond. 1656, 8vo; reprinted in Richard Bradley's 'New Improvements of Planting and Gardening,' 1724 and 1739. 3. Scientific papers in the 'Philosophical Transactions.' 4. Letters to the Hon. Robert Boyle, printed in the 5th volume of that philosopher's works.

[Information from the Rev. Dr. Luard; Birch's Hist. of the Royal Society, iv. 235; Gough s British Topography, i. 416, ii. 221, 225, 391, 634; Boyle's Works, v. 275, 277. 281, 346, 423-510; Harwood's Alumni Eton. 228; Worthington's Diary, i. 122; Birch's Life of Boyle, 115; Collinson's Somersetshire, iii. 212; Felton, On the Portraits of English Authors on Gardening, 2nd ed. 21; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 447, iv. 256; Addit. MSS. 6271, f. 10, 15948, ff. 80, 136. 138; Thomson's History of the Royal Society. Append, xxiv.]

T. C.