Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Neal, Thomas

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NEAL or NEALE, THOMAS (1519–1590?), professor of Hebrew at Oxford, was born about 1519 at Yeate (Gloucestershire), and became in 1531 scholar of Winchester College ‘by the endeavours of his maternal uncle, Alexander Belsire, Fellow of New College, Oxford.’ On 19 June 1538 he was chosen probationer of New College, and in 1540 admitted perpetual fellow. He graduated B.A. 16 May 1542, M.A. 11 July 1546, and was admitted B.D. 23 July 1556. Before he took orders he had acquired a great reputation as a Greek and Hebrew scholar and theologian, and was allowed a pension of 10l. per annum by Sir Thomas Whyte, afterwards founder of St. John's. He travelled in France, probably during the time of the Edwardian reformation, and appears to have been there in 1556 (see below), but soon after the beginning of Mary's reign he had been made chaplain (not domestic chaplain) to Bonner, bishop of London, and appointed rector of Thenford in Northamptonshire. His name does not appear in the registers of that place. At the accession of Elizabeth he ‘betook himself’ to Oxford, and in 1559 was made Queen's professor of the Hebrew lecture. He entered himself as a commoner of Hart Hall, though he seems to be described of that hall in 1542, and built ‘little lodgings’ for himself at the west end of New College, and opposite to Hart Hall. He seems at first to have been disturbed in his professorship, as the dean and chapter of Christ Church at one time detained his salary (Strype, Annals, i. i. 48; see two letters of the privy council ordering payment, Council Book, 1 Eliz. 16 Jan. 1558–1559; Harl. MS. 169, f. 26; Lansdowne MS. 982, f. 162). He took a prominent part in the entertainment of Elizabeth at Oxford in 1566, and wrote an account of it, which was embodied in Wood's ‘History and Antiquities of Oxford’ (ed. Gutch, ii. 154), and which served as the source for Richard Stephens's ‘Brief Rehearsal.’ In 1569, being timid because of his catholicism, he resigned his professorship and retired to Cassington, four miles from Oxford, purchased a house there, and ‘spent the rest of his life in study and devotion.’ He died either in or shortly after 1590, but whether at Cassington or Yeate is uncertain (see his epitaph as put up by himself in Cassington church during his lifetime; Hearne, Dodwell).

Neal is regarded as the ultimate authority for the ‘Nag's Head Story.’ But the statements that Bonner sent him to Bishop Anthony Kitchin [q. v.] to dissuade him from assisting in the consecration of Parker, and that he was present at the pretended ceremony at the Nag's Head, rest on the doubtful assertion of Pits.

Neal's works are: 1. ‘Dialogus in adventum serenissimæ Reginæ Elizabethæ gratulatorius inter eandem Reginam et D. Rob. Dudleium comitem Leicestriæ et Acad. Ox. cancellarium’ (Tanner speaks of this as ‘Gratulationem Hebraicam’), together with ‘Collegiorum scholarumque publicarum Ac. Ox. Topographica delineatio,’ being verses written to accompany drawings of the colleges and public schools of Oxford by John Bearblock [q. v.] Neal's work was first printed imperfectly by Miles Windsor in ‘Academiarum Catalogus,’ London, 1590; reprinted by Hearne, Oxford, 1713, at the end of his edition of ‘Dodwell de Parma Equestri;’ also by Nichols in his ‘Progresses of Elizabeth,’ i. 225; by the Oxford Historical Society (vol. viii.), and reproduced in facsimile, Oxford, 1882 (cf. Wood, Athenæ Oxon. i. 576). 2. ‘Commentarii Rabbi Davidis Kimhi in Haggæum, Zachariam, et Malachiam prophetes ex Hebraico idiomate in Latinum sermonem traducti,’ Paris, 1557, dedicated to Cardinal Pole. Tanner also assigns to Neal: 3. A translation ‘of all the Prophets’ out of the Hebrew. 4. A translation of ‘Commentarii Rabbi Davidis Kimhi super Hoseam, Joelem, Amos, Abdeam, Micheam, Nahum, Habacuc, et Sophoniam’ (dedicated to Queen Elizabeth). Tanner quotes this and No. 5 thus: ‘MS. Bibl. Reg. Westmon. 2 D. xxi.’ 5. ‘Rabbinicæ quædam observationes ex prædictis commentariis’ (possibly identical with, although Tanner distinctly separates it from, ‘Breves quædam observationes in eosdem prophetes partim ex Hieronymo partim ex aliis probatæ fidei authoribus decerptæ.’ The latter is appended to No. 2 above.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. i. 576, et passim; Fasti, and Hist. and Antiq. of Oxford; Oxford Univ. Registers; Kirby's Winchester Scholars, p. 117; Plummer's Elizabethan Oxford (Oxford Hist. Soc.); Hearne's Remains, ii. 199, and his edition of Dodwell de Parma Equestri (contains a life of Neal by Hearne, based on Wood); State Papers, Dom. 1547–80; Hist. MSS. Com. 4th Rep. p. 217 a; Le Neve's Fasti; Strype's Annals, I. i. 48; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Pits, De illustribus Angliæ Scriptoribus; John Bearblock's Ephemeræ Actiones, p. 282, printed by Hearne, Oxford, 1729; Fuller's Church History, ii. 367, iv. 290, and Worthies, i. 384; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Lansdowne MS. 982, f. 160; Harl. MS. 169, f. 26; information from the Rev. G. Montagu, rector of Thenford.]

W. A. S.