Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Neild, John Camden

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

NEILD, JOHN CAMDEN (1780?–1852), eccentric, son of James Neild [q. v.], was probably born in St. James's Street, London, about 1780. He was educated at Eton from 1793 to 1797, and then at Trinity College, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A. 1801 and M.A. 1804. On 9 Feb. 1808 he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn. Succeeding in 1814 to the whole of his father's property, estimated at 250,000l., he developed into a confirmed miser, and the last thirty years of his life were solely employed in accumulating wealth. He lived in a large house, 5 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, but it was so meanly furnished that for some time he had not a bed to lie on. His dress consisted of a blue swallow-tailed coat with gilt buttons, brown trousers, short gaiters, and shoes which were patched and generally down at the heels. He never allowed his clothes to be brushed, because, he said, it destroyed the nap. He continually visited his numerous estates, walking whenever it was possible, never went to the expense of a great-coat, and always stayed with his tenants, sharing their coarse meals and lodging. While at North Marston, in Buckinghamshire, about 1828 he attempted to cut his throat, and his life was only saved by the prompt attention of his tenant's wife, Mrs. Neale. Unlike other eminent misers—Daniel Dancer or John Elwes—he occasionally indulged in acts of benevolence, possessed considerable knowledge of legal and general literature, and to the last retained a love for the classics. He died at 5 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, 30 Aug. 1852, aged 72, and was buried in the chancel of North Marston Church on 9 Sept. By his will, after bequeathing a few trifling legacies, he left the whole of his property, estimated at 500,000l., to ‘Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, begging Her Majesty's most gracious acceptance of the same for her sole use and benefit.’ Two caveats were entered against the will, but were subsequently withdrawn. Queen Victoria increased Neild's bequests to the three executors from 100l. to 1,000l. each, she provided for his servants, for whom he made no provision, and she secured an annuity of 100l. to Mrs. Neale, who had frustrated Neild's attempt at suicide. In 1855 Queen Victoria restored the chancel of North Marston Church and inserted a window to Neild's memory.

[Chambers's Book of Days, 1864, ii. 285–8; Gent. Mag. 1817 vol. lxxxvii. pt. i. pp. 305–9, 1852 xxxviii. 429–31, 492, 1853 xxxix. 570; Illustr. London News, 1852 xxi. 222, 350, 1855 xxvii. 379–80; Timbs's English Eccentrics, 1875, pp. 99–103; Times, 8 Sept. 1852, p. 7, 26 Oct. p. 6.]

G. C. B.