Newcomb, Thomas (DNB00)

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NEWCOMB, THOMAS (1682?–1765), poet, born about 1682, is commonly described as the son of a clergyman in Herefordshire, who was living in 1723, and as great-grandson, by his mother's side, to Spenser (Giles Jacob, Poetical Register, 1723, ii. 118). The Oxford University records show, however, that he matriculated 15 April 1698, aged 16, when he was described as son of William Newcomb of Westbury, Shropshire, ‘pleb.’ The Westbury registers do not date back so far, but they show that members of the family were living in the parish at the close of the eighteenth century. Newcomb was at Corpus Christi College, and graduated B.A. on 30 March 1704. He was chaplain to the Duke of Richmond, spending no doubt most of his time at Goodwood; and he became rector of Stopham, Pulborough, in 1705, though the registers contain no reference to him; he was still rector when he published his chief poem in 1723. By 1706 he was also rector of the neighbouring parish of Barlavington, and he appears to have held that living until his death (Foster, Alumni Oxonienses, 1500–1714).

In 1712 Newcomb published an anonymous satire, ‘Bibliotheca, a Poem occasioned by the sight of a modern Library,’ a lengthy piece which is chiefly interesting on account of the picture of the goddess Oblivion, which Pope must have had in his mind in writing the ‘Dunciad;’ the friendly notice of Steele's writings; and the bitter attack on Defoe. In 1717 Newcomb wrote an ‘Ode sacred to the Memory of the Countess of Berkeley,’ daughter of the Duke of Richmond, which Curll published at the recommendation of Dr. Young, who was Newcomb's friend. Young announced in the ‘Evening Post’ for 29 Aug. that Curll was not authorised by him in publishing the ‘Ode’ with his letter prefixed, and Curll defended himself in an advertisement in ‘Mist's Weekly Journal’ for 31 Aug. In 1719 Newcomb contributed an ‘Ode to Major Pack’ to the ‘Life of Atticus,’ published by Richardson Pack [q. v.], and in 1721 he published a translation of the ‘Roman History of C. Velleius Paterculus.’ In 1723 Newcomb brought out, by subscription, his longest work, ‘The Last Judgment of Men and Angels. A Poem in Twelve Books, after the manner of Milton.’ This folio volume, of which there were large-paper copies, was dedicated to the Earl of March, who succeeded his father in the dukedom of Richmond later in the year. The poem was written, says Newcomb, not for fame, but to promote the great ends of religion.

An ‘Epistle to my worthy and learned friend, Dr. Gardiner, by whose care and friendship I was recovered from a dangerous fever in 1732,’ is preserved, in Newcomb's writing, in the British Museum (Add. MS. 4456(12)). In subsequent years verses in honour of the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Cumberland were published, and in 1757 he brought out ‘Mr. Hervey's Contemplations on a Flower Garden, done into Blank Verse, after the manner of Dr. Young’ (reissued with additions in 1764). In the dedication of this book to the newly married wife of the third Duke of Richmond, Newcomb spoke of his age and infirmities. In 1760 he dedicated to Pitt his ‘Novus Epigrammatum Delectus, or Original State Epigrams and Minor Odes … suited to the Times;’ and in 1763 he sent to the Duke of Newcastle, who had been one of his patrons (Add. MS. 32992, f. 294), three pieces suggested by the indignities suffered by some worthy noblemen and patriots. In this letter (Add. MS. 32948, f. 381) Newcomb spoke of a signal instance of favour which he had received while living in Sussex for a little humorous ode sent to the Duke of Newcastle. He was now, he said, over eighty-four; gout, rheumatism, and the stone had reduced him to the weakness and imbecility of childhood. The Duke of Richmond had settled 10l. a year on him for life; he hoped his remaining friends would add a little to this bounty. In 1762 Newcomb had spoken of himself to Young aged 87, but Young told his ‘dear old friend’ that he was persuaded this was a mistake, as he had always considered himself the older of the two (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, ii. 698). On 8 May 1764 Newcomb wrote again to the Duke of Newcastle (Add. MS. 32958, f. 343), stating that the usual salary for supplying the chapel at Hackney had been taken from him, by which he lost 80l. a year, a severe blow, as his living in Sussex was very small. He asked the duke to contribute to a collection which friends were raising for him, and he enclosed a Latin character of Wilkes, and verses displaying Wilkes in his true colours. Newcomb died at Hackney in 1765, and was buried there on 11 June. In the following year his library was sold (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, iii. 637). A mezzotint engraving of Newcomb by J. Faber, after Hawkins, was prefixed to his ‘Last Judgment,’ 1723.

Besides the works already mentioned, Newcomb published:

  1. ‘To her late Majesty, Queen Anne, upon the Peace of Utrecht.’
  2. ‘An Ode to the Memory of Mr. Rowe.’
  3. ‘The Latin Works of the late Mr. Addison, in prose and verse, translated into English.’
  4. A translation of Philips's ‘Ode to Henry St. John.’
  5. ‘The Manners of the Age, in thirteen Moral Satires.’
  6. ‘An Ode to the Queen on the Happy Accession of their Majesties to the Crown,’ 1727.
  7. ‘An Ode to the Right Hon. the Earl of Orford, in retirement,’ 1742.
  8. ‘A Collection of Odes and Epigrams, occasioned by the Success of the British and Confederate Arms in Germany,’ 1743.
  9. ‘An Ode inscribed to the Memory of the late Earl of Orford,’ 1745.
  10. ‘Two Odes to His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland,’ 1746.
  11. ‘A Paraphrase on some select Psalms.’
  12. ‘Carmen Seculare.’
  13. ‘A Miscellaneous Collection of Original Poems.’
  14. ‘The Consummation, a sacred Ode on the final Dissolution of the World,’ 1752.
  15. ‘Vindicta Britannica, an Ode on the Royal Navy, inscribed to the King,’ 1759.
  16. ‘The Retired Penitent, being a Poetical Version of the Rev. Dr. Young's Moral Contemplations. … Published with the consent of that learned and eminent Writer,’ 1760.
  17. ‘A Congratulatory Ode to the Queen on her Voyage to England,’ 1761.
  18. ‘On the Success of the British Arms, a congratulatory Ode addressed to his Majesty,’ 1763.
  19. ‘The Death of Abel, a sacred Poem, written originally in the German Language,’ 1763.
  20. ‘Mr. Hervey's Meditations and Contemplations, attempted in Blank Verse,’ 1764 (2 vols.); a portion had already been issued in 1757.

[Jacob's Poetical Register, 1723, ii. 118–19; Nichols's Select Collection of Poems, 1780–1, iii. 19–74, iv. 355–6, vii. 161–76; list of books by the author at the end of ‘The Consummation;’ information furnished by the Rev. W. Newman, the Rev. D. Llewelyn-Davies, Mr. P. H. Harding, and Mrs. Guise; Rawlinson MS. (Bodleian) i. 451, xviii. 144.]

G. A. A.