Newton, William (1750-1830) (DNB00)

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NEWTON, WILLIAM (1750–1830), the Peak Minstrel, born on 28 Nov. 1750, near Abney, in the parish of Eyam, Derbyshire, was son of a carpenter, and, after attending a dame's school, worked at that trade. He soon showed mechanical skill in constructing spinning-wheels, and was articled for seven years as machinery carpenter in a mill in Monsal-dale. With his spare means he purchased books, chiefly poetry, and his own efforts in verse were soon noticed by Peter Cunningham (d. 1805) [q. v.], then acting as curate to Thomas Seward at Eyam. In the summer of 1783 Newton was introduced to Anna Seward [q. v.], who corresponded with him until her death. She showed his verses to William Hayley [q. v.] and other literary friends, who formed a high estimate of them. Beyond a sonnet to Miss Seward (Gent. Mag. 1789, pt. i. p. 71), verses to Peter Cunningham (ib. 1785, pt. ii. p. 212), and others in a Sheffield newspaper, few seemed to have survived. Sonnets were addressed to Newton by Peter Cunningham (ib. 1787, pt. ii. p. 624), by Miss Seward (ib. 1789, pt. i. p. 71), and by one Lister (Seward, Letters, ii. 171); while Miss Seward also wrote an ‘Epistle to Mr. Newton, the Derbyshire Minstrel, on receiving his description in verse of an autumnal scene near Eyam,’ September 1791 (Poetical Works, ii. 22). Miss Seward finally helped him to become partner in a cotton mill in Cressbrook-dale, and he thus realised a fortune. He died on 3 Nov. 1830 at Tideswell, Derbyshire, and is buried there. Newton married early in life Helen Cook (1753–1830), by whom he had several children. His eldest son, William (1785–1851), supplied Tideswell with good water at his own expense.

[Glover's Hist. and Gazeteer of Derbyshire, ed. Noble, vol. i. App. p. 109; Rhodes's Peak Scenery, pp. 56, 112–15; Wood's Hist. of Eyam, 4th ed. p. 209; Letters of Anna Seward, i. 221, 290, 318, 325, ii. 9, 171, iii. 262, iv. 134; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 237; Nichols's Anecdotes, vi. 63–5; Gent. Mag. 1785, pt. i. 169, 212; Register of Tideswell, per the Rev. S. Andrew.]

C. F. S.