Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/422

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lawfulness of capital punishment for heresy, was earned, but it was not till 2 May 1648 that the ordinance was actually passed, and by that date Best had been released. In 1646 Best drew up 'A Letter of Advice vnto the Ministers assembled at Westminster, with severall parcels of Queries, recommended to their saddest considerations. . . . The possibility of a heretick's repentance, so long as he lives, and such as do any wayes cause him to dye in heresie, as much as in them lyes, do effectually damn him eternally: and consequently, that Paul Best (what-ever his errours be at present), as well as Paul the Apostle, once a blasphemer, may one day become a convert, if he be not untimely starved to death beforehand, 1646' [in MS. marked 28 April]. Having launched his 'Letter of Advice,' Best set about the reparation of a respectful petition to the House of Commons. He appealed to the house to 'be pleased to take notice' that he had been 'eighteen months imprisoned, with what 'impairing of his substance' he forbore stating. The petition sought release or 'a speedie hearing.' This was on 13 Aug. 1646. Still his release lingered. He once more appealed to the authorities in a treatise entitled: 'Mysteries Discovered, or a Memoriall Picture pointing out the Way from Babylon to the Holy City, for the good of all such as during that night of general errour and apostacie (2 Thess. ii. 3, Revel. iii. 10) have been so long misled with Rome's hobgoblins. By me, Paul Best, Prisoner in the Gatehouse, Westminster, 1647.' This is an appeal to justice, and a defence against the charges brought against him. On the blank spaces of the Bodleian copy is a manuscript anti-Trinitarian note in Latin, which was supposed by Brook Aspland to be in Milton's autograph. It seems most probable that Cromwell at last interfered. However it came about, he was silently released towards the close of 1647. He quietly returned to his family seat. His brother Henry was then dead, and had been succeeded in Elmswell by his son, John Best, to whom by some arrangement Paul (his uncle) surrendered his annuity on 22 Jan. 1651-2, and, with what of his,fortune he had left, cultivated a farm. He still pursued his old studies, and masses of his manuscripts were left behind at his death. The parish register of Little Driffield gives the dates of death and burial: '1657. Paul Best, Master of Arts, died at Great Driffield 17 Sept., and was buried at Little Driffield 19 Sept. in the churchyard.'

[Ley's MS., formerly in possession of H. B. Bright, and latterly of Joseph Hunter, from the Chorus Vatum; letters from Rev. Horace Newton, Driffield; [Robert] Wallace's Anti-Trinitarian Biography, i. 87, iii. 161; [Bulstrode] Whitelocke's Memorials; [Daniel] Neal, iii. 292; Best's Works.]

A. B. G.

BEST, SAMUEL (1738–1825), a pretended prophet, is stated to have been at one period of his life a servant in several families in London, where he earned a reputation for dishonesty (Imposture detected, p. 42). According to another account he had been possibly subsequent to this a Spitalfields weaver in good circumstances (Gent. Mag. lvii. 115). Some time before 1787, having disowned his children 'either from indolence or morbidity,' he became an inmate of Shoreditch workhouse, an allowance of eight shillings a week being contributed to his support by one of his daughters. Discarding his original name, he took that of 'Poor-help,' as descriptive, in self-deprecatory language, of the special mission which his prophetic gifts enabled him to fufill. He received his visitors in a room adorned with fantastic emblems and devices,, and, after inspecting the palms of their hands, professed to give an outline of their past lives, their present circumstances, and their future prospects in verses of Scripture, which he repeated with rapid fluency. He also undertook, by licking the hands of his patients, to discover the disease under which they laboured. Owing to the interest excited in his pretensions, 'Poor-help' removed to a house in Kingsland Road, where he was consulted by many of the upper classes of London, whom he also visited at their own homes. He professed to eat no other food than bread and cheese, and to drink only gin tinctured with rhubarb. At night he found the strength and refreshment he needed for his pretentious daily duties, not in sleep, but in converse with celestial powers. For the last thirty years of his life he was possessed of the conviction that he should be the leader of the children of Israel to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. He died 7 March 1825, aged 87.

[Martin's Imposture detected, or Thoughts on a Pretended Prophet and on the Prevalence of his Impositions, 1787; Gent. Mag. lvi. 1106, Lvii. 115, 309, xc. part i. 380.]

T. F. H.

BEST, THOMAS (1570?–1638?), captain in the navy, was probably the son of Captain George Best, the companion of Frobisher in his Arctic voyages (Hakluyt, iii. 47, 60, 75, &c.; Calendar of State Papers, East Indies, 1513-1616, see index). He went first to sea about 1583 (Best to Conway, 13 July 1623), being then presumably about thirteen years old; and yet he is referred to as being, in 1598, a man of substance and repute, well known in Ratcliff and Limehouse (Rundall's Memorials of the Empire