Beaumont, John (d.1731) (DNB00)

BEAUMONT, JOHN (d. 1731), geologist, lived a retired life at Stone-Easton, Somersetshire, where he practised as a surgeon. His letters to the Royal Society in 1676 and 1683 on the 'Rock-plants growing in the Lead Mines of Mendip Hills' attracted much attention, and their author was advised by Dr. Robert Hooke, a distinguished fellow of the society, to write the natural history of the county. Beaumont gave a specimen in his 'Account of Okey [Wookey]-hole and several other subterraneous Grottoes and Caverns,' printed in No. 2 of Hooke's 'Philosophical Collections' for 1681, and some three years afterwards presented a draft of his design to the society. He was elected a fellow in 1685, but soon laid his intended history aside that he might devote himself to theology and spiritualism. He was a man of considerable reading, of excessive credulity, and a firm believer in supernatural agency. His principal and certainly most curious performance, 'An Historical, Physiological, and Theological Treatise of Spirits, Apparitions, Witchcrafts, and other Magical Practices,' 8vo, London, 1705, is written in an amusing, gossiping style, and abounds with grotesque tales and illustrations from little-known authors. His personal experience of spirits, good and bad, was long and varied (pp. 91-4, 393-7); but he innocently contrives to lessen the effect of his narration by adding that in their frequent visitations 'all would disswade me from drinking too freely.' Of this work a German translation by Theodor Arnold appeared at Halle in 1721. Dr. Fowler, bishop of Gloucester, expressed high approval of this curious treatise (Thoresby's Diary, ii. 103, 124). Beaumont was buried at Stone-Easton on 23 March 1730-1. He had married Dorothy, daughter of John Speccott, of Penheale, Egloskerry, Cornwall; and his wife's claim to the family estate involved Beaumont in a long and disastrous lawsuit. His other publications were: 1. 'Considerations on a Book entituled the Theory of the Earth, publisht by Dr. Burnet,' 4to, London, 1693. 2. Postscript to above, 4to, London, 1694. 3. 'The Present State of the Universe,' 4to, London, 1694. 4. 'Gleanings of Antiquities,' 8vo, London, 1724 (the third part of which contains additions to the 'Treatise of Spirits').

[Gough's British Topography, ii. 189, 223; Nicolson's Historical Libraries, ed. 1776, pp. 7, 17-18; Plot's Staffordshire, p. 251; MS. Sloane 4037, ff. 128-32; Ray's Philosophical Letters, p. 262; Letters of Eminent Literary Men, ed. Sir H. Ellis (Camd. Soc.), p. 199; Stone-Easton Register; Law Cases in British Museum.]

G. G.