Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Newcome, William
NEWCOME, WILLIAM (1729–1800), archbishop of Armagh, was born at Abingdon, Berkshire, on 10 April 1729. He was the second son of Joseph Newcome, vicar of St. Helen's, Abingdon, rector of Barton-in-the-Clay, Bedfordshire, and grand-nephew of Henry Newcome [q. v.] After passing through Abingdon grammar school, he obtained (1745) a scholarship at Pembroke College, Oxford; he removed to Hertford College, and graduated M.A. 1753, and D.D. 1765. He was elected (1753) fellow, and afterwards vice-principal of Hertford College, and was an eminent tutor; among his pupils was (1764–5) Charles James Fox [q. v.] It is said by Mant that some sportiveness of Fox was the occasion of Newcome's left arm being crushed in a door, necessitating its amputation. In 1766 Francis Seymour Conway [q. v.], then Earl of Hertford, was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland; he took Newcome with him as his chaplain. Before the end of the year Newcome was promoted to the see of Dromore, which had become vacant in April. He was translated to Ossory in 1775; to Waterford and Lismore in 1779; finally he was made archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland on 25 Jan. 1795, during the short-lived viceroyalty of Fitzwilliam.
Newcome's elevation to the primacy was said to be the express act of George III. He had no English patron but Fox, who was not then in power. His appointment was described by Lord Charlemont as the reward of character, principles, and erudition. His private fortune was large; he was able to advance without difficulty a sum of between fifteen and sixteen thousand pounds, assigned by parliament to the heirs of his predecessor, Richard Robinson, baron Rokeby. In his primary visitation of the province (1795) he strongly urged the neglected duty of clerical residence. He spent large sums on the improvement of the cathedral and palace at Armagh, and though quiet and domestic in his own tastes, dispensed a dignified hospitality. During his whole episcopal career he was an exemplary prelate.
Most of his leisure he devoted to biblical studies, chiefly exegetical, and especially with a view to an amended English version of the scriptures. His first important publication was ‘An Harmony of the Gospels,’ &c., Dublin, 1778, fol., on the basis of Le Clerc, the Greek text being given with various readings from Wetstein. In this work he criticised Priestley's adoption (1777) of the hypothesis (1733) of Nicholas Mann [q. v.], limiting our Lord's ministry to a single year. Priestley defended himself in his English ‘Harmony’ (1780), and Newcome replied in a small volume, ‘The Duration of our Lord's Ministry,’ &c., Dublin, 1780, 12mo. The controversy was continued in two pamphlets by Priestley and one by Newcome, ‘A Reply,’ &c., Dublin, 1781, 12mo; it closed with a private letter from Newcome to Priestley (19 April 1782). While he held his ground against Priestley, on another point Newcome subsequently revised his ‘Harmony’ in ‘A Review of the Chief Difficulties … relating to our Lord's Resurrection,’ &c., 1792, 4to; in this he recurs to the hypothesis of George Benson, D.D. [q. v.]. An English ‘Harmony,’ on the basis of Newcome's Greek one, was published in 1802, 8vo; reprinted 1827, 8vo.
As an interpreter of the prophets, Newcome followed Robert Lowth [q. v.], the discoverer of the parallelisms of Hebrew poetry. His ‘Attempt towards an Improved Version, a Metrical Arrangement, and an Explanation of the Twelve Minor Prophets,’ &c., 1785, 4to (reissued, with additions from Horsley and Blayney, Pontefract, 1809, 8vo, ill-printed), is his best work. In his version he claims to give ‘the critical sense … and not the opinions of any denomination.’ In his notes he makes frequent use of the manuscripts of Secker. It was followed by ‘An Attempt towards an Improved Version … of … Ezekiel,’ &c., Dublin, 1788, 4to (reprinted 1836, 8vo). These were parts of a larger plan, set forth in ‘An Historical View of the English Biblical Translations,’ &c., 1792, 8vo, with suggestions for a revision by authority. Newcome himself worked at a revision of the whole English bible. The New Testament portion was printed as ‘An Attempt towards Revising our English Translation of the Greek Scriptures,’ &c., Dublin, 1796, 8vo, 2 vols.; the text adopted was the first edition (1775–7) of Griesbach, and there were numerous notes. The work was withheld from publication till (1800) after Newcome's death; as the impression was damaged in crossing from Dublin, the number of copies for sale was small. In 1808 the unitarians issued anonymously an ‘Improved Version upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation.’ The adaptations for a sectarian purpose were mainly the work of Thomas Belsham [q. v.], to whom an indignant expostulation was addressed (7 Aug. 1809) by Newcome's connection, Joseph Stock, D.D., bishop of Killala and Achonry.
Newcome died at his residence, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin, on 11 Jan. 1800, and was buried in the chapel of Trinity College. He was twice married, and had by his first wife one daughter, by his second wife a numerous family. A bust portrait of Newcome in episcopal habit by an unknown hand was in 1867 in the possession of the Archbishop of Armagh. In addition to the above he published three single sermons (1767–72) and a charge (1795); also ‘Observations on our Lord's Conduct as a Divine Instructor,’ &c. 1782, 4to; 2nd ed. revised, 1795, 8vo; 3rd ed. 1820, 8vo; also Oxford, 1852, 8vo. His interleaved bible, in four folio volumes, containing his collections for a revised version of the Old Testament, was deposited in the Lambeth Library. A few of his letters to Joshua Toulmin, D.D., are in the ‘Monthly Repository,’ 1806, pp. 458 sq., 518 sq.[General Biography, 1799–1815, vii. 367 sq. (article by T. Morgan, based on an autobiographical memoir by Newcome, and information from Robert Newcome, his brother); Gent. Mag. 1800, i. 90 sq., 219; Belsham's Life of Lindsey, 1812, pp. 459 sq.; Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary, 1815, xxiii. 113 sq.; Rutt's Memoirs of Priestley, 1831, i. 204; Priestley's Works, xx. 224; Mant's Hist. of the Church of Ireland, 1840, ii. 635 sq.]