Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Newton, Thomas (1542?-1607)

NEWTON, THOMAS (1542?–1607), poet, physician, and divine, was the eldest son of Edward Newton of Park House, in Butley, in the parish of Prestbury, Cheshire, yeoman. He was born about 1542, and was educated at the Macclesfield grammar school with John Brownswerd, a celebrated master there. Thence he went to Trinity College, Oxford, but, leaving there in November 1562, studied for a time at Queens' College, Cambridge, whence, however, he returned to his old college at Oxford. In 1569–70 he published ‘The Worthye Booke of Old Age,’ the preface of which is dated ‘frome Butleye the seuenth of March 1569.’ Many others of his books prior to 1583 are dated from the same place. These include historical, medical, and theological subjects; and, in addition, he contributed a large number of commendatory verses in English and Latin to various works, as was then customary. To most of these verses, as also in many of his books, he signs himself ‘Thomas Newtonus Cestreshyrius,’ showing his affection for his native county. He not improbably practised as a physician at Butley, and may have taught at Macclesfield school; but the statement of Anthony à Wood that he succeeded his old master there is incorrect.

About 1583 Queen Elizabeth presented him to the rectory of Little Ilford, Essex, whence most of his later works are dated. No work of his appeared after 1596, and in 1607 he died, and was probably buried at Little Ilford. His will, dated 27 April 1607, was proved at Canterbury on 13 June in that year. He was married, and had issue two sons, Emanuel (who appears to have died before his father) and Abel.

Newton was a skilled writer of Latin verse, in which, Ritson states, he excited the admiration of his contemporaries; while Warton describes him as the elegant Latin encomiast and the first Englishman who wrote Latin elegiacs with classical clearness and terseness. He also wrote English verses with ease and fluency, and translated several works from the Latin. All his books are now very scarce; most of them have very long titles.

The following is a list of his writings:

  1. ‘An Epitaphe vpon the … Lady Knowles,’ 1568, a broadside, attributed to Thomas Newton, but doubtful if by him.
  2. ‘The Worthye Booke of Old Age,’ translated from Cicero, 1569.
  3. ‘A Direction for the Health of Magistrates and Studentes,’ translated from the Latin, 1574, dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham.
  4. ‘A Notable Historie of the Saracens,’ 1575.
  5. ‘The Touchstone of Complexions,’ translated from the Latin, 1576; 2nd edit. 1581; 3rd edit. 1633.
  6. ‘Foure Seuerall Treatises of M. Tullius Cicero,’ 1577.
  7. ‘Approoved Medicines and Cordiall Receiptes,’ 1580.
  8. ‘A View of Valyaunce’ [1580?].
  9. ‘Seneca his tenne Tragedies translated into Englysh,’ 1581. The translations by Studley, Nevile, Nuce, and Jasper Heywood had already appeared separately. They are here collected for the first time in one volume under the editorship of Newton, who translated one of the plays, the ‘Thebais,’ and are dedicated to ‘Sir Thomas Henneage, Treasurer of the Queen's Chamber.’ Their appearance in this form exercised an appreciable influence upon the contemporary drama.
  10. ‘A Commentarie or Exposition vpon the twoo Epistles Generall of Sainct Peter and that of Sainct Jude,’ translated from the Latin of Martin Luther, 1581.
  11. ‘True and Christian Friendshippe,’ translated from the Latin, 1586.
  12. ‘The Olde Mans Dietarie,’ translated, 1586.
  13. ‘The True Tryall and Examination of a Mans own Selfe,’ translated, 1587.
  14. ‘An Herbal for the Bible,’ 1587.
  15. ‘Principum ac illustrium aliquot et eruditorum in Anglia virorum Encomia,’ and ‘Illustrium aliquot Anglorum Encomia,’ contributed to Leland's ‘De Rebus Britannicis Collectanea’ in 1589 (ed. 1770, v. 79).
  16. ‘Ioannis Brunsuerdi Maclesfeldensis Gymnasiarchæ Progymnasmata quædam Poetica,’ 1590.
  17. ‘Thomas Newton's Staff to lean on,’ 1590.
  18. ‘Vocabula Magistri Stanbrigii,’ 1577; 2nd edit. 1596; 3rd edit. 1615; 4th edit. 1636; 5th edit. 1649.

To the above may be added (a) ‘The Booke of Marcus Tullius Cicero, entituled Paradoxia Stoicorum …’ 1569, the dedication of which, signed Thomas Newton, is dated ‘from Greenwich the kalendes of June 1569;’ and (b) ‘A Pleasaunt Dialogue concerning Phisicke and Phisitions … translated out of the Castlin tongue by T. N.,’ 1580.

His verses, both English and Latin, appear in more than twenty separate works between 1576 and 1597, including Blandie's translation of Osorius's ‘Discourse of Ciuill and Christian Nobilitie,’ 1576; Batman's ‘Golden Booke of the Leaden Goddes,’ 1577; Hunnis's ‘Hive of Hunnye,’ 1578; Munday's ‘Mirror of Mutabilitie,’ 1579; Bullein's ‘Bulwarke of Defence,’ 1579; ‘Mirror for Magistrates,’ 1587; Ives's ‘Instructions for the Warres,’ 1589; Ripley's ‘Compound of Alchymy,’ 1591; Tymme's ‘Briefe Description of Hierusalem,’ 1595; and he wrote a metrical epilogue to Heywood's ‘Workes’ of 1587.

Thomas Newton of Cheshire must not be confounded with Thomas Newton, ‘gent.,’ who was apparently of Lancashire origin, and, under the initials ‘T. N. G.,’ published ‘Atropoion Delion: on the death of Delia with the tears of her funeral. A poetical excursive Discourse on our late Eliza,’ 1603. This is dedicated to Alice, countess of Derby, wife of Sir Thomas Egerton, lord keeper. It is reprinted in Nichols's ‘Progresses of Queen Elizabeth.’ The same writer is responsible for a flowery romance entitled ‘A Pleasant New History, or a Fragrant Posie made of three flowers, Rosa, Rosalynd, and Rosemary,’ 1604.

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 452; Wood's Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, ii. 5–12; Earwaker's East Cheshire, ii. 260–2; Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, pt. ix. p. 231; Warton's History of English Poetry, ed. Hazlitt, iv. 194–5, 278–80; Brydges's Censura Lit. ix. 386–99; Hunter's Chorus Vatum, in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 24487, f. 484; Harl. MS. 5911, f. 102; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]

J. P. E.