Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tindal, Nicholas (1687-1774)

TINDAL, NICHOLAS (1687–1774), historical writer, born at Plymouth on 25 Nov. 1687, was the only son of John Tindal, vicar of Cornwood, Devonshire, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Nicholas Prideaux, president of the council of Barbados. His father's only brother was Matthew Tindal [q. v.], and his sister Elizabeth was mother of Nathaniel Forster (1718–1757) [q. v.] Nicholas matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford, on 6 March 1706–7, aged 19, graduated B.A. in 1710, and M.A. in 1713. In 1716 he was presented to the rectory of Hatford, Berkshire, and in 1721 to the vicarage of Great Waltham, Essex.

Soon afterwards Tindal began preparations for the chief work of his life, the translation and continuation of Rapin's ‘History of England,’ of which the first edition had appeared in French at Paris in 1723 [see Rapin, Paul de]. His translation, ‘with additional notes,’ began to appear in 1725. The second volume was dedicated on July 12 1726 to Sir Charles Wager, to whom Tindal was then acting as chaplain in the Baltic; the fourth was dated ‘on board the Torbay in Gibraltar Bay, Sep. 4, 1727.’ The whole work ran to fifteen octavo volumes, the last being published in 1731; a second edition, in two folio volumes, was brought out in 1732–3, and a third in 1743. Tindal had meanwhile set to work to continue Rapin's ‘History’ which ended with the revolution of 1688. The first volume of his ‘Continuation’ was published in 1744, being numbered as the third volume of Rapin's ‘History.’ The second volume (vol. iv. of the ‘History’) appeared in two parts in 1745, bringing the ‘History’ down to the accession of George II in 1727. The whole work was embellished with Houbraken and Vertue's ‘Heads and Monuments of the Kings’ (which had been separately published in 1736, fol.). Another folio edition, with a continuation to the end of George II's reign by Smollett, was published during 1785–9 in five volumes. An octavo edition of Tindal's ‘Continuation’ had come out concurrently with the folio edition during 1745–7; this was in thirteen volumes uniform with the first edition of Rapin's work, the whole comprising twenty-eight volumes. Other octavo editions of the whole ‘History’ appeared in 1751, 21 vols., and in 1757–9, also 21 vols. An ‘Abridgment’ was issued in 1747, and a ‘Summary’ in 1751. Tindal's ‘work is partly original and partly a compilation, but it deserves the praise of having been written without party spirit, and of being a temperate and candid narrative of carefully ascertained facts, although destitute of those higher merits which attest original historic power’ (Gardiner and Mullinger, Introduction to English History, p. 375). According to Burton, it ‘has perhaps been more amply founded on by later historians, as an authority, than any other book referring to the period it covers’ (Reign of Queen Anne, ii. 324). Archdeacon Coxe, however, asserts that the ‘Continuation’ was principally written by Thomas Birch [q. v.], with the assistance of ‘persons of political eminence.’ Tindal himself acknowledges valuable assistance rendered him by Philip Morant [q. v.] In August 1757 William Duncombe [q. v.] published anonymously an attack on Tindal's style, entitled ‘Remarks on Mr. Tindal's Translation’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 267).

While still vicar of Waltham, Tindal projected a ‘History of Essex’ in three volumes, but the scheme did not meet with much support, and two numbers only appeared (1732? 4to). The first included the history of Felsted and Pantfield, and the second the history of Raine, Stebbing, and part of Bocking. They were based upon the manuscripts of William Holman [q. v.], which had been entrusted to Tindal on Holman's death in 1730. In 1731 Tindal was appointed master of the royal free school at Chelmsford, and in 1732 chaplain in ordinary at Chatham. In 1733, his uncle, Matthew Tindal, died, and Nicholas believed himself to have been left his sole heir. A will, however, generally thought to have been forged, was produced by Eustace Budgell, which left practically all his effects to Budgell [see Budgell, Eustace]. Tindal published in the same year ‘A Copy of the Will of Matthew Tindal, with an Account of what pass'd concerning the same between Mrs. Lucy Price, Eustace Budgell, Esq., and Mr. Nicolas Tindal,’ London, 8vo; but he failed to obtain restitution from Budgell (cf. Pope, Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, iii. 270). In 1738 Tindal was appointed chaplain to Greenwich Hospital, and in 1740 was presented to the rectories of Calbourne, Isle of Wight, and Alverstoke, Hampshire. In 1764 he published a ‘Guide to Classical Learning, or Polymetis Abridged’ [see Spence, Joseph]; this abridgment proved a very popular handbook, and subsequent editions appeared in 1765, 1777, 1786, and 1802, all in duodecimo. Tindal also translated from the French, the text of De Beausobre and Lenfant's ‘Commentary on St. Matthew's Gospel,’ published by Morant in 1725, and Calmet's ‘Antiquities Sacred and Prophane,’ published in monthly parts in 1724.

Tindal died at Greenwich Hospital, on Monday, 27 June 1774, in his eighty-seventh year, and was buried in the second burial-ground of the hospital, known as Goddard's Garden (Hasted, Kent, ed. 1886, i. 76; Gent. Mag. 1774, p. 333). A portrait of Tindal, painted by Knapton and engraved by Picart, formed the frontispiece of the second volume of the second edition of Rapin. It was retouched by Vertue for his ‘Heads of the Kings of England’ (1736), and was reproduced in the ‘Essex Review’ (ii. 168).

Tindal married, first, Anne, daughter of John Keate of Hagborn, Berkshire; by her he had three sons, of whom George, a captain in the royal navy, was grandfather of Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal [q. v.] Another son, James, was father of William Tindal [q. v.] Nicholas Tindal married, secondly, on 11 Aug. 1753, at the chapel of Greenwich Hospital, ‘Elizabeth, daughter of I. Gugelman, Captain of Invalids,’ by whom he had no issue (Tindal's own pedigree of the Tindal family in Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 302–3).

[Authorities cited; Essex Review, ii. 168–79; Works in Brit. Mus. Library; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Hasted's Kent; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Cazenove's Rapin-Thoyras, 1866; Lowndes's Bibl. Manual, ed. Bohn.]

A. F. P.